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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 7:21 pm 
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Location: Indiana
Guillermo Del Toro directing a documentary on Mann


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 7:26 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Thanks for the news, fly - I honestly dunno if I'd have heard of it now without this post! Your contributions to this thread are heroic to fellow Mann-fanatics like myself ;)

That really sounds excellent, though, and not too shabby of a director to be at the helm either. I mean, Mann is one of the most fascinating guys around in terms of his style of direction and overall approach to filmmaking, the kind of Kubrickian approach that yields 11 features (12 if you count Jericho I think) over the course of 35-40 years. In that sense and also the overall perfectionism and immersion into the world of his films and attention to realistic detail (while also countering that with pure cinematic artifice and a dreamy, impressionistic camera-eye), I'd say Mann is kind of the closest living director to Kubrick. Each film is like a whole universe to both directors, where every angle and every fact and every facet and every detail must be explored and exhaustively pored over.

Fincher is a bit similar, but the way Mann pivots with each project to these really very different settings or subjects (despite the commonality of often focusing on criminals) is more reminiscent of the way Kubrick worked, albeit Kubrick was of course more radical with the change from film-to-film, especially from Strangelove or 2001 onward, just every flick is a completely different world while still having that thematic/stylistic stamp that marks each film as unmistakably his. That's rare today and very admirable.

I know Nolan is often trotted out as the "modern Kubrick" but even leaving aside all the other differences I think he's just a more big-budget and mainstream director, he follows his muse but even still, whether he's doing a passion project like Interstellar or dutifully finishing a mega-popular superhero franchise with the last Dark Knight film, he's making movies for the multiplex, or rather movies that just fit in that arena seamlessly. On the contrary, Kubrick in his late career with WB bankrolling every film and just happy to have such a talent attached to them, Kubrick was just using that amazing big-budget big-studio pull to make the movies he wanted to make. And The Shining or Full Metal Jacket happen to line up well with mainstream sensibilities, but only accidentally I think. Then Eyes Wide Shut was a trojan horse anyway, and I think Kubrick absolutely knew this - he was making the ultimate Kubrick film, a film he'd wanted to make since the 60s and not just in terms of wanting to adapt the Schnitzler as he also long wanted to create a film about the contemporary world that would psychologically and sociologically probe the times to reveal the truths within. And so he made an arthouse film that reeled in Average Joes and Janes worldwide just from its deceptive advertising and hot star couple. That certainly was one of the biggest "gotcha!"s in cinema history, though I don't think Kubrick intended to piss off people... but I think he was a bit mischievous with that steamy teaser of Tom and Nicole necking at the mirror, et al.

Mann doesn't need to disguise his films because they're less obviously some arthouse thing and fall more easily in line with expected genre protocols even as they increasingly have broken many rules in the book, primarily of course the whole question of what is "cinematic" in terms of how a film looks and if his digital work is somehow amateurish etc. It's taken balls, I think, that Mann has stayed with his digital style which uses the form in the most unique ways instead of being staid and classical or trying to make it all look like film instead of digital. That's his greatest contribution to the pure formal aspect of cinema; he basically helped usher in a digital revolution, where directors can keep that digital noise and think of it as beautiful and not some mistake. Or make a 30s period piece and challenge audiences to dispose of preconceptions about what films set in the 30s "should" look like, things that are totally arbitrary, and instead focus on the pure immediacy of digital as a way of putting you right there in the picture - the real "3D"/You Are There-type cinema today, but sadly so many choose to dismiss it instantly.

All that said, though, it really is difficult to think of any prominent or semi-prominent filmmakers who have taken up Mann's challenge to use digital as digital and not go for squeaky-clean images. His use of digital in Collateral, that digital nighttime city-lights aesthetic can be seen in many things, but the more bold aspects of Mann's digital work, the "imperfections" and digital noise and all that, doesn't seem to have caught on. He stands alone in a way, or nearly alone. With time I suspect the film-world will come around and re-appraise those films like Miami Vice, Public Enemies and Blackhat (and Ali for that matter, which only has small bits of early digital but remains unfairly underappreciated). Already cults have developed around those films, even Blackhat if you look on Letterboxd for instance, there's a massive contingent of people wild for that film and for Mann's digital style. But it remains a cult kind of love for those films more than a wider recognition of their greatness.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:34 pm 
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Fincher and Mann seem to be neck and neck to me in certain ways, but coming from completely different places. Each of their best films came from places that have roots in things that fascinated them long before they became filmmakers. Heat is partly based on the exploits of criminals Mann was aware of in 60's Chicago, the rest of it being the beneficiary of years talking to cops and criminals, for the purpose of writing for other previous films, be it as simply a screenwriter or when he would direct his own material. Zodiac was approached in a similar way in terms of the research done (but over a much accelerated period of time), but for Fincher it comes from a deeper place. The Zodiac killer was his boogeyman growing up in the Bay area, as it was for other children growing up there during that time. The fascination with the serial killer began there for him and of course, has shown throughout other works of his as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:52 am 
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He's considering doing a western, based on the true story of the character of the girl who was kidnapped in The Searchers


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:11 am 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:

I can't believe he's knocking Ford for taking "very problematic freedoms" with a true story when his film was never meant to be a true-to-life docudrama.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:09 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
Well I think he meant that the actual Cynthia and her story are rather different, but then Ford never aimed to make a true life story either. I can see he interest in this story if focused on Cynthia herself rather than just doing a rehash of Ford


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:21 pm 
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dda1996a wrote:
Well I think he meant that the actual Cynthia and her story are rather different

Little confused, but this is what I meant.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 1:23 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
Oh i misunderstood what you wrote. I guess it's just his way as making people less aggravated upon hearing he is sort of remaking The Searchers


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:31 pm 
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Ford's film was based on a script by Frank Nugent that was fairly loosely based on a novel which was very loosely based on a number of different real-life events (about which the historical record is somewhat spotty)!

Mann's pedantry about his films being "true to life" has always been one of the more tiresome and least credible parts of his persona. Mann makes quite stylized films that, while they always include some interesting anthropological and psychological details that may be drawn from "real life," basically conform to, or are light revisions of, genre conventions. Apparently Mann himself vetoed the text of a Taschen volume on his work because it made this point.

More to the point, when was the last decent Mann-made film? ... 11 years ago?


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 5:19 pm 
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I dunno, I liked both Public Enemies and Blackhat pretty well. I think Mann's insistence on people doing things the way people would do them usually makes for more interesting decisions and tactics when his characters decide to do things- the details about how hacking works in Blackhat held my interest in a way all those absurd 90s movies where people hack by typing rapidly at one another never did- such that the question usually feels something like taking a genre and asking of it 'what if these events were happening in real life?' I don't think the fact that he still sticks to genre subject matter undermines that goal, particularly.

They're also very stylized, in part because Mann indulges himself in worlds in which everyone is good at things, which is not particularly true to life- so a 'Michael Mann hero' is a distinct type, because they're efficient and smart and cunning, which most people are not. His music choices, which are generally non-diagetic, and shot choices, which I guess don't exist within the world of the film, also lend themselves to that overall atmosphere. I think the juxtaposition of the two forces- the verisimilitude of how people do things with the Melville derived cold professionalism of the characters- is a lot of what I like about him.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 5:21 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
I would say Collateral was the last really good one, Ali was ok, haven't seen Miami Vice and Blackhat has its fans.
I would say Mann's career is an obvious advocate for shooting on film, since the moment he turned digital his film have only gotten worst.
I really do miss the days of Heat and Manhunter


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 5:33 pm 
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His DV movies have their moments, but I do think it hurt him- while I enjoyed Public Enemies, it occasionally looked like I was watching behind the scenes footage rather than the real movie.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 5:50 pm 
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From recent interviews it seems like he's been wanting to shoot on film again.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 3:21 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
Public Enemies was by far the worst, as using DVD on a "historical" movie took me out completely. But I also feel like he hasnt been trying enough to find good solutions in his film. This started in Heat, which was redeemed by the final scene, but so many of his films after Heat are undermined by really cheap and convenitsolution to tie everything. For all his true to life agenda they always feel manipulated. Like Collateral's ending for example.
What I missed is the vibrancy and true humanism of his film up to and including Collateral. His characters were always silent, aloof and marginalized, even when one of the characters is a cop. But they always tried to find a way out, they always fell in love with a similarly lonely woman and you felt this. That diner scene in Thief is so simple yet beautiful.
And that's what I've been really missing, aside from actual good action set pieces.
The romance in Blackhat was so forced, this vibrancy was sorely lacking.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 4:19 am 

Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 8:04 am
I came in late into appreciating Mann on a more subtle level. Over the years i have read many publications on him and the films but not found a good description about what makes the films fascinating for me. I can not describe this in detail because it would take too long but especially in films like Miami Vice and Public Enemies (i like both very much) there is such a fragility in the film that it almost feels like watching a sculpture decomposing in real time. Obviously this is achieved through the strong technical aspects in form and the rough character drawing and storytelling. This sounds contradictory but as perfectionism is not possible (in the films storyline too) the process of "decomposing" in form and content goes hand in hand in a really fascinating way.This (fatalistic?) concept makes Manns films much more interesting and complete for me, than for example a David Fincher film.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 6:35 am 
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dda1996a wrote:
I would say Mann's career is an obvious advocate for shooting on film, since the moment he turned digital his film have only gotten worst.

You shouldn't judge Mann's digital work until you've seen Miami Vice. I felt it was inappropriate for Public Enemies but it really works in MV and fits the ambience of the rest of the piece perfectly.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 8:06 am 
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Conversely, I felt that it was completely appropriate for Public Enemies precisely because it initially seemed so startlingly inappropriate - but the penny quickly dropped that Mann wanted his 1930s to be completely stripped of the usual distancing patina.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 8:43 am 

Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 8:04 am
What Michael said. And what is the supopsed "patina-look" anyway? One could easily argue (and many did) that using a supposed "look/patina/color grade/grain" is one of the lesser creative tasks a director can take to shoot a film. A most obvious example is using b/w to give the film a more serious look, which is absolutly idiotic - there is no a priori cleverness in b/w. I am not saying that the image "quality" is not important but that there can be more interesting ways to use the medium than repeating the same look or cliché over and over again. Public Enemies might at least be trying that which is more than most big budget films do -


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 6:24 pm 
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I agree that there's nothing wrong with using DV to shoot a period film—Rohmer did it quite early, to very interesting effect, with The Lady and the Duke—but the devil is, as always, in the details, and I thought Public Enemies was a disappointment in almost every regard. For the most part, it was ugly, with frightening mismatching of tonalities and lighting values between shots in the same scene. Mann seems to have lost his talent for (or his interest in) interesting scene layouts. The editing and framing has little of the authority of his best work. The narrative was banal in the extreme, adding nothing to the many films and books on similar subjects (and largely draining the charisma from the characters). Side characters are scarcely individuated before their disposal is—I think—supposed to leave some emotional residue. And on and on.

I don't think digital is the cause of Mann's decline, because—as others have noted—he's done some very interesting work with digital cinematography, and because some of the problems with his latest work are evident in the stuff he shot on film, like The Insider and, especially, Ali (which strikes me as some awesome set pieces in search of a movie).


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:32 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
I didn't mean his films are lesser just because they are shot on digital, I just meant his films started to be less interesting since he started switching formats but that wasn't the only reason.
I can like a film shot on DV, but conversely to you it completely took me out. It's not the only fault in the film, but unlike say a Greenaway film which aims to show its obvious fakeness, Mann's film are never playfully playing with their form. He has terrific visual form but he never makes it a point.
I also disagree with "repeating the same look". I do think every medium used to shoot cinema gives off a complete different feeling, and while I can live with digital if I must, the intense reality and closeness I feel when seeing something projected on 35mm is just too much to ignore. And I think something like Barry Lyndon managed to make the staid period drama, a genre I rarely have interest in, be completely ironic and mesmerizing. Every period film since immediately bring Lyndon back to my head. That's using a very rigid and old genre and making something new out of it (see also Once Upon a Time in the West, but in a genre I actually like).
But yeah Mann's recent films have had way more problems than just "digital", as I found the romance in Blackhat completely forced and the ending dissapointing among its many problems. That the constant movement makes digital looks like shit is just one small reason.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:36 am 

Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 8:04 am
whaleallright wrote:
The editing and framing has little of the authority of his best work. The narrative was banal in the extreme, adding nothing to the many films and books on similar subjects (and largely draining the charisma from the characters). Side characters are scarcely individuated before their disposal is—I think—supposed to leave some emotional residue. And on and on.

Thats what i wanted to say with "rough storytelling". Contrary to your conclusion, i think this different way of telling adds something new to all the many films and books on similar subjects that have allready been written, told etcetera.. Just being different is not a quality per se, but in my opinion, talking about big budget star system films, at least something…. (as always, this is a matter of cinematic taste).
Quote:
Ali (which strikes me as some awesome set pieces in search of a movie).

I think this is spot on! And because of this, i think, the film has not much entertainment value in a classical, story telling sense, but as what you described as "a search" or artistic "attempt" - again a matter of taste, and for me much more interesting than a classical biography (whatever that may be anway).
Quote:
I do think every medium used to shoot cinema gives off a complete different feeling, and while I can live with digital if I must, the intense reality and closeness I feel when seeing something projected on 35mm is just too much to ignore. And I think something like Barry Lyndon managed to make the staid period drama, a genre I rarely have interest in, be completely ironic and mesmerizing. Every period film since immediately bring Lyndon back to my head.

I am not commenting on the digital/analog theme (in artistic terms) here because this is an old hat. I agree that, and who does not?, that Barry Lyndon is an interesting film. The "ironic approach" (if i understand you correctly?) in the storytelling contrasts with the formal rigor. There is the (supposed, as always) hyper realistic form (lightning, setting etc.) versus the dialog and also the music placement. For me this culminates in the wonderfull original poster artwork that perfectly fits into the (then modern!) 70s romantic popcultural look/style.
But then, opposed to your impression, i think ironic and comical ways of telling ancient stories is nothing new to mainstream cinema so i would argue that the Kubrik way of telling this is still highly conventional and in its perfectionism (to what?) boring at times (i am on the Barry Lyndon and EWS bandwagen when it comes to Kubrik though). I talked myself in a dead end here because i do not want to compare Barry Lyndon to Public Enemies. But Manns fragmentation (or dis-interest for others) of the narrative has a different performative quality to me.


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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:14 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
But what is not a conventional way of telling a story? Unless you watch Brakhage and other avant-garde film most films have a structure if you like it or not. There are obvious exceptions (Greenaway, Jarman) but in the end most films follow a certain convention. I don't think Mann did anything new (I haven't seen it in a few years) except the very obvious digital look. The film was still a very conventional biopic about a famous outlaw. Which is why I said that aside from looking way better, his film shot era also had a very engaging visual style but a very visceral emotional connection with his characters which sadly is missing. If there is one example of an unconventional film in Mann's oeuvre (as far as unconventional goes) is Manhunter with its beautiful focus on a cop dangerously becoming a psycho to understand his subject, while said subject vainly tries to become normal and tries to forge connections. The fact is tries (and succeeds a bit) in humanizing a serial killer is one of the reasons I adore Manhunter


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