Wasn’t really expecting the Michael Mann retrospective to do to me what it did, but it did and what can I say, but oh mann!
Caught two of the three sessions at Cinemateque, saw four excellent films, basically nine and a half hours of Mr Mann, I feel positively well-informed, first week it was Manhunter and The Insider, the second week was Crime Story and Heat (which we missed on account of an ANZAC day hangover) and then last night it was Thief and Collateral. Three of them I had never seen before and those were Manhunter, Insider and Thief. All very kick-ass.
Manhunter (1986) was the first of the Lector movies, and it’s hip as shit, serial killer bonkers. The detective wears a metallic blue tie over a maroon shirt and the killer has great taste in pumping hard rock. You won’t forget the wicked finale set to In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida so tremendously entertaining. Demme’s ending now looks unoriginal to Mann’s, as he basically pinched the mood, music and colours from under Mann’s nose. Postscript: Joan Allen is unforgettable as an undersexed blind, lab assistant.
Like Demme, Mann invests as much into the small supports as he does the big leads, as all directors should, but few actually do because it takes big brains and compassion for little people. I think it’s my favourite aspect of his work.
Next was the three-hour long Insider (1999) which was thoroughly engrossing from start to finish, even though it’s one of those journalist as hero studies like All the President’s Men, which I seem to be a huge sucker for. Pacino was fab, looking strangely like my Aunt Sally, and Crowe, acts like his heart could explode from suppressed rage any second. His family bails on him and he resorts to a suicidal bender in a luxurious Louisville hotel. I must say, one of the greatest joys of cinema is watching Russell Crowe getting tormented.
Thief (1981) has the music of Tangerine Dream and James Caan doing straight-up nihilism – with a limp! He’s done big jobs, spent his twenties in the slammer, wants to do one more big job and then sit around and watch daytime TV the rest of his life (he says this jokingly, but he’ll do it). The threat of sodomy was so severe in prison, he’s no longer scared of death. He drives a Cadillac, romances Tuesday Weld with the finesse of a wrecking ball and somehow gets entangled with kingpin Grandpa Munster who displays a very nice avuncular menace and how about them strawberry blonde sideburns! Grandpa buys Caan and Weld a house in the Chicago suburbs that I swear was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that they can live comfortably in with the adopted Sudanese baby that Grandpa arranged for them also. The last job recalls Riffifi and James Belushi, Caan’s partner, dies a slo-mo shotgun to the chest in Grand Guignol-fashion, it’s arguably his finest moment (I believe a surplus of magenta DuLox was involved).
Collateral (2004) is the bomb. My favourite of all Mann’s movies. To say it’s about guys and their dicks, a comment I had read before I saw the movie, and a comment I admired at the time, but honestly, after seeing it, I find the description so witless and lazy. I mean sure there’s gunfights, but Jamie Foxx is basically playing a timid girl, afraid of the world and Tom Cruise is cyborg du jour, modelling himself on Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and executing it with indestructible playboy creepiness.
I guess the reason I have never gotten into Mann before is that his movies demand to be seen on the biggest screen you’ve ever seen with Dolby sound that deliriously pumps your gnads (wrong word, I think...)