Sunday, 26 October 2008

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.

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