Mann's World

some comments I posted in an online discussion on Michael Mann and Miami Vice [Miami Vice] happens to be one of my favorites of last year... One of Mann's unique character insights is in people who operate with peak efficiency at their high-pressure jobs, to the point that it dehumanizes them, and the moral and human conflicts that emerge from this way of life. Just because they have their game faces on 24/7 doesn't mean they don't feel underneath their masks. This is what makes the love scene between Gong Li and Colin Farrel so unexpectedly touching. The script itself is executed with lightning efficiency, which may be why some people find it kind of by-the-numbers, but personally I just loved the gusto with which Mann moves from one scene to the next, with a few right turns along the wya. I also think that Mann's choice to shoot in digital also gets at the idea of coldness and dehumanization -- and it's a startling new look, electric, fascinating and fascinated with its own neon artifice, a transitory world of restless struggle casually teeming with violent desperation.

Well, since you're sticking your nose in, I will too but with a question
by Addison De Witt 10 hours ago (Thu Jan 18 2007 11:26:08 )

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Are you an admirer of Michael Mann in general or just Miami Vice?I'm not a Mann aficionado and have skipped many of his films including Ali, Heat, Collateral because I find him all surface and a film maker whose "style" leaves much to be desired. His only keeper is Last Of The Mohicans because his "style" didn't impinge on the narrative too much and he appeared to genuinely want to make an old fashioned movie movie. As for the rest of his films (the ones that I've seen) ... yawn!The popularity of clumsy Manhunter boggles the mind and I find Brett Ratner's (yes, Brett Ratner!) Red Dragon a much superior film based on the same source material. Thief was a great looking movie for about 15 minutes but when I realized it was going to be nothing else but looks I quickly lost interest. The Insider was Stanley Kramer territory and just as inventive.A thoroughly pedestrian film maker of the "wet streets at night" school. Gimme Todd Fields any day of the week!"Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name but whats puzzling you is the nature of my game"

you can have Todd 'Fields' and SMALL CHILDREN any day ;-)
by alsolikelife 9 hours ago (Thu Jan 18 2007 11:59:10 )

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I know what you're getting at with Mann and I've had that thought about him being a high profile surface shyster along the lines of the Scott brothers myself. I felt that way about HEAT, a little too big for its britches,but there are some great action sequences and a real sense of male professional crisis, which has been Mann's thematic signature throughout. You have to see enough of his films to gather that though. It was THE INSIDER that turned me around -- I really don't see how one can call that Kramer territory (for one thing, Sidney Lumet would be more apt if you want to condescend). I see that film less as a do-good social conscience drama than about the political and ethical dilemmas affecting two men, and I found it pretty potent. There are two very cinematic and beautiful sequences that I can name and still play vividly in my head 7 years after seeing it -- a sunset scene on the shores of Mobile Alabama where Crowe/Wigant is staring out at the gulf with about a thousand police escorts in the background waiting for him to decide whether to rat on the tobacco industry or not -- it's a beautiful wide shot where the entire world seems to be open and closed to this man at once. Another shot, with a similar effect, of Crowe holed up in his hotel room having not talked to anyone for days, and he starts to hallucinate his kids running in the backyard of his house in the middle of his tiny hotel room. (The only qualm I have with that scene is that it has Massive Attack playing in the background and, much as I love Massive Attack, I could never in a million years believe that Jeffrey Wigant would know who Massive Attack is let alone be listening to them in the soundtrack of his hallucinatory mind)ALI has moments of greatness -- the first 20 minutes is better than the entire rest of the film. Though there is another sequence where Ali is running through the backstreets of Kinshasa preparing for his big fight with Foreman, and an army of kids come running out to follow him. He ends up practically being carried by them to a mural done up with images of himself, awkward child sketches of Ali in boxing gear battling tanks, insects and other scourges to their society. It's a breathtaking moment, another of those kinds of moments that Mann does so well, where time just seems to hang frozen in a moment of zen-like recognition -- Ali sees all these Ali drawings and he realizes that he has become something greater than himself in the eyes of so many hopeful people. That's the real climax to the film - the fight with Foreman is but an afterthought.Manohla Dargis is perhaps the only major critic who gave MIAMI VICE its due: "Miami Vice is a gorgeous, shimmering object, and it made me think more about how new technologies are irrevocably changing our sense of what movies look like than any film I've seen this year. Partly shot using a Viper FilmStream camera, the film shows us a world that seems to stretch on forever, without the standard sense of graphical perspective. When Crockett and Tubbs stand on a Miami roof, it's as if the world were visible in its entirety, as if all our familiar time-and-space coordinates had dropped away, because they have."There are very few contemporary filmmakers I can think of (other than Hou Hsiao Hsien and sometimes David Lynch) who have the ability to freeze time in moments of utter lucidity like Mann has done in the moments listed above, and also in MOHICANS (when what's her name is about to fall off the cliff). Haven't seen anything before MOHICANS (unless one counts the MIAMI VICE series -- and I think it was patently unfair how people judged the movie in terms of the series -- they are completely different animals).