THE FILM Fight Club has provoked much debate. It started even before it was released, when the British film censors decided two of the fight scenes had to be cut for being too graphic. The day I went along to see it an article appeared the Guardian praising the film as radical: 'Thank god for Fight Club. It begins to challenge how we are manipulated, seduced, frightened and co-opted by politicians, advertisers and employers.'
Sounds good? Well, I was treated to over two hours of a nasty, cynical film whose violence was the least offensive part. The film's starting point is the miserable lives many ordinary people have. But the everyman character and the film's narrator, played by Ed Norton, is not your average worker. He is employed by a leading car company to see how far they can get away with unsafe vehicles before they have to recall the product. He only begins to find any meaning to his materially comfortable life when he meets his mirror image, Tyler, played by Brad Pitt. Together they set up the secret organisation, Fight Club.
This is where equally unhappy men can experience some 'real masculine emotion' - pain. As Ed Norton's character says, 'You weren't alive anywhere like you were there.' Tyler is presented as the sexy and powerful driving force in the film. Yet he turns the 'slaves in white collars' at Fight Club into a guerrilla fighting force who wear a blackshirt uniform. They make explosives for Project Mayhem - to take on big business and the wealthy - from a concoction made from human fat.
These are not unwitting references to Nazism. They are part of a film whose conclusion is that a brutal army is the force to bring down the present system. The film also grates in other ways. Its sole female character is purely there as a sex object. Its sole black character is an Asian shopkeeper who Tyler threatens to shoot dead. In the end this supposedly clever film just left a nasty taste in my mouth.