Some years back, an actor came over to my kitchen on Blake Street for a "Movie Magazine" interview. He was very tall, rather shy and friendly. My cat Kelly sat on his lap the whole time. It was an absolutely relaxed meeting. After he left, I checked on his filmography. One of his credits was a thriller that had given me nightmares when I first saw it. But what part had he played in it? And then it hit me: very tall, rather shy andÖNo Way! The nice man in my kitchen, the guy my cat couldnít keep her paws off, had been the serial killer?!$#% To this day, I canít connect how the soft-spoken stranger who proudly discussed his latest indie had transformed himself into a malignant monster who preyed on men, women and children without mercy.
Yeh, I know, a make-believe murderer and a real one are light years apart. John Carroll Lynch, another actor who plays the suspected Zodiac killer in David Fincherís new film, has played characters on both sides of the law. He has the knack of making his blank slate of a face look pleasant, benign, earnest, dedicated, etc. But wait, thereís more! Barely shifting his facial muscles, he can, with his eyes, project the deepest evil youíll ever see. At one point, Jake Gyllenhall, who pays writer Robert Graysmith, says "Just because you canít prove it, doesnít mean it isnít true." After nearly 40 years, the long-silent Zodiac Killer is dead or delirious or incarcerated, unlikely to prey on coeds, dating couples or cabdrivers. But the evil menace that John Carroll Lynch projects with such vivid subtlety is still with us. And thatís why the Robert Graysmiths keep digging for answers which may or may not ever come.
There is one extended sequence in the film which focuses on a much-loved Bay Area organist who dies in his nineties in the early twenty first century. Charles Fleischer, the actor who plays this character, looks more like another suspect, the Avenue Theatre projectionist, than the white-haired musician who accompanied so many silent movies and made them new and fresh to young audiences. But it is the organist who scares the hell out of Gyllenhallís Graysmith! The real organist was such a sweetie, itís virtually impossible to imagine.
When I see a movie set in my favorite city and so many of the period details are right and then I see something that makes me say, "Oh, come on: wrinkled film buffs may be odd ducks, but theyíre basically harmless old darlings," I do wonder: would I have known the Zodiac at Lake Berryessa or on the streets of San Francisco, CA 94118, or anywhere else? That may be the question that "Zodiac," a splendidly acted, beautifully crafted masterwork and the finest film noir of 2007, forces us to ask again and again.
© 2007 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 3/7/07
Zodiac: A Personal Perspective
USA - 2007