Saturday, 31 January 2009

New Public Enemy Pictures

Folks, some more Michael Mann Public Enemy pictures, just released (at least, I haven't seen them before).

I include these images on a link to another movie website you may find interesting.


Heat Presentation - A Message of Hope in a Dark World

I gave a talk earlier in the week to about 40 people presenting a message about Heat. I showed several scenes from the movie, these being:

  • LA shootout (after main bank heist)
  • The Conversation (between Vincent and Neil)
  • Vincent telling his wife that after seeing three dead bodies he can't be concerned about burnt chicken and being late home.
  • Neil returning to his empty, minimalist home looking out to sea.
  • Vincent discovering his step daughter following a suicide attempt and taking her to hospital.
  • The final shootout and the ending of the film. Moby's music finished it off.
In my talk I presented these two men to people who the majority had not seen Heat before. I tried, in a very short space of time, to represent these two characters as men that had somehow lost their way in a very confused world. The LA shootout represented the "badness" of Neil, out to kill whoever gets in his way - and Vincent, the relentless hunter of an elusive, intelligent prey.

Turning the clock backwards, I then show these two men in conversation, a useful contrast having just seen them try to take each other down. The conversation demonstrated the paradoxical reality of their lives - that whilst they are on each side of the law, they are still very much the same. One is deemed "good", the other deemed "bad". This theme continues throughout the film. Both Vincent and Neil share their bad dreams at night. Vincent sees decomposing dead bodies, the victims of brutal murders he has investigated. There is no explanation of the dream, but it is clear that whilst trying to live on the good side of the law that you cannot escape the horror and "badness" of life - it affects him every day. Later on we see this affect Vincent in his normal life as his family life and marriage fall apart. For Neil, his dream is one of drowning in his sleep, trying to gasp for air. Unlike Vincent, he can explain his dream - he doesn't have enough time to do what he does. He isn't talking about robbing banks. He sees a future outside his current circumstances, and he later shares this, unusually, in his new relationship with a girl he met. Both men are seeing negative manifestations, consequences of their activities, affecting their lives. In doing so, we see the two men identify with each other.

I went on to demonstrate how Vincent's life was falling apart through the scene where he falls out with his wife, Justeen. As Vincent explained to Neil in the conversation, "my life is a disaster zone".

In contrast to Vincent's attempt of a respectable "family life", we see by contrast Neil's minimalist "no attachments" life. He returns to an empty, cold house, walks to the window and stares to the oceans horizon - yearning for something more than what he has. The scene is short and shot with a blue tint for added coldness... detachment.

The clip depicting Vincent's step daughter's suicide is powerful and I showed this to further illustrate the deterioration of his family life. Not only this, but the screwed up mess the world is largely in. There is so much personal tragedy out there, much we never see, much that is never reported.

Finally, I showed the end scene of the movie. Vincent shoots Neil and he goes down. Neil's last words were, " I told you I wasn't going back." As Neil's life started to slip away he lifted his hand to Vincent, not wanting to die alone in the dark world he was trying to make sense of. Neil's earlier family life condemned him to what he became. His mother died young and he had no idea where his father was. There was no love in his family.

In the conversation with Vincent he said don't attach yourself to anything you can't leave in 30 seconds if heat is around the corner. I read in some movie trivia that just as Vincent spotted him in the final chase, that Neil spent 45 seconds looking at his new girlfriend he was about to start a new life with, and then looking at Vincent. He had finally attached himself to something, and it was his downfall. He lived his life with no attachments, and he broke his discipline of observing the 30 second rule. It cost him, but as he said at the end, "I told you I wasn't going back". Perhaps he was talking about jail, but maybe he didn't want that life on the run, of drowning. The reason he was with his girlfriend at that end sequence was because he was on the way to the airport to start a new life. It never happened.

So, that final scene we see Vincent talking Neil's hand. There is that moment of identification with each other. The great sadness of a world that is in a hopeless mess, that whether good or bad, we are all caught up in it and some of us consumed and destroyed by it - just as Vincent's step daughter almost was - quite often at no fault of our own. Just lives dictated by cruel circumstance.

It was the "bad" character of Neil who finally lost. But lost to what? "Good" prevailed, as so often does in a film. Yet Vincent still has his junk, and will no doubt continue to have his bad dreams.

Well, at the end one can think the world is a nihilist place. I personally believe in God. I believe he is the only one that can save us from this hopelessness that seems to wrap this film like a blanket. There is good out there, but somehow it gets corrupted. God offers something incorruptable, and that is where my hope is. That was my message. What do you think?

Friday, 30 January 2009

Dark Knight Influences

Argued by many to be the film of 2008, Dark Night, Directed by Christopher Nolan is said to be influenced in its making by Michael Mann's Heat. Here is the director quoted by Variety.

For Nolan's urban-set comicbook blockbuster, the London-born director actually screened Mann's L.A. crime drama for all his department heads before going into production.

"I always felt 'Heat' to be a remarkable demonstration of how you can create a vast universe within one city and balance a very large number of characters and their emotional journeys in an effective manner," Nolan says.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A bloggers view of Michael Mann's Characterization

Here is an extract highlighting from another blogger thoughts about Mann's movie Heat. Click the title to get the full article.

Michael Mann & the Interlacing Strings of Causality

by Mansur

Heat is like an opera, a mosaic with threads that branch out in all directions. We have cops, we have criminals, we have your ordinary citizens, but Michael Mann never makes a distinction between them in any moral capacity. He cuts away all the labels and definitions for his characters until we can’t even judge them in simple absolutes as good and bad. There is no good and bad, there’s just the decisions the characters make, either consciously or unconsciously, and the inevitable circumstances engendered from those choices.

Vote for your favourite Mann Movie

Sorry to those that already voted on my blog poll, but I had to start it again having added more crucial movie choices to vote for (how could I leave off Collateral!?). Please vote again. I will start it afresh when Public Enemies comes out.

Public Enemies filming locations

Call me a bit behind the times, but I just found this discussion forum on Public Enemies and features more behind the scenes photographs. Could be useful info for any fan of the film once it has come out - filming location information etc. Since this Michael Mann blog only recently started I am obviously providing retrospective information. I am looking forward to whatever Mann does next. But he typically never rushes into his next movie. With his advancing years, lets hope he doesn't sit back, but squeezes in many more Mann magic films! Click here to visit link.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 2010 Oscar Predictions is already looking to Oscars 2010 and is interestingly pointing towards Public Enemies as potentially receiving Best Picture, Best Actor (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale), Best Director (Michael Mann). Who do you think will come out best, Depp or Bale? Probably Depp if he pulls the part off (maybe he is too sweet faced for this role?), but I think Bale is a superb melancholic actor.

There is no mention of an award for Cinematography and Editing, two strong areas brought to a Mann film. Having looked at the behind the scenes shoots, I think the Cinematography Oscar might be a goer!

History of Michael Mann

Here is a page detailing the history of Michael Mann. Other obvious sites to explore are Wikipedia. Superior pics states that it was Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove that inspired Mann into film. However, the perhaps more reliable Taschen book, Michael Mann, states it was G.W. Pabsts 1925 masterpiece Joyless Street that left him awestruck.

I do highly recommend the Taschen book, Michael Mann, available at reduced prices on Amazon.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Artistic influences on Michael Mann

I came across this genuinely fascinating write up looking at the artistic influences on Michael Mann. It really is eye catching to see some paintings look incredibly similar to certain shots in Mann's films. It is refreshing to find this intelligent level of examination of Mann's visual work. You can't ignore the fact that Mann must infuence his cinematographers, or at least they are employed for their own enthusiasm for Mann's artistic tastes.

Have a look by clicking the title below, great material. There are some great Michael Mann links to explore too at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.

Against the Flow of Time: Michael Mann and Edward Hopper

Moby and Mann again

Following up on a recent post, here is another interviewer asking Moby about his music in Heat:
Click here for the full article (no more mention of Mann though).

RS: Very cool. Do you enjoy hearing your music in films?
Moby: Yes, I do. I like hearing my music in films because when they're mixing it to the film, they usually do a good job. I'm always very flattered that someone would choose to use my music in a movie. There's so much music that could be used, the fact that they've chosen mine, its very exciting and flattering.

RS: There was a scene in the movie Heat when there's that change at the end of God Moving Over the Face of the Waters… That was just a magical moment for the person who wrote the question. Do you remember seeing that on screen for the first time?
Moby: Yes, I saw Heat in a movie theatre on 19th and Broadway with my friend Damien. It was interesting because Heat was an example of a movie that, when it was released, the critics just didn't get it. When Heat was released it got really bad reviews and it didn't do very well, but in the ten years that it's been out it's come to be this almost revered iconic movie. So it once again proves to me that I shouldn't always take critics' reviews too seriously. But I do remember seeing it at 19th and Broadway with my friend Damien and just thinking that Michael Mann had done a really wonderful job putting the music in there.

Variety ran an interview with Moby too, and here is that Michael Mann connection again with God Moving Over the Face of the Waters:

Then came "Play."
"When that was released, I was a has-been," he notes,"even though it was the first release of mine to really sell. I was surprised as time went on, that the story about how every track was licensed became 'every track was licensed to a commercial.' Eighty percent of the licenses were to indie films. Most of play went to movies with only a small percentage to TV shows and advertising."
His favorite usage out of placements in nearly 70 released films?
One of the first: Michael Mann's "Heat." His "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters," a track from "Everything is Wrong," plays over the climax of the movie and the credits. "Of all of them, that's what I'm most proud of," says the former film student.

In another interview Moby is quoted as saying God Moving Over the Face of the Waters is one of two of his all time favourite pieces of music he has written. I have to say, it is mine too! It is the one track I play when the world crowds in - it takes me to a place of solice and acceptance of whatever happens next. Wierd isn't it, what music can do? Here is that relevant extract from Surfline:

SZ: Do you have a favorite song that you have ever written?

Moby: I have two. In 1996 I put out an album called Animal Rights, it is a really dark, punk rock record. It alternates between really aggressive punk-rock-metal songs and very quiet instrumentals. There is one song called "Face It" and it's about 11 minutes and I don't think anyone has ever listened to the whole thing 'cause it is very long and very dark. That's probably my favorite song I've ever written. And then on an album called, Everything Is Wrong in 1995 I wrote a classical piece of music called "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters," that was used as the closing music for a Michael Mann film with Al Pacino and Robert Di Niro. So those two would be my favorites.

Public Enemies - another early review

Discovered a review from an early screening of Public Enemies. You can't take these reviews too seriously, and this is highlighted by the guy who featured the review on his site. He say's of the review: Of course - he is also saying that when the film he saw didn't have a real score in place, wasn't color timed, didn't have much of its finished digital trickery in place - and was an initial loose edit at two hours and 40 minutes. In otherwords, putting this film in any sort of place in Mann's career versus finished films... well is a bit jumping the gun. There's a whole lot of movie-making yet to be done on this sucker - and Mann is someone known for having his films getting increasingly superior through the editing and post-production process. I'm dying to see this one.

Anyway, the reviewer concluded: I do think this will be a terrific movie when it's done, way better than Ali and better than Miami Vice (which I enjoyed), but not a classic like Heat or Last of the Mohicans. In closing I'd like to say that you shouldn't read this review, it's probably just better to wait until next summer and not know anything about it when you go in. Too late?

Be sure to check out the talk back responses below the review, which if you can get past the language shows how enthusiastic people are about this new Michael Mann potential masterpiece!

Click here to see the full review

Friday, 16 January 2009

Michael Mann and Moby

The words Michael Mann and Moby almost have the same rythmic connection as their work. I first became aware of Moby's music through the soundtrack of Heat. It doesn't say a lot for my musical awareness, but it transformed my appreciation of his genre of sound. I have the same glowing feeling when hearing a Moby track as I do when I watch a Mann movie. It is almost impossible to watch any movie and fail to miss a track that was made by Moby. Just as Mann connects us to our emotions through images and story, so Moby connects us through music. It is a dizzying concoction when Moby and Mann are fused creatively together. Both have a puritan zeal running through them - a moral question that is continually being asked of us through their respective arts. So, I really want to devote some posts to Moby's collaborations with Mann. I will start with a little interview I found. Moby didn't seem that comfortable, as it was mainly one line answers. But he did say something that made me rather pleased. After reading the interview click here for a previous post, and play the YouTube clip.


IFQ: What was the first Moby track used in a film?

Moby: I believe it was called Ah Ah and it was used in the Ralph Bakshi movie Cool World (starring Brad Pitt).

IFQ: Was it made for the film or taken from the album?

Moby: It was adapted for the film, which tends to be the usual way that my music ends up in films. I'll write something and then adapt it to a specific scene.

IFQ: How many film tracks have you done?

Moby: I have absolutley no idea. A lot!

IFQ: Have you ever suggested a Moby track for a film?

Moby: No, I don't think I've ever suggested one of my songs for a film.

IFQ: Do you find time to see many films?

Moby: Unfortunately, because I'm on tour right now I don't see too many films.

IFQ: Well, of the films you have seen, who do you think is the most promising director right now?

Moby: My favourite current director is Takeshi Kitano (Brother, 2000), but I also really like Mark Pellington (Mothman Prophecies, 2002; Arlington Road, 1999; Jerry Maguire, 1996).

IFQ: What's your favorite Moby film track ever used?

Moby: Probably God Moving Over the Face of the Waters as used in the Michael Mann film Heat.

IFQ: Did you like that film?

Moby: I love Heat. I like working with Michael Mann quite a bit, even though he's very intense.

IFQ: Didn't you also reinvent the famous James Bond theme tune?

Moby: Yes, I did, for Tomorrow Never Dies. (It was actually his 8th U.K. top 40 hit.)

IFQ: In the future, do you see yourself doing more tracks for big budget features or independent films?

Moby: When I was young I really wanted to write music for movies, but after writing music for movies I've kind of lost my enthusiasm for it. I'd like to do music for movies wherein I could work with a wonderful director, big budget or not. I don't like being handed a finished film and then being given twenty-four hours to do music for it.

IFQ: Are you working on any film tracks right now?

Moby: No, right now I'm too busy touring to think about making film music.

Melissa Silver

Miami Vice and the famous "In the Air Tonight" saga

Here is an extract from an article written just weeks before the release of Michael Mann's recent movie Miami Vice. It details Mann's decision making process of whether or not to include Phil Collin's legendary track (cover version by Nonpoint) In The Air Tonight. It also goes into a lot of what happened behind the scenes in making the movie. Read the whole article here.

By Daniel Fierman

Michael Mann looks tortured. But looming deadlines and complex marketing strategies aren't what's bothering him. It's Phil Collins. The 63-year-old director — a coiled knot of edgy intelligence, long esteemed for films like Manhunter, Heat, and The Insider — has been going back and forth over where to use a cover of ''In the Air Tonight'' by Nonpoint in his Miami Vice remake. Actually, he’s been trying to decide for weeks. The song goes in. It comes out. In again. Out. And the postproduction staff is starting to go a wee bit insane.

''What do you think?'' the notoriously detail-driven director asks his latest guinea pig, as one of his producers mouths a silent sigh. ''I kind of love it before the last battle, but the crew are all like, 'Don’t do it!' ''

A lot of people said the same thing about making the movie. Including Mann. Despite the fact that he executive-produced the original series — which boasted a splashy and surprisingly persistent cultural influence at the height of the Reagan era — Mann thought he'd left Miami Vice behind back in 1989, when it petered out in a legacy-annihilating haze of silly cameos, aliens, and bad fashion. (''The last years were crap,'' he says now. ''I'm a bad executive producer. My attention span is two years.'') But that was before Jamie Foxx sidled up to him at Muhammad Ali's birthday party in 2001.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Michael Mann 2010 Production

Looking at the IMDb website I was surprised to see that the originally speculated movie, The Few, that had Tom Cruise in the frame for a part has now been replaced with speculation of a movie about Frankie Machine. De Niro is the name being associated with the leading role. It doesn't sound like the sort of film Mann would make on the back of Public Enemies, so hold this space. I think it is unlikely to be his next project - but it could be.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Michael Mann's eye for detail - Ali

For those now familiar with Michael Mann's movies, especially his biopic movies, you will notice his perfectionist eye for detail. Mann's lust for authenticity is unsatiable, and creatively vitally important to him. It is the foundation of his working philosophy. Without authenticity the movie loses resonance and the sense of reality that is needed to tell the story effectively. More importantly, detail is needed to convince the audience into the world of Mann's screen characters.

Whilst the 2009 film, Public Enemies, was made on actual locations where Dillinger's gang raided banks and uses authentic weapons of the period, this will not be the first example of Mann's vision for detail and documentary type reality. In Mann's biopic movie, Ali, we read from the article below of Mann's intense attention to detail. There are many articles about the movie Ali, this is just one comment a writer has made about this movie. You can see the full article by clicking here.

Michael Mann's Ali

by Anna Dzenis

Mann's desire to be true to the visual record of the decade, to historical memory, and his extraordinary efforts to accurately portray real life characters and events, are well documented. His cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki describes how closely they studied photographs of Ali's life and fights, scrutinizing “every detail – every lamp, every piece of furniture, and every window'. (3) Production designer John Myhre relates the way they rebuilt The Tiger Lounge in Chicago where Ali danced with his first wife Sonji. The former club had become a furniture shop, but “they pushed away the furniture, put up a couple of walls and shot the scenes on the site where Ali's first romance had blossomed”. (4) Key fights in Ali's life are recreated blow by blow. Even Howard Bingham, Ali's close friend and personal photographer, was enlisted as a consultant on the film. A production snapshot shows Mann intently holding a photograph of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in front of the actors playing these parts, and so on.

Lisa Gerrard - Sacrifice from The Insider

The most powerful track from Mann's movie The Insider is that of Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke's Sacrifice. It is so incredibly moving, and I admit to it bringing tears to my eyes on many occasion whilst listening to it. It is used powerfully in The Insider. The beautiful and the tragic are two themes Michael Mann seems to include in his movies, and I feel both these themes are contained in this piece of music too. The concept of sacrifice is often an alien one to our performance orientated, celebrity culture but is the ultimate demonstration of the depth of humanity. It is the concept of sacrifice that sets humanity apart from animals, and challenges the archaic notion of survival of the fittest. The Insider explores this to an extent. Sacrifice is tragic but also beautiful... beautiful because sacrifice is always in service to another but at a cost. What a meaningful end to the movie, when Wigand finally see's his children recognise their father being extolled on television. Dignity is restored after great indignity was suffered. His life finally meant something to him and his children. I would be interested to hear comments about how this track has touched your emotions. Here is Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke playing Sacrifice live for TV:

Michael Mann's The Insider - Favourite scene

It is tough to pull out favourite scenes from any of Mann's movies, as there are so many sublime moments. But the following ranks very highly: What an awesome bit of movie making this is. It is the apex of The Insider, when each character reaches the climax of their respective dilemmas and find a commonality with each other, despite their different backgrounds and personalities. The beach images and atmosphere generated between these two contrasting locations (the hotel) are just superb. Pure genius.

Lisa Gerrard Sanctuary featuring Michael Mann

Lisa Gerrard has long been a Michael Mann favourite for soundtrack composition. I haven't myself seen it yet, but here is a trailer for a documentary made about Lisa Gerrard called, Sanctuary. It features various comments from artists including I believe Michael Mann. If you watch the YouTube clip of the trailer you will understand, if you don't already, how Michael Mann's films are made so evocatively using her unique vocal creativity.

Here are some other snippets to enjoy too!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Requests about Michael Mann

I realize a lot of attention of this blog has been on Mann's movies Heat and The Insider, which are incidentally my two favourite films of Michael Mann. Although there is plenty of other content on this blog, I do intend to widen out the field of movies to write about, including some older material. For all those checking out my blog, feel free to comment on what information you are looking for and I will see what I can post.

Analysis of Heat

Here is Michael Peter's analysis of Heat, which offers some helpful perspectives for anyone interested. I include an extract, but if you want to see the full interview then click here.

By Michael Peters

Nothing sums this up more (in the film) than when Vincent has been called to the scene of a homicide. A prostitute has been murdered and Vincent seems at ease with it (as if he is used to it). It is only when the mother of the murdered girl runs onto the scene that Vincent is left speechless. He does not know how to verbally console the mother nor does he know how to assist her in any other way. He simply stares at her, lost in her cries of agony.

To put it simply; both Vincent and Neil are emotionally fragile individuals. One is a cop and one is a criminal yet they share a common bond in their lack of understanding of how to connect with someone on a personal and emotional level. That is why the coffee shop sequence (where they first meet) is so crucial to the understanding of these men as emotionally aloof human beings. According to Ian Nathan's 2001 Empire Magazine article, this scene is the foundation for the whole film: “On the surface, it is just a superficial conversation-two guys shooting the breeze-but actually it’s the delicate dance of two disparate souls finding a connection”.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro: Heat - The Conversation

Only now have I come across this brilliant video on YouTube - a clip detailing the legendary scene in Heat, the first onscreen pairing of Pacino and De Niro. This clip features extensive cast interviews, as well as insights into the scene by Michael Mann himself.

Miami Vice Interview

Most interviews with the cast anad director of Miami Vice are similar, but there are one or two interesting snippets to be taken from this one at

Here are my highlights:

HW: Michael, the music was such an integral part of the television show. How important was it for you to maintain that level of authenticity, in terms of the music, with this film?
Music is always key to me, whether it's Miami Vice or not Miami Vice. It's dictated by the story, about what Crockett and Tubbs and Isabella and Trudy are doing. And, since the movie tries to get into the lives of these folks as intensely as possible, I wanted music that, hopefully, had the power to do that, consequently, the Mogwai and some of the Audioslave. So that's what informed most of those choices.

HW: And he shares some pretty steamy scenes with Gong Li as a woman on the other side of the law – sexy even though not much dialogue between them.
Isabella and Crockett are two people who find each other, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, though they're the right people. That's the unfortunate thing about what transpires between the two of them. To quote good ol’ Jerry Maguire, they do kind of complete each other. They are two people that live in very volatile environments. He's on one side of the law and this woman, Isabella, is on the other side of the law, and they come together in what is a very dangerous idea and a very bad idea. The scene they have in Havana, they say at the bar, "You know, this is never going to last. It's never going to work," but they find in each other, in that act of making love, that it's almost overwhelming. It's almost too much to take. Crockett's someone that would have had one night stands, over the years, prolifically, and never be emotionally attached to anyone, and one of the primary reasons would be the work that he involves himself in. But, he finds, with this woman, someone that seems to make complete sense, perfect sense. And so, doing our scene together was just about emotional investment, or emotional realization, in seeing some of yourself--maybe the best of yourself, and none of the worst--in the other person, but there is something quite tragic too it, as well, I suppose.