Friday, 31 October 2008

Public Enemies links

Since there was more than usual location filming on Public Enemies there are plenty of behind the scenes pictures to enjoy!

This has some of the best quality images on the set of Public Enemies that I have seen so far, including some superb shots of Michael Mann directing, up close and personal:
Blog 1
Blog 2

Also, see this blog from another guy.

And click here to see a blog by a lady who is keen to get more than a glimpse of Mann's Public Enemies protagonist, John Dillinger, aka Johnny Depp. It is the Depp fans racing to the filming locations that give us these behind the scenes views.

These blog entries show the incredible lengths the director wants to go to achieve total authenticity for the film. It is little wonder these movies cost tens if not hundreds of millions to make.

Since filming started in March 2008 and finished in July there is no further developmental news on Public Enemies, but as I discover more websites featuring behind the scenes pictures I will post them here. We look forward to and wait for the teaser trailer to the movie, from which we should be able to an extent discern, even in a snippet, whether Depp and Bale convey their characters convincingly. Mann has always found the editing of a trailer one of his weak points, condensing a two hour movie into a 30 second advertisement. He confessed this with some perplexion when trying to best present the trailer for Miami Vice. This was a movie that was difficult to summarize in a very short time without coming across mediocre and conventional. I can't recall where I read that interview, but will post it if refound. It was unusual to hear Michael Mann acknowledge he had a weakness in the production process!

Click here to see an earlier entry I made about Public Enemies behind the scenes footage.

Finally, here is Michael Mann showing his affectionate, respectful side with his actors, this time with Johnny Depp.

The Insider Michael Mann Interview

Tonight I discovered this interview about The Insider with Michael Mann, which was interesting, so I thought I would share it, if you click here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Christian Bale and casting with Michael Mann

Christian Bale is a superb actor, one of those rare actors whose persona doesn't squeel "celebrity" but rather "depth". He delivers an authentic scene, rather than something manufactured - some A-list actors have it, others not. Tom Cruise, as brilliant actor as he is, can never quite dispel that celebrity face. I loved his ice cool, ultra efficient character in Collateral. Cruise gave some superb moments. We see the Cayoti walk across the Los Angeles street, which somehow connects with Vincent's loneliness. Through Cruise's brilliant grasp of who Vincent is, we glimpse for a brief moment Vincent's increasing vulnerability, even though Vincent never quite identifies that within himself, despite the audience being drawn to sympathize. It is remarkable that in the final scene of Collateral we almost feel sorrow for Vincent - not in his fate, but in the clear abuse he must have suffered that took him to that place of total insignificance to anyone around him. As with many of Mann's protaganists, we find flawed, driven characters that nevertheless have an element of "goodness" buried unrealized, within them. But Mann doesn't leave us with any vain pretentions on how bad they are either.

Cruise gave a weighty performance in Minority Report, a film I felt he escaped his usual persona. Farrell was also superb. It was on Collateral that I hoped Mann could bring the best Oscar potential out of Cruise, but in the end the characterization wasn't in my opinion strong enough in the script to help Cruise find that liftetime best performance, as good as it still was.

Christian Bale is more fortunate than Cruise. Bale has that intrinsically built in enigmatic personality. He singlehandedly transformed the Batman franchise, bringing a depth previously pretended in the first two installments. His melancholic persona made Batman real and believable - a rare achievement for all things comic book. No wonder Mann was interested, a man who knows how to take melancholy and transform it into something meaningful through context, to be something capable of being redeemed. Most melancholic situations require redemption - am I right to say that?

So, I think Bale is perfectly cast in Public Enemies as the FBI agent. Here are some of Christian Bale's comments on being directed by Michael Mann.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Interviews with Michael Mann

The Insider is a film which is full of special moments and incredibly complex in script and direction. Here is a fascinating interview - it is frustrating that the sound quality is so poor however.

This interview clip with Michael Mann, seemingly from French TV (but in English) goes back to 2004, discussing his film Collateral. Worth watching, as he explains briefly the character of Vincent.

Here is an insightful series of interviews with the cast from Heat, regarding the relationship between DeNiro and Pacino.

Public Enemies

Public Enemies, to be released July 2009, is Michael Mann's next movie. Shooting has finished and is in post production. See the informative overview from the Los Angeles Times of what this 1930's gangster movie is going to partly be about.

You can see Jonny Depp, cast as Dillinger, in Public Enemies camera action here.

There is plenty of behind the scenes action on youtube too.

Public Enemies looks as though it is going to be another Michael Mann classic. Without wanting to be controversial, I do think that Collateral and Miami Vice, as fine films these are, were not as strong in characterization and sophisticated scripting as Heat and The Insider. However, looking at all the behind the scenes materials, the staged shootouts, the mix of locations and superb use of lighting I have a feeling Public Enemies is going to be an outstanding film that is heading for critical acclaim, with potential Oscar winning performances from both actors and crew. Of course, this is just a hunch from some grainy camcorder images filmed around corners and from public balconies (imagine Michael Mann filming on location below your home balcony!). We won't have any real idea until we see at least the official trailer, and of course the final film. Christian Bale was outstandingly introverted yet determined in the The Train to Yuma 3:10, and his partnership with Depp is akin to DeNiro and Pacino in terms of on screen presence, albeit with very different characteristics and style. Let's hope these two actors "connect" in the same way as Mann expects them to. It is finding that elusive "connection" that makes or breaks a film. Mann has increased the odds of having a powerful connection by bringing together Bale and Depp. I just hope Depp is sufficiently masculine enough to make Dillinger more than just some cheeky gangster.

Gangster movies have that potential for Oscar winning material - period costumes, noir lighting, Tommy Guns and old cars, old fashioned architecture - great props to light and play with. If I spot any significant news from Public Enemies I will post it! July 2009 will soon be here though, and I for one can't wait for another emotional rollercoaster ride. Let's hope Universal will allow it to run the time Mann wants it too - they cut Miami Vice short, depriving the audience of the much lauded power boat race. I hope Universal have learnt the important lesson - do not cut Michael Mann's edit!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

He is a Ferrari Mann - Ferrari California Advert

Following a number of superb adverts he has made, Michael Mann was recently asked by Ferrari to create an official movie for the all new model: The Ferrari California.

The advert is typical of Mann's style. The music is by Lisa Gerrard entitled Man on Fire from the soundtrack of the movie with the same name. The music, as you would expect, is dynamically synchronized with each car scene in the advert.

There are three scenes that are worthy of particular mention. The first, and most spectacular, is the helicopter shot that is first set with a glide over the breaking waves of the California coast which then switches to a dramatic fly past of the cliffs shot during the shoot's "Golden Hour". This is the start of one fairly long and technically extremely difficult shot. The camera flies over the sea towards the edge of the cliff and as it reaches the edge the music defines that dramatic moment as the car steams into view, engine roaring, on the road at the cliff top as the helicopter then travels around the back of the car, the camera still shooting, until the camera is on the other side of the Ferrari with the sea now in the background, the warm light flooding the scene. It is an incredibly difficult shot executed with total perfection. It is tempting to think the shot is cut slightly abruptly - but then you immediately feel guilty for thinking it, given the extraordinary camera work just witnessed and the hard work gone into it. My guess is the shot was cut slightly early for dramatic editing reasons, or because the camera man just lost the frame at the very end. Who knows. But it is a stunning shot.

Another shot I like is when the Azure blue car comes into half view on the crest of a hill with the music ramping up. And lastly, only Michael Mann can make a convertable roof going up seem dynamic! This is an example of how Mann makes music elevate a scene beyond it's ordinary nature.

This is a purist advert, and one I thoroughly enjoyed and watched about ten times. Superb editing, sound and music.

The Opening Scene

Why write a blog about Michael Mann? I am hugely busy in my day job, have plenty of family commitments and have very little time to spare for writing little about nothing. But after many years of being impacted, and often profoundly moved by the films of Michael Mann it has become apparent that my appreciation of the work of Michael Mann stretches beyond just watching his movies. I have become curious reading Mann's interviews, to learn fascinating facts about his working procedures, personal philosophies and behind the scenes anecdotes that have driven his films.

Anyone who has taken the time to study the making of Michael Mann's movies will know his perfectionist attitude for detail, not only in the artistic rendition but for factual significance. Mann's movies are not one night stand movies that you leave on the shelf after watching it with a bowl of pop corn. His movies are full of nuances - his perfectionist details cannot always be appreciated in a single viewing. While revelling in the beauty of one part of the film you may well miss another profound moment in the next frame. Mann's obsession for perfecting a scene (and I mean his total hands on involvement in the script, props, casting, the location, the camera angle, the lighting, the editing as well as direction) is what makes him utterly unique, to the dismay, it must feel, to a lot of his ever patient supporting crew. Yet it is his powerful vision that has resulted in Mann's unmistakable style of film - so hats off to all of his extraordinarily gifted film crews, and especially to Dante Spinotti, Mann's favoured cinematographer, for fulfilling Mann's vision. Dante is just as profoundly gifted as Mann, and it is this marriage made in heaven that has given us those extraordinary films: Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans and that early classic - Manhunter.

It would be totally remiss to introduce the films of Michael Mann without making mention of his passion for music. Without music Mann's films would be stolen of their power to communicate and would not resonate with the required level of emotive power. The mesmerising Lisa Gerrard (The Insider) and Moby (Heat) have been pivotal to Mann's films. To some extent you can liken Mann more to a great conductor than a director. Musical sequences are meticulously synchronized with a scene, edited together for maximum emotional impact. The message of the scene and the pitch of the music are brought together with precision to touch into our human condition, which somehow, mysteriously, makes us cry and yearn. His scenes are multi layered with sound, music, colour and image - and these elements can be further broken down into other layers - and yet I have said nothing of his insight into the human condition, which he draws out of his actors through the most minute gestures - some which are seminal moments in his films. All of these elements are ingeniously conducted, and the result is a classic Michael Mann film. There is not enough space on this introductory blog entry to go into the superb performances Mann gets out of his cast.

I decided to write this blog to share my passion with the many others out there who have also been deeply touched by this directors ability to reach into our masculine souls and speak to us. I say masculine, not to exclude women, but because that is my experience. As is often said about him, he is a man's, man. But this blog is for everyone. It will take time to put together all those resources I have found on the web about Michael Mann - and there is not as much as one would hope. But once they are on here I hope you enjoy viewing them.

Here is my favourite Mann scene, the final scene in Heat.

Click here for the full scene, but the sound is poor.