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‘What Is This?’: David Fincher Puzzled by 5-Minute Venice Standing Ovation for ‘The Killer’

David Fincher spooked Venice with the world premiere of his latest movie “The Killer,” which stars Michael Fassbender as an assassin. The Netflix thriller earned a respectable 5-minute standing ovation at its screening on the Lido on Sunday night.

Fassbender and co-star Tilda Swinton couldn’t attend the premiere because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Fincher walked the carpet alone, with a small group of Netflix executives, as he signed posters of some of his most beloved movies, from “Fight Club” to “Se7en.”

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But Fincher must not have received the memo about Venice’s tradition of showering movies with standing ovations after a gala premiere. As the audience clapped for him, he uncomfortably shifted on his feet and flailed his hands in the air and mouthed: “What is this?” A producer led him down the stairs from his balcony seat to meet fans, but Fincher thought he was leaving the theater. He then walked back up the stairs and continued to uncomfortably stand in front of the cheering crowds until he finally was able to exit.

Judging by the positive response on the Lido, “The Killer” is poised to be a hit. The clever script and dazzling action scenes in Fincher’s genre movie will make it a must-watch on Netflix. Fassbender’s assassin even speaks in a deadpan voiceover reminiscent of Joe Goldberg in “You,” the Netflix series with an obsessive fan base about a hunky serial killer. If “Mank” was meant to be a prestige play that was aimed for Oscars, “The Killer” is heart-racing entertainment that will appeal to the masses.

Earlier in the day, Fincher spoke at the film’s Venice press conference about how he developed Fassbender’s calm and calculated assassin, saying, “Sympathy was the last thing on my mind as it relates to this character. He didn’t need to be frightening. You know, the banality of evil. My hope is that someone will see this film and get very nervous about the person behind them in line at Home Depot.”

Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman called “The Killer” both gripping and conventional in his review, but he had praise for Fincher’s leading star. “Fassbender, with his morose anonymity, is the perfect actor to inhabit this role, his sullen snake-like glare emitting silent notes of rage and fear,” he wrote.

Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon, “The Killer” follows Fassbender as a cold-blooded gunman who begins to have a psychological crisis after a botched assignment. The film, which was adapted by “Se7en” screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, also stars Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Sophie Charlotte and Tilda Swinton. Regular Fincher collaborators such as cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross returned for “The Killer.”

The film marks Fincher’s latest collaboration with Netflix. He was a director and executive producer on “House of Cards,” one of the streamer’s first original series, before serving as similar capacity on the streamer’s serial killer drama “Mindhunter.” The new film is Fincher’s second for Netflix after “Mank,” his drama about Orson Welles that picked up 10 Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director. “The Killer” is one of several Netflix originals in competition at Venice this year, including Pablo Larrain’s “El Conde” and Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro.”

“It’s vintage Fincher, just from the title alone it’s right in the lane that you want to see him in,” Ori Marmur, Netflix’s co-boss of original films, told Variety earlier this year. “I don’t want to give too much away.”

Netflix is set to release “The Killer” on Nov. 10.

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