Michael Mann

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#226 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 6:39 pm

I decided to fill in my Michael Mann blind spots, which was as bad an idea as I knew it would be. The Keep was just awful, with a decent Tangerine Dream score but otherwise unwatchable, nonsensical, truncated garbage. This isn’t Mann’s fault, and despite not having much interest in the material, I would watch his original cut if it ever saw the light of day, as this was made between his two best films and I have faith that there’s a better movie in there somewhere.

Blackhat was just the worst though. I don't even know what went wrong here but I was reminded of Public Enemies' film-illiterate narrative construction, empty characterization, and sloppy technical choices. I'm not immune to Mann's deceptively vapid characters actually revealing interesting philosophical and psychological areas of study (i.e. Miami Vice) but sometimes I wonder if he turns a switch on and off, or where his interest really lies in making a film. This is one of those times.

Ali I realized too late that I had seen before. The first boxing match is terrific.. hell, the whole first half hour in montage is incredibly involving: videographic peripheral intimacies glimpsing moments of Ali’s surface image at home and in interviews, and Mann’s diverse camerawork erratically cutting between subjective chaos shaking up close and personal with the fighters and medium shots from the position of audience members watching the fight from afar. It’s vibrant filmmaking that refuses to take a side or plant us in one position, granting mastery over all sides of this intensity by approaching the scene from every possible vantage point.

Too bad the rest of the film is so weak. One attribute I found amusing was Will Smith’s star function working marvelously. I normally cannot stand him, and have too many memories of Smith hogging cameras to promote his movies at sports games, making obvious comments about how he pampers his kids, and shutting down NYC when he double parked his gigantic bus on busy streets for entire days. I just find him insufferably narcissistic. So he’s perfect for Ali’s self-promotional, overconfident image as a man talking incessantly with ego. I’m not dissing Muhammad Ali, but self-reflexively this really fit like a glove. It’s a bit like how Fred MacMurray’s narcissistic perf in The Apartment is even greater because I don’t like his smug demeanor, although in this specific case Smith channels characteristics I find repelling into an individual who exercises similar attitudes under a more complex and engaging individual context.

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: Michael Mann

#227 Post by Orlac » Thu May 06, 2021 7:27 pm

The original novel of THE KEEP is a lot of fun...hope someone makes a film of it one day!

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Pavel
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:41 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#228 Post by Pavel » Thu May 06, 2021 7:53 pm

I have a lot of friends that love every Mann film and while I can sort of see what they find in Miami Vice (which I still mostly hate), their love for Blackhat — to my mind one of the biggest insults to the universe, at least in the last decade — is utterly perplexing

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#229 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 8:11 pm

I think Mann should just never try to tackle romance earnestly, he seems to be like his male work-centered self-alienating protagonists in being very confused about what a romance is

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Michael Mann

#230 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu May 06, 2021 8:23 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 6:39 pm
…as this was made between his two best films and I have faith that there’s a better movie in there somewhere.
Have you written about why think Manhunter is one of his best anywhere? I didn’t see it in a cursory search, but I would be very curious to see what you find in it that works better for you than his ‘90s to early ‘00s work.

Also, did you see the director’s cut or theatrical version of Blackhat? I’ve never seen the former, but I’m curious if it improves on the original, which is seriously flawed but oddly (almost inexplicably) engaging to me at certain points…

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diamonds
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:35 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#231 Post by diamonds » Thu May 06, 2021 8:48 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 8:23 pm
Also, did you see the director’s cut or theatrical version of Blackhat? I’ve never seen the former, but I’m curious if it improves on the original, which is seriously flawed but oddly (almost inexplicably) engaging to me at certain points…
I've never seen the theatrical version, but I'm of the belief that the director's cut of Blackhat is the most perfect film Mann has made since Heat. Around the time the DC premiered I read it described as "an ever-escalating fever dream as opposed to a disjointed global thriller," which based on what I've read of the plot restructuring sounds about right as a comparison of the two cuts. If you're sympathetic to the textures (which you seem to be) it's definitely worth a watch, though as it's pure Mann I don't see it winning over anyone vehemently opposed to him.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#232 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 9:53 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 8:23 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 6:39 pm
…as this was made between his two best films and I have faith that there’s a better movie in there somewhere.
Have you written about why think Manhunter is one of his best anywhere? I didn’t see it in a cursory search, but I would be very curious to see what you find in it that works better for you than his ‘90s to early ‘00s work.

Also, did you see the director’s cut or theatrical version of Blackhat? I’ve never seen the former, but I’m curious if it improves on the original, which is seriously flawed but oddly (almost inexplicably) engaging to me at certain points…
For Blackhat I watched the DC.

I haven't written about any of Mann's other work I don't think, other than a response in the Heat thread recently. I do believe I've shared that I appreciate the philosophy of Manhunter, specifically that Mann portrays a man who is devoted to work and good at it, but also sees the world as grey momentarily between black-and-white barriers. His ability to get inside the mind of a serial killer without empathizing fully to the point of losing yourself is a very psychological technique that reminds me of what a therapist needs to do in practice, and the depiction of his struggles around balancing that perfectly- an impossible task for a fallible being- is well-drawn with enough distance to resist coming across as overcooked. One of my favorite exchanges in movies, period, is this:
Will: This started from an abused kid, a battered infant. There's something terrible about..

Jack: What are you, sympathizing with this guy?

Will: Absolutely. My heart bleeds for him, as a child. Someone took a kid and manufactured a monster. At the same time, as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks. Do you think that's a contradiction, Jack? Does this kind of understanding make you uncomfortable?
The willingness to engage in contradicting feelings and still arrive at a tangible outcome is admirable, and while it's often counter to my own progression of dwelling longer in the abstract, it's powerful to watch Mann wrestle between his split philosophies: The industrialist lens of human beings as self-measured by their utility, effective tools moving towards logical progressions of self-betterment and acquiring tangible markers of value to survive in a chaotic world; and the psychological lens of emotional sensitivity, which is accepted as innate but Mann spends his career wondering about its capacity to be suppressed, or even the morality of its suppression. It's often either idealized in fantasy (Caan's dreams of family and children in Thief) or sublimated in 'appropriate'/non-vulnerable avenues that align with environmental supports and simplified identity constructs (often the workplace, i.e. Manhunter and Heat), or even compartmentalized in Manhunter for Will to leave work to be with his family, significantly in a very different physically-defined location in nearly every way, a dreamlike cottage on the beach compared to the urban buildings that mark his professional life.

Emotion may be innate but Mann seems to understand, through this wrestling, that suppressing emotions is a necessary sacrifice many of us need to make- partly because our psyches can't handle the turmoil that interferes with our industrialist definitions of tangible productivity in individualistic western cultures, but partly because civilization's cold, neutral, barbaric state doesn't support it as a higher form of self-preservation in actuality (vs. Thief's fantasy). Mann appears to believe that, much like industry, we have evolved to the point where we can successfully survive by controlling our emotional valves and issuing these innate drives in specific places rather than allowing them to control us. This isn't always possible, and I think in some of his most interesting work we see how characters' own lack of self-knowledge emerges with subtle visibility beneath the shiny surfaces with implicit realist tragedy, and this supports Mann's quest: If emotion is so nebulous, we must try to tame it, or maybe not 'must' but we have a drive that says we must, and that drive is trying to protect us from the chaos of sitting with intangible information. So whether we objectively 'need' to or not, we subjectively have a part that certainly stresses that need in response to the frightening and brutal nature of our environments, and our limitations of self-actualization without outside environmental supports to help define us. How ironic, we need what we fear and we fear what we need; we don't know exactly what we need or what we're afraid of, so we do whatever we can to make life simple.

I think Mann tackles this conflict best in his early work, but I do really like Heat a lot, and I'll admit that The Insider blew me away around the time of its release and was one of my all-time favorite films for a bit. I haven't seen it in so long it deserves another watch, but it deeply moved me as a middle school boy.

Other than these reasons, Manhunter is just an engaging film. It's well-paced, gorgeously shot, and I'm generally a big fan of those 80s synth crime thrillers: this and Thief, but To Live and Die in L.A. probably blows them both away and is one of my favorite 80s films, also with William Peterson. Maybe I'll write that up someday, but not only is it a pulp-bullet shooting through celluloid, there is a deeply cynical look at how humanity erodes as people acclimate to roles, bleeding into their professional and personal lives, that is downright sinister.

I haven't even delved into Noonan's villain, who I believe is pitched in a manner that earns some of our sympathy for the boy that was, and even postures at potential for the man briefly before taking Will's position that it's just too late- though we see that tragedy for Noonan and for Allen in real time, just as for the boy, and so our empathy remains static for uncomfortably longer than Will can take in his own aloof narrative. I will also freely admit that I don't think Red Dragon is terrible like the rest of the world, so part of me just thinks it's an interesting story.

beamish14
Joined: Fri May 18, 2018 3:07 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#233 Post by beamish14 » Thu May 06, 2021 11:36 pm

It certainly stems in part from my tendency to try and find redeeming facets of directors' films that they have disowned for whatever reason, and also in part due to my love of the dark fantasy films that became de rigueur during the 1980's, but The Keep is a special work in my estimation. As an exercise in aesthetic excess and aural pleasure, it is fantastic. I cannot help but love a film with so much dried ice fog, neon, and a Tangerine Dream score.

Mann has always given the same stock answer when queried about it, essentially stating that the wind was taken out of his sails when its VFX supervisor passed away in the midst of the production, and there is probably some lingering resentment over the cut of it that was released by Paramount. I'd love to know what connected with him when he encountered F. Paul Wilson's novel. I believe Mann grew up in a secular/culturally Jewish household, and this is his only film that explicitly touches upon Judaism, using the Golem-like monster Glaeken to represent the collective evil of Nazism and probably the Romania that was under Nicolae Ceaușescu's rule during the time of the film's production.

I do like that the film stands as it was the day of its release, though, and that Mann will not alter it. Someone on another board made the highly amusing comment to the effect that at least Mann can't insert some aerial helicopter shots of Los Angeles at night into it.

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: Michael Mann

#234 Post by Orlac » Fri May 07, 2021 5:13 am

What I love about THE KEEP is that it ends with a Tangerine Dream cover of "Walking in the Air" from the beloved UK tearjerker THE SNOWMAN.

ford
Joined: Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:44 pm

Re: Michael Mann

#235 Post by ford » Fri May 07, 2021 4:17 pm

Orlac wrote:
Fri May 07, 2021 5:13 am
What I love about THE KEEP is that it ends with a Tangerine Dream cover of "Walking in the Air" from the beloved UK tearjerker THE SNOWMAN.
Holy shit I never knew that. Now I have to see this.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Michael Mann

#236 Post by colinr0380 » Fri May 07, 2021 5:14 pm

ford wrote:
Fri May 07, 2021 4:17 pm
Orlac wrote:
Fri May 07, 2021 5:13 am
What I love about THE KEEP is that it ends with a Tangerine Dream cover of "Walking in the Air" from the beloved UK tearjerker THE SNOWMAN.
Holy shit I never knew that. Now I have to see this.
If you don't mind spoilers here it is (though this is the extended ending: the theatrical version ends on a freeze frame of the image at around the 3:10 mark as both Eva and her father look back. The use of a cover of Walking In The Air makes a bit more sense with this ending including shots of Scott Glenn plummeting in slo-mo through the cavern)

I kind of love The Keep mostly for the gorgeous style - the silver discovery that leads to the Shining-style calling of the main character to the location; the hypnotic yet strangely passionless love scene between two characters who have just met; the first encounter of the Golem-esque being bringing Ian McKellen's daughter back to him and restoring vigour back to his withered limbs, leading to him making a Faustian pact with the monster; the way that Jürgen Prochnow is playing a relatively 'good Nazi' to contrast against Gabriel Byrne's SS figure - but I also just find it so powerfully moving as well and it could never work as well without that forcefully anachronistic, dreamily heady Tangerine Dream score. The whole film feels like Mann's homage to German Expressionist film in a lot of ways (and you could easily double bill it with the Giorgio Moroder version of Metropolis from the same era). And every Michael Mann film is a love story in its own way, even if most of the male characters don't really acknowledge it to be so.

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