On a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas commentary track, Terry Gilliam talks about his dislike of CGI settings. The real world, he sez, is the product of hundreds, maybe thousands of years of human action and millions of years of nature. It produces unexpected things–images, objects, even the way light reflects off of surfaces. CGI can’t do the same thing, as it’s made by only a few people over the course of months; it can’t create what I call “the density of real things.”
No surprise Gilliam would think that way, as he’s always been a wonderfully messy artist, right back to his Monty Python animations. Film is such a good medium for this, because the camera catches so much, not just action: backgrounds, signs, clothing, makeup. All of that can affect us, often in unintended but no less deep ways.
Part of my love for Zodiac comes from that; it’s an incredibly detailed film, made by a detail-obsessed director, and it fits into a detail-oriented genre. Some commenter (clytie or Cerusee, I think) noted that true-crime books are loaded with fascinating details, and she liked Zodiac for much the same reason. Many of the details are drawn from life (“Delicious as Hell!” and Dave Toschi’s love of animal crackers), some were products of the filmmakers’ imaginations (the bruises on Clea Duvall’s arm), and all of them make watching and rewatching this movie so rewarding. They’re the kind of details that imply a history behind them, that make the people and the setting something more than just a function in a story, something real. (Michael Mann uses detail this way too.) For all the drive of its narrative, Zodiac is a compelling hangout movie, a real world slowly changing.
How about you, constant readers and viewers? What are your most memorable, most strange, most charming, most out-of-place details from the movies and media you’ve seen?