I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button weeks ago, and yet every time I tried to think about it -- whether it was to contemplate a decision in David Fincher's direction, a deviation from F. Scott Fitzgerald's story, a moment in Eric Roth's script or a note in the performances of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett -- I would soon find myself, invariably, distracted from the large-scale visions and moments of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and instead contemplating the smaller-scale moments of my own life. This was at best annoying; what did it say about the film that I couldn't hold it in my attention? What did it say about my attention that I couldn't even focus it on a film? But Zen gives us the parable of the master who points to the moon, and the student who looks at the master's finger. Fincher, Roth, Pitt and Blanchett have all, in their way, made a film of true sincerity and (ironically enough in light of its technical achievements) real simplicity; resting your gaze on the film, without directing it onto the things it encourages you to look at, seems like staring at the pointing finger.

Fitzgerald's tale is a brief fantasia, the story of Benjamin Button, a man who, born old, ages backward; at the same time, the slenderest books often become the best films, the lush drapery of moviemaking lending their slight grace weight, the stark simplicity of the plot a place for a director's vision to find purchase and grow. Within moments -- as an old woman lies dying in a modern New Orleans hospital, slate-gray rain battering the windows, her daughter (Julia Ormond) paging through her diaries and scrapbooks as the old woman fades in and out of consciousness, flickering between past memory and present reality -- we know we're not in the world established in Fitzgerald's 1922 short story. The woman's diaries are not just hers, and as the daughter reads, we learn about the birth and exile of Benjamin Button, born old in New Orleans in 1918 just after the Great War. ...
categories Reviews, Oscars, Cinematical