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.


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