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The Cinema of Michael Mann

The Cinema of Michael Mann: Vice and Vindication

Jonathan Rayner
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Michael Mann
    Book Description:

    Michael Mann is one of the most important American filmmakers of the past forty years. His films exhibit the existential concerns of art cinema, articulated through a conspicuous and recognizable visual style and yet integrated within classical Hollywood narrative and genre frameworks. Since his beginnings as a screenwriter in the 1970s, Mann has become a key figure within contemporary American popular culture as writer, director, and producer for film and television. This volume offers a detailed study of Mann's feature films, from The Jericho Mile (1979) to Public Enemies (2009), with consideration also being given to parallels in the production, style, and characterization in his television work. It explores Mann's relationship with classical genres, his thematic concentration on issues of morality and masculinity, his film adaptations from literature, and the development and significance of his trademark visual style within modern American cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85049-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-22)

    Michael Mann’s work, as a director and producer within filmmaking in contemporary Hollywood and modern American television, presents audiences and followers of his career with certain ‘facts’ of authorship. His expanding oeuvre embodies a consistent thematic agenda and a recognisable stylistic palette, which together survey and depict heightened masculine endeavour, rarefied definitions of professionalism and personal validation, and the frequent union of these elements in the representation of crime. Mann’s principal connection in the popular imagination with crime and action films and police television series masks a more varied portfolio of producing, directing and screenwriting. Although the genres associated with...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Mann’s Style: The Jericho Mile, L.A. Takedown, Miami Vice
    (pp. 23-61)

    The conspicuous visual style in evidence in Michael Mann’s films has been the subject of frequent and intense debate, as to its structural and thematic relevance, its sources, its contemporary influence, and its distraction from or replacement of a more meaningful and significant frame of reference for the director’s work. Although the most striking aspects of Mann’s cinematic expression are visual (particularly the continuities in widescreen composition, in colouration and editing), the director’s films are distinguished by equally individualistic choices relating to sound effects and sound-tracks. The negative criticism of Mann’s style has centred on films such as The Keep...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Pursuing the Professional: Thief, Heat, Collateral
    (pp. 62-92)

    Since the 1970s Mann has been most strongly associated (as writer, director and producer) with the representation of crime, on television as well as film, and his output in this area can be seen to work and rework a web of interrelated themes and characters. His repeated depictions of the compulsive vocations of law-breaking and law-enforcement are the outgrowths of the personifications and archetypes of driven, obsessive criminals, police officers and investigators with which he populates modern, geographically specific and yet seemingly boundless, megalopolitan environments. (Mann’s portrayals of crime and consequently his visual style have become defined by the depictions...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Endangering the Domestic: Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans, The Insider
    (pp. 93-126)

    If the commitment to the professional endeavour and ethos is taken to be centre of gravity for all of Mann’s male protagonists and their source of personal fulfilment, then the parallel, opposite, desired but denied alternative resides in the domestic sphere. In Mann’s films, the drive, duty and demands of the one are seen to overwhelm and negate the attraction or necessity of the other. Although the draw or the demands of professional life prove irresistible, the attraction of heterosexual union and/or domesticity is not lessened, even where the acquisition of a family may be seen as no more than...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Adventures in Genre: The Keep, Ali, Public Enemies
    (pp. 127-160)

    Although the influences of filmmaking history as much as those of film economics are discerned and celebrated in Leo Braudy’s evaluation of the works of post-classical auteurs, the characterisation of genre frameworks as ‘seedbeds’ for American cinema’s successes also incorporates, albeit perhaps unintentionally, the suggestion of the limitations of repetition and regimentation alongside the analogy to fertility. The major studio-era genres which post-classical directors revitalised through their output (the gangster film, the western, the musical, the thriller, the war film) were ripe for change, if these formulae were considered to have lost their innovativeness during the decline which preceded the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-172)

    For three decades, Michael Mann’s feature films have provoked spirited responses, critical and celebratory, and have divided audiences with their amalgamation of the generic and the artistic, the eminently popular and the allegedly pretentious, and the elegance and contrivance of their visuals. The formulaic nature of many aspects of his output (such as the repeated returns to the representation of crime, and the obsessive interrogation of masculinity in terms of moral standing, professional excellence and emotional commitment), combined with a conspicuous, persistent and perfectionist deployment of the image, colour and composition, makes each succeeding film a familiar but volatile and...

    (pp. 173-175)
    (pp. 176-181)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 182-184)