Friday, 31 December 2010

Michael Mann's Top Grossing Movies

Want to know Michael Mann's top grossing films? Here they all are at

Unsurprisingly, Collateral comes out top with the pulling power of Tom Cruise and an oscar nominated performance by Jamie Fox boosting sales. Total gross was $100,170,152. Public Enemies came a close second with $97,104,620. The Keep came bottom with just $3,661,757.

The Keep analyzed by FerdyonFilms

Here is a helpful analysis of The Keep by Roderick Heath at Ferdy on Films.

An extract is below, but the full article can be found here:

Like Ridley Scott, Terence Malick, and a few other visually oriented directors of the time, Mann experimented with dispensing with the traditional brackets of narrative and tried to realise story through a kind of running montage. The Keep builds to one of Mann’s most hypnotic climaxes, cutting between Cuza bringing a gleaming talisman out of the cavern, and Glaeken climbing out of the ravine to save the day. The human and elemental dramas dovetail at last when Eva tries to prevent her father from removing the talisman from the Keep, prompting Malasar to demand of Cuza that he kill her and move on. As if in humanistic rewrite of the Abraham and Isaac myth, Cuza turns on the beast and demands of it, “Who are you that I should prove myself by killing my daughter?” before insisting that if the talisman is Malasar’s, he should be able to take it out himself. Infuriated, Malasar reduces Cuza to his crippled state again, but before he can kill Cuza and Eva, Glaeken walks in with his cosmic bazooka to scrub Malasar out, even at the cost of his own life on earth.

Read full article

Michael Mann's Luck 2011 filming schedule

Santa Anita horse racing track, the star location of the forthcoming Michael Mann produced TV show, has needed its synthetic track to be replaced by a traditional dirt track disrupting a little the tight filming schedules. Here is an article from last October for anyone interested.

Mike Willman of Trackside Review reported from Santa Anita Park the following shoot schedule for 2011 and provides information on who is directing. Episode three is said to be directed by Phillip Noyce (who recently shot "Salt").

ARCADIA, Calif. — Production on the pilot and first two episodes of  Home Box Office’s (HBO) highly anticipated series, “Luck,” has been nearly completed and production and shooting for episode Three will resume at Santa Anita on Jan. 10.
“Luck,” which stars several “A List” actors, including Dustin Hoffman, is the brainchild of world renowned writer/producer David Milch, and is being shot in large-part at Santa Anita.
“Their production crew completed two weeks of work on and around the racetrack last week,” said Santa Anita Community and Special Events Coordinator Pete Siberell.  “The pilot was completed several months ago and this will enable them to finish their work on the first two episodes.”

Full article here

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Michael Gambon joins stella cast on "Luck"

Many of you will know Michael Gambon. If you don't, you will recognise him from either The Insider or more famously, the Harry Potter movies (which I have no love for). He is being cast in Michael Mann's new TV series, "Luck". For other casting information on "Luck" visit IMDB, or see this link to

American Cinematographer Magazine

You cannot be a Michael Mann fan without being a true appreciator of fine cinematography - a hallmark of every movie he has made. There are a number of American Cinematographer back issues you can purchase that feature interviews with top cinematographers, but I think the ones featuring Mann films are regretfully now out of stock, as a quick search didn't bring them up. However, all is not lost as they provide back issues in digital format too, going back to May 2007. So the Public Enemies feature can be downloaded at just $5.95. For those who don't know what an issue looks like, check this November 2010 issue out. Nothing Mann related in this issue, but I have been a subscriber and its worth every penny. Enjoy. Just click the Expand button to view it full size.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Michael Mann's next movie might still be the Capa Biopic

Andrew Garfield
Gemma Arterton

Just when it seemed certain that Mann's next big movie would be Big Tuna, a fellow film and Mann fan, Niles, sent me a link to this article, which starts out with:

Despite a number of gestating go-to film projects on Michael Mann‘s plate including a long gestating adaptation of Ernest Hemingway‘s “For Whom The Bell Tolls;” the medieval tale “Agincourt” based on the novel by Bernard Cromwell and the gangster pic “Big Tuna” being written by “Up In The Air” scribe Sheldon Turner it looks like movement is coming together on a film that has been kicking around for a little while now.
Speaking with Total Film (via Up And Comers) after being tipped by the mag as Hottest Actress of 2010, Gemma Arterton was more than happy to spill the beans on what she’s up to next. And one of those projects is apparently Michael Mann’s “Capa,” a biopic of war photographer Robert Capa and she says she will be joined by another hot actor, Andrew Garfield.
Read full article here

I see more potential in the Capa movie. A detailed character study, which sounds delicious. Though I fear it will not make a studio much money. Just isn't commercial enough subject matter. But film and Mann aficionados will have something to look forward to. With actors already penned, I would now think from this information that the Capa biopic is going to be the next movie, rather than Big Tuna. It would be unusual to have two gangster movies back to back.

For commercial success, Mann needs to do an ultra high tech CIA / Al-Quaede intelligence film, with undertones of international espionage and ulterior political motives. Like Heat, one will need a major gun battle, perhaps covert missions of the US CIA working with Russian special forces to halt the running of opium smuggling operations out of Afghanistan for a side story. It will be The Insider on steroids. Hands up who would like to see that movie?

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Conversations: Michael Mann

There is an awful lot of information out there about Michael Mann, and views on his films. Here are some ramblings covering most of Mann's movies. I don't agree with all they comment on, but there are some useful comments for those studying Mann. The screenshots are a good touch too.

Here is the link.

Let me know if you want me to cover anything specific, that you haven't yet found on this blog. If anyone reads this blog and has been part of his crew, would be great to hear from you, even if off the record (which I always respect if requested).

Stuart Beattie talks about writing Collateral ScreenPlay

Writers are incredibly the last on the list in receiving public appreciation, especially screenplay writers. J.K. Rowling reversed that trend slightly, but think about it: The one indispensable person on a movie/TV set is the writer. Without the writer there is no story. Everything hangs on the story. Collateral is one of those movies lauded for its original screenplay. Here is an interview with Stuart Beattie who penned Collateral and talks about its creation:

The Keep now available at NetFlix

The Keep still isn't available on DVD but the good news is that as of early this December I discovered you can now get it on NetFlix, the streaming service for niche movies.

Read the write up, which concludes with:
Fans of Michael Mann, Ian McKellan or 1980’s genre movies need to see The Keep. As a long-unavailable piece of modern movie history it’s one of the most joyous discoveries on Netflix Instant Streaming. It’s not very good, but at least it’s utterly fascinating.
Here is the link to the article, with the streaming link here.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Keep's Biggest Fan

Everyone has their favourite Michael Mann movie, each for a particular reason uniquely known to each one of us. The Keep is one of those movies that steps outside Mann's usual genre and has attracted criticism, but also praise. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I doubt there is a greater appreciator of The Keep than the gentleman who set up the fansite I am linking to here. The man behind it is St├ęphane Piter, who introduces himself by saying:

I have a particular weak spot for a certain enigmatic and entrancing film from 1983 called ‘The Keep’. Ever since I first saw this film I have been collecting articles and interviews with the cast and crew involved, in order to find the film’s weaknesses, successes and failures to reveal the true story behind it.
Michael Mann has fired my imagination since the beginning. His technique of filming, editing and stylising his characters gives an impression of greatness, depth and suspense.
Take a look at the site, where there is just about everything you probably need to know about The Keep. You have to forgive his imperfect English translations of some interviews, but a small price to pay for this guy's passion for the movie. A big fan, he managed to meet Mann very briefly at one of Mann's collateral promotional events in France and collected an autograph. Anyone else out there met Mann and have his autograph? Would love to hear your story and experience.

Since the site is like the big fansite over at John Mounsey's Manhunter site, there is little point repeating it all here. Give the guy a visit and appreciate all his work collecting everything to do with The Keep! Visit his site by clicking here.

Michael Mann Keep Interview

Here is good interview regarding the process behind Michael Mann directing The Keep. Who would have known that the Romanian village was filmed in Wales! I was also surprised when at the end of the interview he answered these questions in the following way:

What other films or filmmakers have impressed you or influenced you?
You're influenced by who you like. I like Kubrick, I like Resnais immensely. I like Tarkovsky, although there's very little in Tarkovsky I'd want to do myself. In fact I fell asleep through half of So­laris, but I still love it. And Stalker. He has a Russian, suffering nerve of pace that it's hard to relate to, but you can't help being impressed and moved by what you see.

Do you want to produce films?
Yes, because there are more pictures I would like to see made than I can make or want to make. A case in point is a screenplay I wrote called Heat, which I love. As a writer, I really want to see this picture made. But as a director I don't want to touch it.

Mann then goes on to answer other detailed questions about the film, and rather interestingly about the notion of evil - something that is a vein throughout his movies - this constant counteraction of both good and bad in life:

But in this fairy tale we find the Nazi Wehrmacht – men dressed in totemic black uniforms with swastikas – things we can recognize and which set up a response.

Actually only about one-fifth of the film is involved with the Wehrmacht and the character of the Captain played by Jurgen Prochnow. The film revolves around a character called Glaeken Tris­megistus, who wakes up after a deep sleep in a transient, merchant-marine setting some place in Greece in 1941. The movie revolves around him and his conflict, which seems to be fated, with a character called Roderick Molasar. The end of the conflict seems to fate him toward destruction. He may destroy Molasar or Molasar may destroy him, but in either case Glaeken Trismegistus must go to the keep.

And in the course of coming to the keep to confront Molasar, he has a ro mance with Eva, whose father is a Medi aeval historian named Dr. Cuza, very quick, very smart. At a moment in his tory when he is powerless – a Socialist Jew in Fascist Romania – Cuza is of fered the potential to ally himself with immense power. For him it's a deliver ance. And as a bonus he also gets rejuve nated. So he's seduced into attaching himself to this power in the keep.

And Molasar comes to life by taking the power, the souls, of the Wehrmacht Nazis.

What happens is that after the second time you've seen him, Molasar changes. And he seems to change after people are killed. After he kills things. It's almost as if he accrues to himself their matter. Not their souls; he doesn't suck their blood. It's a thing unexplained, his transforma­tion is seen visually. He evolves through three different stages in the movie. He gets more and more complete. He starts as a cloud of imploding particles, then he evolves a nervous system, then he evolves a skeleton and musculature, and at the third state he's complete. And then it's a bit ironic when he's complete, because there's a great resemblance to Glaeken Trismegistus.

Is he evil personified?

No. Well, yes he is. Yes, Evil Personi fied. But what is evil?

Try Satan? Or Lucifer?

Yes, but think about that. Satan in Paradise Lost is the most exciting charac­ter in the book. He's rebellious, he's independent, he doesn't like authority. If you think about it, Satan could almost be played by John Wayne. I mean the Reaganire, independent, individualist spirit. It's all bullshit, but that's the cul­tural myth that the appeal taps into.

Is Glaeken Trismegistus the alter ego of Molasar? Is he the good side?

No, he's not. I tried to find a more surreal logic to the characters; so that there's nothing Satanic about Molasar. He's just sheer power, and the appeal of power, and the worship of power, a be lief in power, a seduction of power. And Molasar is very, very deceptive. When we first meet him, we too believe that he is absolute salvation. And it's all a con. Now when Glaeken shows up, the first thing he does is seduce Eva Cuza. So my intent in designing those characters was to make then not black-and-white. I put in things that are not normally consid ered to be good into Glaeken and qualities that are not evil into Molasar.

Read full interview by clicking here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Big Tuna is Michael Mann's next movie

It has been announced that Michael Mann's next movie will be "Big Tuna", according to Variety magazine.

It is a biopic of Chicago mob boss Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana.  Looks as though this may be a more deeply refined version of Public Enemies. The police photo of Accardo is reminsicent of the ones we became familiar with in the form of dillinger. Yet Accardo's face looks more thoughtful and reflective, than the empty, though flamboyant arrogance of Dillinger.

The screenplay will be written by Sheldon Turner and financed by Mann himself. Sheldon alone is reported to be charging him a seven figure sum, so it has to work for Mann. It would appear that Michael Mann could not find a studio to get behind the project so is going alone. Hardly a surprise, since a Chicago mob movie is going to have to be very special to attract the audiences required to satisfy nervous studios.

So the speculation seems to be over. "Big Tuna" it is... slightly disappointed at this choice as I think he is good at studying modern relationships, but I will take it as it comes - whichever way it swings, it is afterall a Michael Mann movie, and that is something to look forward too.  We also have "Luck" to come as a bonus.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Michael Mann and the Cinematic Close Up

A recent post over at explains well why Mann films are something to savour, and never rush. The author examines Mann's use of extreme close ups of the characters he creates in his films. It is purist film making, making the actor create the moment intimately with the camera, there to bring us into the character's inner world.

Enjoy the article, which includes an insightful quote from Michael Mann:
I look for where or how to bring the audience into the moment, to reveal what somebody’s thinking and what they’re feeling, and where it feels like you’re inside the experience. Not looking at it, with an actor performing it, but have an actor live it, and you as audience, if I could bring the audience inside to experience. It became critical in THE INSIDER, because the ambition was to make a film that was as suspenseful as I knew, and dramatic as I knew those lives really were. And, it’s all talking heads, but the devastation, the potential devastation to [Jeffrey] Wigand and Lowell Bergman was total annihilation, personal annihilation, suicide–all that was in the cards for these guys. And, yet, it’s all just people talking. So, that kind of began an exploration into how I could bring you into experience in as internal a way as I could.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Mugabe and the White African

As I write this post I am watching Mugabe and the White African. It is a profoundly moving and bravely made feature length documentary about the violent displacement of white African farmers by the Zanu-PF Zimbabwean government under the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

This post has on this rare occasion nothing to do with Michael Mann. I post it here because I want to voice their cry for justice and what it means in a world that is losing its sense of justice. I also post it here as one of the most outstanding documentaries I have ever seen. Directed by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson, it is breathtakingly well shot and reminds me very much of the styles of Michael Mann, especially in the film The Insider. I really hope Michael Mann sees this. I hope everyone sees this.

See their website here.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Elliot Goldenthal working with Michael Mann on Public Enemies

Michael Mann appears to makes his music composers work as hard as his actors in getting the exact nuance he is looking for from his scenes. Elliot Goldenthal who scored Public Enemies also worked with Michael Mann on 'Heat', so he knows what he is involved in. The final result is of the highest quality, though to some doesn't match the impact of previous scores. For Mann, music has always been of equal importance to every other element in a film, and not there just as lip gloss. Music in a Mann film is often a loaded emotional message sent straight into our being that often resonates so strongly that we may even have a sense of what the character is truly feeling at that moment.

Here is a Wall Street interview with Elliot Goldenthal on working with Michael Mann on the Public Enemies score. A snippet is below, and you can click here to go to the article.

You’ve worked with Michael Mann on “Heat” and now on “Public Enemies.” I sense music is important to his films. True? How is he to work with?
He doesn’t like too many twists and turns in the music’s structure. He really responds to things that evolve very, very slowly. He wants music that the images, the edits, the dialogue can float above without it corresponding too much. With Michael, you have to be prepared to make a lot of changes. He changes his mind. He watches the movie everyday in total and makes adjustments so you have to know the job is making adjustments along the way as well.
What’s your reaction to your music when you go to a movie theater and see a film you’ve scored?
It never feels finished. That’s the thing. My personal view of my work is that everything feels abandoned.
Click here for full interview

One of the more moving pieces on the Public Enemies soundtrack is JD Dies (in the clip below).

Overall, I don't think Goldenthal defines Public Enemies in the way that say Moby or Lisa Gerrard have in the Mann movies they have been involved in. I find it surprising that Mann hasn't been tempted to do a collaboration with Hans Zimmer. Who would like to see that happen?!

Compare JD Dies with Chevaliers de Sangreal, which is taylored for Cathedral like grandeur. Breathtaking scoring. Hans Zimmer is a musical genius.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Miami Vice Location Shooting

Miami Vice Gun Training

On the theme of gun training, here are some more video clips, with former SAS weapons specialist Mick Gould on Miami Vice.

Collateral Tom Cruise Training

One of the most impressive aspects of Collateral was Tom Cruise's utter realism in his use of a firearm. He didn't look good. He looked exceptional.

Behind the scenes of the shooting scene in Heat

Michael Mann Video Interview: From LA Takedown to Heat

Here is a bit of must see Michael Mann interview treasure. This has to be one of the best video interviews available with Michael Mann as he clearly presents his methodology of shooting films and explains the progression from 'LA Takedown' to 'Heat'. Amazingly, in this interview that must be at least 10 years old (his hair is still brown!) he admits he finds it hard to find a movie he wants to shoot and wishes he could shoot more. He said exactly the same thing in the recent Financial Times interview I posted below. It's a fascinating insight into how Mann's mind works. Note what he says about the role of architecture. Great stuff.

Dion Beebe on shooting Michael Mann's Collateral in HD

Here is an excellent article I came across detailing DP Dion Beebe's (Miami Vice, Collateral) approach to shooting Collateral. I made the mistake of thinking Miami Vice was a poor visual outing for Dion when I first saw it. But many viewings later, I don't know what I was thinking. Miami Vice is stunning and in some instances, genius. At some point I will post my top cinematographic moments... but there are many.

You can get the full article by clicking here, and read a snippet below:

On an HD shoot, Beebe quickly learned, the devil’s in the details — like the sudden appearance of filter dials on your camera. "With a film camera, you load the film and you go, and you know that if you’re running six cameras, you’ve got a standardized system in place so you’re getting the same results," he explains. "But if you’re running four HD cameras, you’d better step through each, making sure that the gain setting is the same, that the matrix settings are all the same— that there aren’t color shifts within them. You need to switch between them on the HD monitors and make sure they’re all matching up. There’s none of this just-pick-it-up-and-roll unless you’ve pre-set everything beforehand. It’s all very doable, but there’s a whole new set of things you’ve got to factor in."
Beebe acknowledges that Collateral has spurred "a lot of discussion" about the continued viability and relevance of the film medium, concerns that he dismisses as largely irrelevant to the job at hand, which is storytelling. In the end, he says, both film and HD formats are just tools used in service of a narrative. The trick is to get out of the way of technology, rather than stay in thrall to it. "There can be information overload when you step into the digital domain and the HD world, in terms of compression and bits and storage— these elements that, in the end, have nothing to do with what you’re trying to do in telling the story," he says. "My feeling is that technology will take care of itself. You will have the expertise around you to solve the technical challenges you’re going to meet. I’ve always felt happy to just step over the technology and find a way of creating the image."

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Michael Mann talks about 'Luck' and future projects

On our feedback page Hosea kindly left a link to a brilliant bang up to date interview with Michael Mann courtesy of the Financial Times. They prefer not to have their articles copied, so you will find the link here and below. But I will take a snippet which shows his remarkable interest in the 15th-century battle of Agincourt between England and France. The article also covers Mann's interest in a Robert Capa biopic as well as a Chicago mafia story featuring Tony Accardo. Also covered is his exciting current TV project, 'Luck'.

In terms of character study, which I think Mann is exceptional at, I would hope he goes down the Robert Capa route. As I commented to Hosea on the site feedback page, I think Michael Mann has a personal homage he may want to pay to this historic photographer. Capa set up the world renowned Magnum group with Henri Cartier-Bresson. With a documentary history, Mann will have a deep connection with Magnum photographers. Indeed, I see in Mann's visuals stylistic nods to Cartier-Bresson, not only in the intuitive use of lines and composition, but also that characteristic over the shoulder intimacy in portraits. Of course, I may be wrong, but in my own creative photography, Cartier-Bresson's work has been an incredible education. 'The Decisive Moment' defined what Bresson stood for and in a sense, I feel Mann similarly looks for these moments of "truth" in his actors and the final film. It is those moments that make Mann's films so rich. Robert Capa had a similar ability to capture decisive moments. So visually and in character, Mann could have a fascinating journey with the Robert Capa screenplay. Mann must be eager, because the Capa biography the screenplay will be based on is not even due to be published until summer 2011.

Click here to go to the article.
A snippet is below:

Michael Mann’s project with HBO
By Matthew Garrahan
Published: October 22 2010 23:03 | Last updated: October 22 2010 23:03 
...Mann also has his eye on an epic tale set in medieval Europe, about the build-up to the 15th-century battle of Agincourt between England and France. The inspiration for the film came in Paris when Mann went to visit La Sainte-Chapelle, a gothic chapel, on the advice of his friend Richard Rogers, the architect. 
“We went to see it and it blew me away. From that, it becomes: ‘Can I locate myself, an audience, in a medieval perspective?’”

Saturday, 23 October 2010

AT&T Michael Mann Blackberry advert

Michael Mann directed AT&T and Blackberry advert
Being behind in the UK, I came to this late. I remember watching the TV adverts only a week or so ago and doing something else, only to be suddenly arrested to the screen in what was a very Mannesque run of complex night visuals and high tech drama. It was the new AT&T Blackberry advert. I said to myself, "looks a rip off from Mann's visual repertoire, and his 'Lucky Mercedes' advert." Little did I know that it WAS a Michael Mann directed advert - how did I not know that was coming? Anyway, here is a little info I have pulled together about it, if you are interested. I am amazed that adverts can attract the level of talent they seem to be these days, but glad they do.

Here is the advert:

Levi Meeuwenberg, a leading 'free runner' was in the advert. He says the following at SkyNative, his own freerunner social site:
I recently appeared in a commercial for ATT's Blackberry Bold 9700. It was shot and directed by Michael Mann here in Los Angeles. I'm the guy with the blackberry being chased. Originally they wanted the guy to do some parkour moves but I only got to do one really basic move (tictac 270-cat), and they cut it out anyways. Hah. Comment if you see it on TV!

The following is taken from
BBDO, AT&T and BlackBerry have just released a new interactive advertisement directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, Heat, The Insider) that ties a broadcast TV spot (a 24-style action-thriller) with a your Facebook account information to insert you into the story. The television broadcast version of the advertisement is a bit shorter, and keeps the identity of the central character a mystery. In the online version, your photo, key information, and even your friends are inserted into the action.
Also of note, Roberto Schaefer (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction) was the director of photography on the spot, which was edited by the two-time Academy Award-nominated Saar Klein (Almost Famous, The Bourne Identity, The Thin Red Line).
Go to to watch/be in the spot now.

The Keep - Michael Mann 1983

The Keep Part 1

The Keep Part 2

The Keep Part 3

The Keep Part 4

The Keep Part 5

The Keep Part 6

The Keep Part 7

The Keep Part 8

The Keep Part 9

The Keep Part 10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Michael Mann likes fishing

Here is a clue to what Michael Mann perhaps likes to do when not working relentlessly. Fishing. This is an anecdote of someone who took Mann fishing back in the eighties. I know... tabloid, but what the heck. It is interesting to build a profile on a man who spends his life examining the profiles of others.

On a hot day, Michael Mann and Jim Belushi fish with Jim’s son Robert.
Well, Trevor's been a friend of mine for about twenty-five or thirty years, and he's always said, "Buddy, your fishing abilities are great, so let's just put some celebrities on your boat and bring a film crew down." So I did. I brought [Jim] Belushi out the first trip.
Were these folks who were already chartering with you?
Yes, quite a few of them. Belushi first went out with me, jeez, mid-eighties. I had Jim Belushi and [movie producer, writer, and director] Michael Mann out with me, and they caught a lot of fish. It was a really hot day and even on the water it was probably high eighties, low nineties, no wind whatsoever, and my wife has pictures of Jim Belushi and Michael Mann fishing in their underwear. I threatened to put that in the Enquirer. [Laughing.] They said, "If you do, we're going to sue you."
I take out the [production] VP of Warner Brothers, Bruce Berman. Between Bruce Berman and Michael Mann, a lot of people from Hollywood come here in the summer and they broadcast me as: "If you go to the Vineyard, you gotta go fishing with Buddy."
If you want to read more about celebrity fishing click here

Alternative Music Ending to Michael Mann's Heat

The iconic end scene of Heat

I am so glad I found this wonderful insight into the ending of Heat, which is one of my top cinematic moments. For me, Moby's "God Moving Across the Face of the Water" has become almost a life anthem. The end scene of Heat is iconic to me. It resonates with something deep inside of me, something even now I find hard to understand. But this write up of the music development of this scene is short but fascinating. Be sure to follow the link to the source of this, because you can actually play a stream of "End Titles" by Elliot Goldenthal, which is just superb and sadly commercially unavailable.

The precisely hodge-podged sources for Michael Mann's musical cues—sometimes original compositions, sometimes culled from pre-existing pop, rock, industrial, and/or electronic groups—are as diverse as the dusty Los Angeles turfs he agilely vignettes in his consummate epic crime male-odrama Heat.
Film scorer Elliot Goldenthal's original cue for the end titles (performed by the Kronos Quartet) was ultimately replaced by a Moby track—the Reich-like "God Moving Across the Face of the Water" which appeared on "Everything is Wrong" that same year.  While both selections capture the enveloping electricity of an adrenaline rush effervescing into the blinking lights of a warm L.A. night, the Goldenthal better emphasizes a potential lack of resolution, thus providing an appropriate emotional bookend to that composer's hauntingly spare and ambivalent opening track.  The Moby, in a new version specific to the film, features an additional bridge that seems rather to triumphantly celebrate the story's fulfillment.

To read more and play the wonderful streamed music click here

To read a host of brilliant writing about the work of Michael Mann click here!

Michael Mann's Public Enemies: Perspective from someone on set

The set of Public Enemies. Photo by Rob Olewinski.

By Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

I spent a few days in the summer of 2008 on the set of Michael Mann's Public Enemies, which was shooting at the time in Chicago. It was a night shoot—the death of John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) in front of the Biograph Theater. These observations and ruminations, which will be posted in three parts, were written at the time. Portions of these notes have since been used in other pieces, including a few posted here at The Auteurs' Notebook.  Dispatches Part 2 can be found here, and Part 3 can be found here.
I've seen John Dillinger shot many times. Once, it was Warren Oates who got gunned down. I've seen it happen to Lawrence Tierney, too, and then there was a soft-focus re-enactment in a television documentary, an anonymous actor in front of an anonymous movie theater. But how many times have I seen Johnny Depp get shot now? Each time, it's more or less the same (but of course, every take is subtly distinct, which is why we have multiple takes). The artificial streetcorner with the alley. He walks along the sidewalk, dressed in a summer shirt and straw hat. The streetlight falls on his back, a crease in the shirt formed a shadowy valley. I imagine it as an image—the shirt as a landscape—and I think: "I want to wear my shirts that way, a little untucked." Depp doesn’t look like Dillinger, but it doesn’t matter. That rakish face looks like how Dillinger should feel. Dashing, like a vagabond—the way we want Our Dillinger (there’s that Chicago logic, that funny way we cling to our monsters: they might not be good people, but they’re our people). A man comes up from behind and clicks the prop gun. Again and again. Depp falls forward, and the camera, handheld, follows the movement of his body, plunging as he crumbles.
The film is being photographed in HD, but this shot, in slow motion, is being filmed on an unblimped 35mm camera. It's got a furious, high-pitched clicking. On the video assist monitor, we can see the angle: the cameramana following Depp from behind. While they repeat and repeat and repeat the shot, technicians light the next scene, which will be in front of the Biograph Theater itself. The marquee has been redecorated so that it looks like it did when Dillinger was shot there. They're working diligently, separated from the current set-up by a throng of extras who stand silently, arms folded, watching Depp die, hopeful to glean some bit of "genius" to further their acting careers. A large camera sits on a dolly, covered by a transparent plastic sheet like a couch in a furniture showroom.
And of course, I’m thinking: "In life as in the dictionary, ideas come before images." Here I know the image, but I don’t know the idea. It becomes the great game of film-viewing, watching through the video assist a rough estimate of an image that hasn’t been made yet. An image that might not even make it into the movie. The thing about cinephiles is that, when you take us out of the cinema, we get hungry. We latch on to everything that might resemble a movie. The onlookers have their Depp, I have my little screen.
Some directors sit in a folding chair in headphones, watching the video assist. Some talk through their assistants. Michael Mann directs standing up. During every take, his attention darts from the monitor (there is only one and only one camera; two more monitors are set up with the little tent to shelter them from rain, but they're blank) to the action going on twenty feet in front on him and back. A director is responsible both for something real and something filmed. A director is two people at once—a director, supervising some real event, and a filmmaker, shaping some future image.
Mann paces. After every few takes (and of this shot, there'll be dozens) he darts over to the actors. He takes Depp aside, standing close to him, talking over actions and movements which the actor occasionally mimes out. On this hushed street, you can hear just about anyone’s voice, but not Mann's. He talks quietly. Or, maybe, he talks just as loudly as he needs to.

Over the years, Mann's approach has changed. At the beginning of his career, he seemed like a contemporary of Jean-Jacques Beineix. He was the Beineix who wasn't a misanthrope. Now he's the only obvious contemporary to Claire Denis and Johnnie To. His career is the story of a director who began with "the look" and discovered the image. From the "cinematic" to cinema. The Mann of Thief through Manhunter, like Beineix, seemed to care about the appearance of the image more than the image itself. They're good movies, but making good movies isn't enough. It was about staging things for the camera more than capturing an image. Closer to a photogram than a photograph. I remember a scene from The Keep like I do a scene from Beineix' The Moon in the Gutter: I remember the color, the lighting, but not whether the images were close-ups or wide shots, whether the camera moved, whether it was one shot or several. Even The Last of Mohicans seems to have been made by someone thinking: "What if we made a movie that looked this way?"

He's always worked on location. Back then, he'd start with something at least partly real and make it feel completely artificial, completely plastic. I recognize Lake Michigan in Thief, but only the way you recognize a triangle or a square. What I see first is a color and a line. Images that sort of scuttle themselves, marooning the viewer. (It's possible to also think of a roster of ferrymen, directors who use the film to row the audience out to a certain place and then bring them back in time for the end credits: Shirley Clarke, Eric Rohmer, Yueh Feng, Charles Burnett, David Mackenzie, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Aleksandr Sokurov. These directors should not be confused with kidnappers like Santiago Alvarez or gallery guides like Peter Greenaway.) But something happened around Heat. Aesthetics gave way to ethics, imagery to images.

The first shot of Thief and that final tableau from Heat are obviously directed by the same man—or at least by the same tastes—but the ideas aren't the same. It's the difference between letting your tastes find something and having a feeling inside you that you use your tastes to express. The first shot of Thief and the last shot of Heat: rumbling electronic music, night time, lights forming a V shape that disappears on the horizon. In Thief, it's a man getting into a car and driving away. In Heat, it's two men perfectly still. Funny how it's only in a moving image that we can really capture stillness. In neither image are the figures "acting" in the traditional sense. James Caan just gets into a car. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino pose; they look like statues (but then I think: "Statues also die."). Similar images, but not the same. Like that conversation De Niro and Pacino have in their only other scene together in the film, the final shot of Heat is Utopian. Two people expressing themselves completely and shamelessly. I think it's that ideal that Mann has aspired to since: to let go of preferences, of standards in framing, editing, composition and to express whatever he might be thinking or feeling through the image. Instead of simply telling their stories, he will become one with the characters he admires.

Watching the death scene in Public Enemies, repeated over and over, I realize that there are really two key performers here: Depp and the cameraman. Two well-rehearsed actors. Since Collateral, Mann has been treating the camera more and more like something that can perform. No one else has shots so actorly, expressing in grand gestures but also small nuances. I think of the way the camera pulls back as Jamie Foxx scrambles out of his taxi, and how Foxx's terror is nothing without the camera's movement.

Read this article here
Read Part 2 here
Read Part 3 here

Michael Mann's The Insider script

If you want to study Michael Mann's script for The Insider (educational purposes), then you can find it by clicking here.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

DSLRs being used on Michael Mann's "Luck"

David Presley with a Canon 1D Mark IV for use on "Luck"
Seems Michael Mann continues to innovate in the digital realm, working with David Presley, Mann's main video technician, on the exciting forthcoming TV series "Luck". And I thought Mann was a Nikon fan.

By: Jared Abrams
I got the chance to hang out with David Presley this weekend during some tests of the new Canon 1D Mark IV for an upcoming pilot for HBO called “LUCK”. David is Michael Mann’s main guy in the video department. He was doing some tests of the rolling shutter on the 1D. We set up some duvetyne above this white on white ceiling fan to get some strobing at fast shutter speeds. The HBO pilot is based on horse racing and David wanted to try to use DSLR’s because of their size and image quality. I set him up with Birns and Sawyer who had the only 1D in town.

William Petersen Interview for Michael Mann's 1986 Manhunter

This footage of an interview with William Petersen really does go back in time, all the way back to 1986 when Manhunter was released. Manhunter is a powerful film and has Mann's visual stamp all over it. If you have never seen it, check it out. The interview is quite insightful and worth the time to invest in watching it to know some of the deeper processes behind its making.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Michael Mann back in the TV Saddle

Some more information and interviews are coming to light for the forthcoming "Luck" TV series directed by Michael Mann. With it are revelations on future projects, which interestingly seems to point to a future set sci-fi genre movie! We will have to wait and see on that little number. In the meantime, enjoy the introduction to this recent interview with Mann on the first screening of "Luck". If first impressions are anything to go by, everybody on the project seems very, very excited with it. My prediction: This is going to be a Mann heaven return to TV glory. I can't wait. And I don't even like horse racing.

Michael Mann and Nick Nolte
Dustin Hoffman (left) talks to Michael Mann

With his arms folded, and showing just the slightest of smiles, Michael Mann stood in his office on a recent afternoon and watched the opening title sequence to the first episode of "Luck," the HBO series that will air next year and give Mann his first television directing credit in 22 years. On the screen, a montage showed racehorses, gamblers, mob men and money as the Massive Attack song "Splitting the Atom" pulsed along with its languid whispers of desire.

For the full article click here

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Michael Mann gives an autograph

I feel slightly trivial, again, posting this clip of Michael Mann signing his autograph for some waiting French fans who somehow got a tip he was in the building. It shows "Mr. Mann" in a positive light, briefly giving his time courteously to complete strangers, but is it me, or does he when looking into the camera lens scare you slightly? What do you think? I guess I now realize why nobody messes with his authority on set. He has a piercing, exploring look about him - a man who has made his living obsessed with observation. For this reason, I thought I would post the clip. Everyone has a hero. Michael Mann is one of mine. Yet having seen this, I think if I ever had the unlikely privilege of meeting him then intelligent words would potentially fail me. Missing my opportunity, he would then quickly take off in his Lucky Mercedes, leaving me with that empty feeling experienced when you fall short of your own expectations - however vague and unestablished those expectations are when just a huge fan.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Coyotes really do cross roads in LA

We all know and love the iconic moment in Collateral when a coyote crosses the road in the empty night streets of LA. Like many, I was taken aback that this actually happens. I am not sure why I am surprised when we have so many foxes in the UK taking residence in our cities and towns. Nevertheless, here is one post from an LA resident and Mann fan who had the same experience:

On my way to Ralph's with my Great Depression II budget in hand, I spot a house on my block (of rather nice California cottage houses) that has been abandoned. I get out and see a sign on the door -- the people just walked. All of their belongings have been hastily shoved into a dumpster. A jet fighter screeches overhead from Edwards Air Force Base in the dark night and I think, "wow, something totally horrible has happened to this America." In my mind, today feels like the day the American Dream landed with a kaput thud and came to a screeching halt. I remember my grandmother (the original bluestocking), savvy, smart, loved by everyone, telling me the story of the first Great Depression when she was a footloose and fancy free independent woman in the '30's with a good job (a school teacher) and how she'd never forget the day she ran to the bank to deposit her paycheck and the bank was closing... and they literally opened the heavy doors for her and let her go inside and took her check... and she thought they were being sooo nice, but the thing is -- she never saw that check again. It was straight outta a Capra movie. The bank closed and took everyone's money. This is how I learned to never trust bankers.
With an eerie heart, I drove on to Ralph's only to discover the entire street was black -- lights knocked out, no electricity. Ralph's sat there unwelcoming, unfriendly, and completely dark. A cop car with headlights blaring and siren spinning stood in for a traffic light and on the way home... I slammed on the brakes as my headlights picked up two pair of eyes -- and straight out of a Michael Mann movie -- a coyote crossed my path.
Is it a full moon or what?
times they are a changin' my friend they are a changing'
Read the post at his blog here

Here is a video clip with Mann and Cruise sharing their perspective on the inclusion of this scene in the movie. It is taken from Collateral's bonus features, so you probably already saw it.

Shooting Public Enemies

Emulating the period of the 1930's was one of the major challenges facing Michael Mann and DP Dante Spinotti. Here is an excellent overview of many of the technical and aesthetic approaches Mann mixed together to produce Public Enemies. For any creative endeavour to be fully realized the mastery of technique has to be attained. Without it, artistic visualization can never be achieved. Mann's strength is in his ability to visualize and execute. This article reveals the processes behind Mann's decision to employ certain technical approaches to Public Enemies.

Here is a brief extract of what is a long article:

“We did tests down in the parking lot [of Mann’s offices], set up with some posters from 1933 and cars and lights,” Spinotti says. “We did side-by-side tests with a film camera next to the F23, shooting daytime and going into twilight and then night. We also did various lighting tests. Company 3 [Santa Monica, Calif.,] did the transfer for both, scanning the film and then bringing the digital files into a digital negative and then printing, and then we compared film prints. The results were interesting: The F23 was extremely sharp, probably a bit sharper than film itself. The tonal range wasn’t the same as film—we all know the tonal range of film holding onto the highlights is extraordinary and digital hasn’t quite met that yet. But nevertheless, the way that digital dealt with shadows, really reading into shadows and darkness and doing it with extreme sharpness, convinced Michael, and I agreed: The way to go was digital. The other consideration was the agility and elasticity of working with those cameras and how Michael could work his preferred way. All this would let him go into an area that is almost hyperreal.”

Read the Full Article: Click Here

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Top 10 performances from Michael Mann films


Russell Crowe & Al Pacino in The Insider
Mann’s collaborative process with his actors typically involves something called “character acquisition,” a tightly-conceived regimen, of sorts, that gives his films’ characters the authentic touch that makes his work so novel.  Many times these details won’t even be discussed in the overall narrative, but their background impact on the performer is unmistakable.  Take, for instance, the photos of the childhood home of Tom Cruise’s hitman Vincent in “Collateral” that Mann brought to the actor’s attention, merely by way of more fully developing the character’s clearly complicated formidable years.

The result of this hard work has been a slew of captivating, at times career-best performances from some of the most accomplished actors working today.  A Michael Mann production represents the opportunity to go deeper with a performance and perhaps even learn more about the craft.  Will Smith has frequently discussed his collaboration with Mann as the most rewarding experience of his professional life.  And, as Javier Bardem once told me, “When Michael Mann invites you to his party, you don’t turn him down.”

So with that, a collective representing the best performances to come from Mann’s 10 feature films to date seemed the best way into this week’s installment of The Lists.

To read the full article and see the author's TOP 10, CLICK HERE

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Michael Mann Photographs

If you are looking for celebrity images as an extension of seeing how the other half live, take a look at this commercial image library: WireImage.

A search for Michael Mann brings up a wealth of images of many of his public appearances. I was surprised to see he did a book signing for his Taschen book in 2006. I have the book and recommend it. Curiously, it doesn't seem available any more, even from Taschen's own website. You cannot buy it new on Amazon, though some resellers have it still. Not sure the reasons why. Perhaps it peaked in its demand.

Monday, 30 August 2010

What Does Michael Mann Wear?

Michael Mann likes to wear Scottevest

There is serious danger here of triviality, but hey... if Michael Mann likes something, I better have a good look at it! So, when on location where does Mann keep his bits and pieces and keep them warm? The tech sort I mean. Well, I suspect he likes well placed and intelligently designed pockets. Which is why he wears SCOTTEVEST. It's not only Mann who wears Scottevest, but a host of celebrities. Click here to see who.

We don't have Scottevest in the UK, but I will be putting an order in through friends... the microfibre hoodie looks good as does the iPhone hugging fleece. Apparently Mann gives his crew free Scottevest gear as gifts. Personally, I always used to love Patagonia. Nowadays I just can't afford it. I guess I will just have to join Mann's crew to renew my outdoors wardrobe. Feel free to call Michael. Just don't ask me to make your coffee... on second thoughts... 

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Mann gets his coffee... any way he wants!

The filming of Public Enemies had a real impact on the small towns Michael Mann selected for his scenes. I have enjoyed reading the anecdotes of those meeting Mann for the first time and that wonderful excitement of Hollywood coming to town. Two completely different worlds collide! Leader's of projects obviously get special treatment to smooth the rails of their important visionary work. I love this blog taken during the making of Public Enemies. Here is a small excerpt that made me chuckle:

At one point Michael asked for coffee. No one wanted to ask him cream? Sugar? Black? Decaf? So they bought 3 of each – black, cream, cream and sugar, sugar, sugar substitute… decaf with the same routine. About 20 cups of coffee so that one of them would meet his requirements. Wow… This was my first hint that this guy GETS WHAT HE WANTS!!! No questions asked!

Get the full blog experience here - it's fun to read.

Darn, I wish I could get on a Michael Mann set, just to know what it's like. I have never been on a movie set, not least a Mann movie. No, that's a slight lie. I did find my way by accident on the set of Wind in the Willows near Farnham, Surrey. But they were packing up so I saw very little. I mean guys, Wind in the blooming Willows.

Michael Mann Signature / Autograph

If you wanted to know whether you have an authentic Michael Mann autograph (there are some poor ebay versions being offered), then compare it with this. He signed a VIP guest book at London's Baglioni hotel in 2007:

Matt Zoller Seitz Video Essays on Michael Mann

Michael Mann Video Essay Part 1

Michael Mann Video Essay Part 2

Michael Mann Video Essay Part 3

Michael Mann Video Essay Part 4

Michael Mann Video Essay Part 5

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dustin Hoffman and Michael Mann

Catching up on the news, it is great to know that the pilot episode of Mann's new TV incarnation "Luck" has already been filmed last spring and HBO have signed it up for more episodes. The Santa Anita racetrack is the heartbeat of the new series and will be transformed into what one can only imagine as a full time film set. Shooting will start September 2010 with the first televising rumoured to be around the end of 2011. It is not clear, to me at least, whether Mann will be directing the first series having already directed the pilot. I really hope he does. What fantastic value for money we get with Mann filming an entire TV episode as opposed to 90 minutes (usually longer for a Mann movie) movie time.

If you are involved in the filming it would be great to hear from you. Otherwise, all news will be posted as I find it. Here is an older article, but provides some background information - click here:

If you want to see some exclusive footage of Michael Mann directing Luck at Santa Anita, here is a great clip of him instructing his crew - click here to access the video below:

Michael Mann directing Luck

For behind the scenes shots of the shooting of "Luck", also check out Mary Forney's blog.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

On the set of "Luck"

There isn't much to chew on when finding out about the forthcoming Michael Mann pilot, "Luck", but this horse racing blog from the Santa Anita track in Los Angeles provides some personal insight. The pictures are worth a look. Let's face it, if there isn't a palm tree in a Michael Mann movie, then I am disappointed. The racing track doesn't disappoint. I love palm trees - we don't have them where I live, sigh. But look at these palms at Santa Anita track... aren't they gorgeous? Heat, Collateral, Insider, Miami Vice... my palm tree heaven.

This is from Mary Forney's Blog on horseracing. She became a "lucky" extra for the day.

Well I've just wrapped up a grueling two days of work as an extra (actually we were called "background") for the filming of Luck at Santa Anita, an HBO pilot written and produced by David Milch and directed by Michael Mann.

And let me tell you, I have nothing but respect for everyone involved in film production, from the multitude of crew members to the actors, assistant directors and director. Apparently non-stop 14 hour work days are nothing out of the ordinary for these people. It almost killed me! It was, however, an experience I wouldn't trade. For one thing, I got to work on the same set as actors Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Richard Kind, and Kevin Dunn.

The days started with a 5:30 a.m. call, and a visit to the wardrobe trailer in the dark.

To see the original blog in its entirety with pictures, click here

Mann to direct For Whom the Bell Tolls?

Geek Tyrant Article

Never believe all the hype. Mann selects his films slowly and carefully. Will it be the Robert Capa biopic? It remains uncertain as far as I can discern. See the below article:
... it was revealed that Michael Mann is still currently attached to direct an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's Spanish Civil War novel For Whom The Bell Tolls.

The project is being set up under the Warner Bros. production banner Industry, and has been gestating since 2006 ...

For Whom The Bell Tolls, most famously turned into a 1943 film starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, follows an American who leaves the United States to enlist on the Republican side in the war, travels behind enemy lines to work with Spanish guerrilla fighters, or guerrilleros, hiding in the mountains.
Read the full article and click here

Sight and Sound on Mann and Collateral

Sight & Sound Article

Mark Olsen talks to Mann about his love of LA, shooting on DV and getting what he wants.

Mark Olsen: In Collateral you seem to be exploring the aesthetics of DV. Was that one of the things that attracted you?

Michael Mann: It's useful here to make an analogy with architecture. When steel was first introduced as a building material architects disguised the structure of their buildings to look like masonry. It wasn't until Louis Sullivan's pioneering work in Chicago in the 1890s that the aesthetics of the steel structure were allowed to be expressed.
So my reason for choosing DV wasn't economy but was to do with the fact that the entire movie takes place in one city, on one night, and you can't see the city at night on motion-picture film the way you can on digital video. And I like the truth-telling feeling I receive when there's very little light on the actors' faces - I think this is the first serious major motion picture done in digital video that is photoreal, rather than using it for effects. DV is also a more painterly medium: you can see what you've done as you shoot because you have the end product sitting in front of you on a Sony high-def monitor, so I could change the contrast to affect the mood, add colour, do all kinds of things you can't do with film. Digital isn't a medium for directors who aren't interested in visualisation, who rely on a set of conventions or aesthetic pre-sets, if you like. But it's perfect for someone like David Fincher or Ridley Scott - directors who previsualise and know just what they want to achieve.

To read full article, click here

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Some new links

Just to add to the growing collection of material available for those who want to study Michael Mann, I include some new links below:

A useful perspective on Public Enemies is provided by one blogger:

YouTube has a good source of videos made by fans of some iconic scenes in Mann's movies. There are various tribute videos available, but here is one for your convenience: