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Zodiac - The Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special

A movie directed by David Fincher

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Was I the Zodiac?

  • Jul 10, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+1
The SF Chronicle reported that DNA from saliva under a postage stamp has cleared Arthur Leigh Allen, the favorite suspect in San Francisco's most celebrated serial murder mystery. Artie Allen may or may not be gratified - he died, after all, twelve years ago - but I find the news disquieting. Though there's no reason for the cops to have my DNA on file, I've long been expecting suspicion to shine my way. The profile fits. I moved to the Bay Area in 1968, in time for the first killing at the pumping station in Vallejo. I'm intimate with the other slaughter scenes as well: Lovers' Point on Lake Berryessa, Cherry Street on Pacific Heights, the Yosemite Cut-off near Modesto. I weigh the requisite 210 lbs, I stand the proper 5' 11", I sometimes wear those boxy glasses shown in the police artist's sketch, and my gloves, like OJ's, are XXL. I can make my penmanship look any age, gender, or educational level, a knack I learned from faking sick-out excuses in junior high. Most incriminating, I have the habit of putting too much postage on letters, especially submissions to magazines.
On the other hand, I've never owned an Impala or worn a pair of Wing Walkers, certainly not size 10½. I don't smoke, and I'd have to stretch to spell like the guy who wrote The boy was origionaly sitting in the frunt seat when I began fireing or What I did was tape a smal pencel flash light to the barel of my gun. Admittedly, misspellings might be subterfuge or typos from writing in cipher, but it would take a post-modernist genius to counterfeit a line like the Idiout who phraises with inthusiastic tone of centuries bout this and every country but his own.

The weak link in the chain of circumstances binding me to the Zodiac is that I don't recall stabbing or shooting anyone. Nor do I recollect mailing a single cryptogram. Of course, you have only my word for my unmemories, but asking if I remember something is like asking a Cretan if he's a liar. Since all Cretans are postulated liars, any answer is tautological. What I do recall is the sensation of wondering, each time the Zodiac hit front page, whether I might not be the killer, shrouding my guilt from myself in schizophrenic amnesia. As Nero's favorite playwright said, humani nil a me alienum. Nothing human is foreign to me.

This memory of doubting my own memory haunts me. There are gaps in my memoirs--weeks, months--easily wide enough to accommodate a few random killings. I first realized I'd forgotten large parts of my life when I applied for a job, right out of college, requiring security clearance. Who bought the marijuana, the squinty G-man asked, which you and Rick Fields smoked together in his dorm room on the night of May 3rd, 1964? Smelling entrapment, I gruffly objected to the absurdity of expecting anyone to remember such trivia, but I didn't get the job. What's worse, I can't recall now if I ever really smoked dope in college, let alone inhaled.

I suppose I could scrape my tongue and send it to the lab - anonymously, you understand, since it's self-awareness I seek, not closure. Admittedly, the burden of proof in America rests on the prosecution, but we've often been too quick, we Yanks, to exonerate ourselves. Right now I have to wonder why none of the corpses I buried under the artichokes behind my cottage have been exhumed. It's an awkward feeling, being evicted from a house where you've buried bodies. The new people are bound to dig the veggies up to plant dahlias, or to repaper the bedroom and find the walled-up crypt.

Are there biochemical tracers for dreams? Do the neurons worry about sources, or do they blindly update bits and bytes of memory seriatim, in which case what I call my life is no more than a bundle of algorithms, a cryptogram waiting vainly to be defragmented? I've already downloaded portions of the 1507 websites meticulously devoted to what was, after all, a minor murder spree. The BTK in Wichita, for instance, strangled nine, wrote twice as many taunting letters as the Zodiac (with better spelling) and spattered prodigious volumes of semen all over his crime scenes. The Green River Killer dumped so many corpses in the environs of Seattle - forty-two and still counting - that Boy Scouts started getting merit badges in forensics. In Ciudad Juarez, dusty gullies routinely cough up young women - mauled, dismembered, minced - the slaughter count now over 340, the leading suspects all local policemen. Browsing the Web, I feel like Dante creeping into Hell: io non averei creduto che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta. I had not thought that death had undone so many.

In these and other spectacular acts of mayhem, bogus letters claiming guilt outnumber the real thing, and experts say serial killers tend to inject themselves into investigations, often posing as cops. Now there's a stunt I can imagine myself pulling. Whenever I shattered one of Mother's kitschy knick-knacks, I earnestly volunteered to help track down the intruder. Likewise my first wife (or is it my third?) testifies that whenever I groped one of her girlfriends, I gave myself away by making disparaging cracks about the victim. It's a short step from disparagement to murder, I confess, though too short to win me an election in California. On the other hand, Detective Dave Toschi may have forged the Zodiac's final 1978 letter, evincing a rare flair for literary imposture - unless, as his fans argue, he was the actual killer himself. He hardly fit the profile, however, having neither large hands nor small feet.

By the way, an almost universal trait in psychological profiles of serial killers, according to FBI sources, is an "obsessive reading of stories and essays about unsolved crimes." If that extends, as I fear it must, to the writing thereof, once this is published it's only a matter of time until I find myself arraigned on somebody's web page. Well then, come and get me, all of you! I've lived with my secrets long enough!

[And by the way, the film would have made a better book.]

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More Zodiac (2007) reviews
review by . November 06, 2010
Zodiac – A killer undetermined yet we feel so satisfied
4 Stars out of 4      David Fincher's Zodiac is not about a killer but what surrounds a killer. Most of the film is addressed through nuanced, subtle, and ponderous banter about characters trying to connect-the-dots but always drawing square circles. The Zodiac Killer was a tease; he got what he wanted - infamy, power, and control - and regardless of his motives, he got away with his killings. Zodiac, therefore, punishes our expectations: we sit through this almost …
review by . March 16, 2011
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review by . April 03, 2009
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review by . November 16, 2008
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review by . January 09, 2008
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review by . August 06, 2007
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Pros: Mood and cinematography      Cons: Weak story that went on for far too long      The Bottom Line: I like Fincher and his mood-making is good here, but it is the only thing, so I cannot recommend it.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      David Fincher is in my relatively short list of favorite directors despite his rather small list of films to date. He is a …
review by . July 26, 2007
David Fincher knows how to go straight to the bone, whether that be by grisly effects or wearing down the psyches of his audience. In ZODIAC he traces the very long investigation of the serial killer in the 1960s and 1970s in the San Francisco area who was never found and has managed to mimic that interminably long yet fascinating exploration by taking close to 3 hours to unravel the bits and pieces of evidence that were to confound the police and the press alike. Based on the book by Robert Graysmith …
review by . July 24, 2007
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Closer in spirit to a police procedural than a gory serial-killer flick, David Fincher'sZodiacprovides a sleek, armrest-gripping re-invention of the crime film. It surveys the investigation of the Zodiac killings that terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the late -60-early -70s; Zodiac not only killed people, but cultivated a Jack the Ripper aura by sending icky letters to the newspapers and daring readers to solve coded messages. But the film's focus isn't on the killer. We follow the reporters and detectives whose lives are taken over by the case, notably an addictive crime writer (a sartorially splendid Robert Downey Jr.), an awkward editorial cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), and a hard-working cop (Mark Ruffalo). Fincher and his brilliant cinematographer Harris Savides are deft at capturing the period feel of the city, without laying on the seventies kitsch, and James Vanderbilt's script doles out its big moments to major and minor characters alike. Fincher's confidence is infectious; the movie glides through its myriad details with such dexterity that even the blind alleys and red herrings seem essential. The well-chosen cast includes unexpected people popping up all over: Anthony Edwards as a lunch-bucket homicide cop; Charles Fleischer as a mysterious suspect; Elias Koteas and Donal Logue as small-town policemen whose districts are hit by Zodiac; Chloe Sevigny as Gyllenhaal's sweet-natured wife; Brian Cox as the media-friendly lawyer Melvin ...
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Details

Director: David Fincher
DVD Release Date: January 8, 2008
Runtime: 157 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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