Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 1: Introduction


Michael Mann speaking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International, for "Black Hat", at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Michael Mann (director)' page; Michael Mann SDCC 2014 by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

Welcome to the analysis of filmmaker Michael Mann. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis.

Michael Kenneth Mann is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. For his work, he has received nominations from international organizations and juries.

Mann's television work includes being the executive producer on Miami Vice and Crime Story. Contrary to popular belief, he is not the creator of these shows but the executive producer and the showrunner. They were produced by his production company.

Mann is now known primarily as a feature film director and he has a very distinctive style that is reflected in his work. His trademarks include unusual musical scores, such as that by the band Tangerine Dream used in Thief.

In 1986, Mann was the first to bring Thomas Harris's character of Hannibal Lecter to the screen with Manhunter, his adaptation of the novel Red Dragon, which starred Brian Cox (shown at left) as a down-to-earth Hannibal Lecktor (note the different spelling of Hannibal's surname used in Manhunter).

Mann gained widespread recognition in 1992 for his film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's novel into the epic film Last of the Mohicans. His biggest critical successes in the 1990s were Heat in 1995 and The Insider in 1999. The films featured Al Pacino along with Robert De Niro in Heat and Russell Crowe in The Insider. The Insider was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a nomination for Mann's direction.

Above left and right: The deli conversation in Heat: Al Pacino (left) and Robert DeNiro (right).

Russell Crowe in The Insider.

With his next film Ali starring Will Smith in 2001, Mann started experimenting with digital cameras. The film helped catapult Smith to greater fame, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

Will Smith in Ali.

In 2004 Mann directed Collateral starring Tom Cruise (shown at left) and Jamie Foxx. On this film, Mann shot all of the exterior scenes digitally so that he could achieve more depth and detail during the night scenes.

After Collateral, Mann directed the film adaptation of Miami Vice which he also executive produced. It stars a completely new cast with Colin Farrell as Don Johnson's character Sonny Crockett, and Jamie Foxx filling Philip Michael Thomas' shoes as Ricardo Tubbs. Public Enemies, released in 2009, was directed, co-written, and co-produced by Mann. It starred Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, with Depp playing John Dillinger in the film, and Bale played Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent in charge of capturing Dillinger.[a]


We will begin the study of common themes and other relationships among Mann's films, in the next part of this analysis.

a. Wikipedia, 'Michael Mann (director)'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Mann_(director).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 12: Miscellaneous observations


From The Last of the Mohicans: What we see under the bridge (i.e., through the arch) is disjoint from the rest of the image - when viewing things through the arch, it appears that we're looking at the far shore of a lake (or reservoir); but, if someone was going to build a bridge across a lake, they wouldn't build it so close to a parallel bank, since anyone wishing to cross the body of water at this location could simply go around it instead.

Above left - from Heat: Vincent kicks his TV set out of his car, while driving on a city street in Los Angeles. Above right - from Miami Vice: Trudy, who is being held hostage in a mobile home, is tied to a chair and has had a television set placed in her lap. There is an explosive device wired around her neck that will go off, if her captor presses the attached detonator button. Left - from The Insider: A view of a television on the back patio of a beach house, with the ocean in the background. Almost all of Mann's movies contain one or more scenes in which a television is present.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Michael Mann analysis - part 11: The relationship of 'Collateral' to 'Manhunter'


Above left - from Collateral: Hit man Vincent (left) and taxi driver Max are together, throughout almost the entire movie. Above right - from Manhunter: Will Graham (left) and Francis Dollarhyde don't meet each other until their showdown at the end of the movie.

The first thing we'll look at in this post, are some of the similarities between the characters Will Graham (Manhunter) and Max Durocher (Collateral). One similarity is that each man is going through his own alchemical process. The four stages of alchemy were discussed earlier in this analysis; recall that we observed that the nigredo is the first stage in the process, and that in Manhunter, Will Graham's nigredo occurs during and just after his visit with Hannibal Lecktor. In part 9 of this analysis, we said that Max's second nigredo occurs when Sylvester Clarke is killed, concurrently with Max being approached by hoodlums. However, what's actually the case is that there is action that is being 'hidden' from the Collateral audience, and that in reality, Max is shot by the hoodlums, and everything we see in the movie after this is a dream that Max experiences, just before the point of his actually dying from his gunshot wound.

There are also similarities between the killers in each movie (Vincent in Collateral and Dollarhyde in Manhunter). Mann mentions in the audio commentary for Collateral that Vincent's first anomaly (i.e., his first deviation from what Mann calls his "machine-like behavior"), occurs when he experiences some amount of regret over killing the jazz club owner, Daniel Baker. The second anomaly takes place when he goes with Max to visit Max's mother in the hospital. Dollarhyde's anomaly is bound up with his meeting a coworker, Reba, and beginning to date her. Deviating from their normal procedures is one thing which ultimately leads to each man's respective downfall. Their respective deviations signify each man's loss of concentration on his 'job' as a killer.

Above left - from Collateral: Vincent and Max visit Max's mother in the hospital. Above right - from Manhunter: Francis Dollarhyde (on left) meets Reba.

We'll wrap up this post with some miscellaneous observations about the two movies. First, note that in each movie, the audience is effectively 'dropped' into a pre-existing situation, a set of circumstances and relationships which already exists before the film begins. In the sepearate analysis of Manhunter on this blog, the prior relationships among some of the characters are discussed, for example, the fact that Molly and Dr. Bloom had been married and divorced prior to the movie's beginning. There is also a pre-existing situation that applies to Collateral, in that when Vincent is shown in the airport at the beginning of the movie, he already has his 'assignment' (the hit list); and, related to this, there is the issue of the case to be brought by Annie. The basic scenario whereby the hits are to be performed, who is to be killed, and the reason for killing them, already exists prior to the start of the movie.

Another thing to note is that in both movies, much of the action occurs at night.

Finally, in the audio commentary for Collateral, Mann notes that Vincent and Max are "oppositional." This is obviously true of Graham and Dollarhyde.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mulholland Drive - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction and plot synopsis


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Mulholland Drive (film)' page; "Mulholland",[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Welcome to the analysis of Mulholland Drive. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis.

Mulholland Drive (stylized onscreen as Mulholland Dr.) is a 2001 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. It tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts), newly arrived in Los Angeles, California, who meets and befriends an amnesic woman (Harring) hiding in an apartment that belongs to Betty's aunt. The story includes several other seemingly unrelated vignettes that eventually connect in various ways, as well as some surreal and darkly comic scenes and images that relate to the cryptic narrative. The events of almost the first two hours of the film comprise a dream, and are shown in a fragmented fashion. The remainder of the film depicts a combination of fantasy and reality. As we will see, some of movie's events are shown out of chronological order.

A dark-haired woman (Harring) escapes her own murder, surviving a car accident on Mulholland Drive. Injured and in shock, she descends into Los Angeles and sneaks into an apartment that an older, red-headed woman has just vacated.

The dark-haired woman sleeps while hiding in the recently-vacated apartment.

In a diner called Winkie's, a man tells his companion about a nightmare in which he dreamed there was a horrible figure behind the diner. When the two men go out back of Winkie's to investigate, the figure appears, causing the man with the nightmare to collapse in fright.

Top left: The two men conversing in Winkie's. Top right: The two men go out back of the diner, to investigate the nightmares (of the man on the right) about a horrible figure located there. Above left: While the two men are in the area behind the diner, this frightening figure appears from behind a wall. Above right: The man who had dreamed of the figure, collapses upon seeing it.

An aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Watts) arrives at her aunt's apartment and finds the dark-haired woman mentioned above, confused, not knowing her own name. The dark-haired woman assumes the name "Rita" after seeing a poster for the film Gilda (1946), starring Rita Hayworth.

Betty Elms (on right) attempts to comfort 'Rita'.

A Hollywood director named Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) has his film commandeered by two men, who insist he cast an unknown actress named Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George) as the lead in his film.

Adam Kesher, seated at far left, has his film commandeered by the two men seated at far right.

A bungling hit man kills three people, in the process of stealing a black book.

The hit man has just shot the first of three people.

To help Rita remember her identity, Betty looks in Rita's purse, in which are found a large amount of money and an unusual blue key.

The blue key found in Rita's purse.

After Adam Kesher resists the commandeering of his film, he returns home to find his wife having an affair and is thrown out of his house.

Adam (standing at far right) finds his wife in bed with another man.

Betty and Rita go to Winkie's and are served by a waitress named Diane, which causes Rita to remember the name "Diane Selwyn." They find a 'D. Selwyn' in the phone book and call her, but she does not answer.

Above left: Rita and Betty in Winkie's. Above right: Rita and Betty listen to a recorded message, after Betty has dialed a number listed under 'D. Selwyn' in the phone book.

Adam learns that his bank has closed his line of credit and he is broke. He meets with a mysterious figure called the 'Cowboy', who urges him to cast Camilla Rhodes for his own good.

Adam meets with the Cowboy.

Betty goes to an audition, where her performance is highly praised.

Betty auditioning.

A casting agent takes Betty to the set of a film called The Sylvia North Story, directed by Adam, where Camilla Rhodes gives an audition and Adam declares, "This is the girl." Betty smiles shyly as she locks eyes with Adam, but she flees before she can meet him, saying that she is late to meet a friend.

The blond Camilla Rhodes, auditioning for The Sylvia North Story.

Betty and Rita go to 'D. Selwyn's apartment, and Betty enters it through a window when no one answers the door. Betty then opens the front door to let Rita in. In the apartment's bedroom, they find the body of a dead woman.

With Rita's assistance, Betty enter's 'D. Selwyn's apartment.

Terrified, Betty and Rita return to their apartment, where Rita disguises herself with a blond wig. The two women have sex that night and awake at 2 a.m., when Rita insists they go somewhere. Betty agrees.

The two women arrive by cab at Rita's desired destination, a theater called Club Silencio. On stage at the theater, a man speaks mainly in English, but also in Spanish and French; a woman begins singing, then collapses, although her vocals continue.

A man on stage in Club Silencio, explains that there is no orchestra in the club - any music the audience hears there is taped - it is an "illusion".

Betty finds a blue box in her purse that matches Rita's key. Upon returning to the apartment, Rita retrieves the key and finds that Betty has disappeared. Rita unlocks the box, and it falls to the floor with a thump.

The blue box found in Rita's purse.

The older red-headed woman investigates the sound from the blue box falling, but nothing is there. The Cowboy appears in the doorway of Diane Selwyn's bedroom saying, "Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up." At this point, elements of the narrative seem to change. Diane Selwyn (played by Watts) wakes up in her bed, after having dreamed the events described above. She looks exactly like Betty, but is portrayed as a failed actress in a deep depression. Camilla Rhodes is now played by Harring.

On Camilla's invitation, Diane attends a party at Adam's house on Mulholland Drive. Her limousine stops before they reach the house and Camilla escorts her using a shortcut.

Camilla guides Diane along a shortcut to the Mulholland Drive party.

At the party, Adam appears to be in love with Camilla. Over dinner, Diane states that she came to Hollywood when her aunt died, and she met Camilla at an audition for The Sylvia North Story. Another woman (played by George) kisses Camilla and they turn and smile at Diane. Adam and Camilla prepare to make an important announcement, and dissolve into laughter and kiss while Diane watches, crying.

Adam and Camilla kiss each other at the party.

Diane meets with the hit man at Winkie's, where she gives him Camilla's photo and a large amount of money, and they are served by a waitress named Betty. The hit man tells Diane that when the job is done, she will find a blue key. Diane looks up and sees the man who had the nightmare standing at the counter. Diane asks the hit man what, if anything, the key opens, but the hit man just laughs.

Above left: Diane and the hit man in Winkie's. Above right: Diane passes this picture of Camilla to the hit man.

Back at her apartment, with the key on a table in front of her, Diane is terrorized by hallucinations. She runs screaming to her bed, where she shoots herself. A blue-haired woman at Club Silencio says, "Silencio".[b]

Diane sitting in her apartment, at the movie's ending.

a. Poster for Mulholland Drive: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, or the publisher or creator of the film.
b. Wikipedia, 'Mulholland Drive (film)'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulholland_Drive_(film).

Michael Mann analysis - part 10: Prisons create career criminals


From Thief: Shown at left is the diner conversation scene, during which Jessie asks Frank about the first time he went to prison. Frank's response: "I stole forty dollars. It started out with a two-year bit, paroled in six months...right away, I got into this problem with these two guys - they tried to turn me out. So I picked up nine more on a manslaughter beef, some other things. I was twenty when I went in, thirty-one when I come out..." Recall that Frank learned how to break into safes from Okla while he was in prison: "[Okla is] a master thief, a master, and a great man. He was like a father. He taught me everything I know about what I do."

From Public Enemies: John Dillinger in the process of robbing a bank. Michael Mann, from the audio commentary to the movie: "Dillinger, in a way, became the poster boy for the notion that criminals are made, not born...that criminality may have to do with personal characteristics, but also with circumstances, with environment, with things that happen to you in your life. In Dillinger's case, this is a young guy who's wild, who gets drunk, who holds up a grocery store and steals fifty dollars, and is sent to ten years in a state penitentiary. And...prison made him a criminal."


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mulholland Drive analysis - part 19: Jungian numbers and the quaternity


In Jung, a mandala is the "symbol of the center, the goal, or the [Self] as psychic totality; self-representation of a psychic process of centering; production of a new center of personality. This is symbolically represented by the circle, the square, or the quaternity, by symmetrical arrangements of the number four and its multiples."[a] A disturbed mandala is "Any form that deviates from the circle, square, or equal-armed cross, or whose basic number is not four or its multiples."[a] Top left: Adam's view while driving to his meeting with the Cowboy. Note that the lights from the street lamps each consist of (equal-armed) crosses (click image to enlarge). In accordance with the foregoing from Jung, each cross can be taken to be a type of mandala, indicating that the scene which is about to transpire (Adam's encounter with the Cowboy), has to do with attaining psycic totality (i.e., psychological wholeness).[b] Top right: A short while before Adam leaves for his meeting with the Cowboy, the hotel manager, Cookie, speaks briefly with him. There are three persons involved in the Cowboy scenario itself: Adam, Cynthia (above left - the woman who tells Adam. by phone, that he is supposed to meet with the Cowboy), and the Cowboy himself (above right, speaking with Adam). The grouping of three represents a disturbed mandala, indicating a problem in the dreamer's (Diane's) individuation process (i.e., a problem with her attempt to attain wholeness). If Cookie had actually been involved in the scenario (e.g., if he had known that Adam was going to meet with the Cowboy), there would have been four persons involved in the scenario, representing a full quaternity; thus, Cookie is the 'missing person' who is needed to form a grouping of four.

Later in the movie, we again see cross-shaped lights when Betty and Rita flag down a cab to take them to Club Silencio. This indicates that the club scenario itself has to do with attaining psychological wholeness.

The same man who played Cookie is now the emcee at Club Silencio (top left). The club scenario involves five significant persons: the emcee, Rita and Betty (top right), the magician (the man performing onstage - above left), and Rebekah Del Rio (the singer, above right). The emcee's sole job is to introduce Del Rio. By "significant" as used here, is meant that these are the only five persons who actually speak during the scenario: Betty and Rita (the scenario begins with Rita saying "silencio" in her sleep, while her and Betty are at home just prior to going to the club), and the other three persons just mentioned. (A blue-haired lady in the club, not pictured here, doesn't speak until the very end of the movie.) This grouping of five is similar to the grouping of three depicted earlier, in that it is 'off by one' from a proper quaternity. Thus, it too indicates a problem or abnormality with Diane's individuation process. Note that the man who played Cookie earlier is now the 'extra person' - the magician himself could just as well have introduced Del Rio.

a. Jung, C.G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé. Trans. Richard and Clara Winston. Vintage Books, 1989. Glossary, "Mandala". Google Books. URL = https://books.google.com.
b. "Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:...[T]he wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions."(--Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Google Books, p. 212, URL = https://books.google.com.)

1) In certain instances it has been determined that the creators of some of the productions analyzed on this blog, and/or the creators of source material(s) used in the making of these productions, may be making negative statements about certain segments of society in their productions. These statements should be taken as expressing the opinions of no one other than the creators.

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Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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