Sunday, March 8, 2009

Public Enemies... Huh?

I couldn't help but notice something strange while watching the trailer for the new Michael Mann Film Public Enemies.

Namely that it looks fucking terrible.

I'm not talking about the movie itself, I'm talking about the actual quality of the image. It's ironic that Mann was one of the first major Hollywood directors to get a bug up his ass as far as proving HD looked as good as film. It's ironic because he did do that, in Collateral, a movie that no matter what qualms you might have about it, looked astonishingly good and perhaps caught LA better then any other film I've ever seen. In short it was purty. Miami Vice on the other hand was not. And now Public Enemies, really is not.

The type of degraded image that Mann shows in the trailer is simply perplexing. I mean it looks bad. While other directors and cinematographers are showing just how far this thing could go, Mann seems hell bent on showing you how tawdry and cheap video looks, AFTER he has already convinced you otherwise. He's like a traveling salesmen who blurts out that he's fucked your wife after he's already sold you a couple of vacuums.

When is someone going to admit that the emperor has no clothes. Michael Mann apparently makes Ugly films now. I'll repeat that. Michael Mann the guy who made Heat and fucking Last Of The Mochicans has now produced two films in a row that look like I could have put them together on my camcorder.

They are ungodly fucking ugly.


nnp said...

When I finished watching Miami Vice, I thought if Mann ever did something like this again it would cease to look like an actual feature film and more like an extended episode of COPS. Mann is very much obsessed with having his movies be as realistic as possible, almost as if he were creating documentaries. And so he will opt for grainy or video-like cinematography to achieve that truthiness even if it just, like Public Enemies, the same old cops and robbers stuff he's been doing his whole career. I don't think the aim is complete realism because Mann's previous movies are very stylish and I see no reason why PE won't be.

That said, I can't come down hard on Mann for experimenting with digital technology, even if I don't care for Ali, Collateral or Miami Vice. No, he's not doing video like Fincher, Lynch or anybody else but if he were he'd be making their movies, not his. If he was using a VHS recorder, that might be taking things too far.

I think it might be exaggeration to say this movie looks butt ugly - the people involved are not fools based on their past record, and while each shot has a video feel, it is composed well. People might not be giving this use of video a pass (other than it's not capturing the beautiful neon ambiance of some city sprawl) because period films ought to visually reflect the period they were shot in... so maybe Ron Howard should be making this movie instead of Mann since he wouldn't dare try something a little different like shoot a movie taking place in the 1930s with a digital camera. I'm willing to give Mann the benefit of the doubt this time.

nnp said...

If he was using a VHS recorder, that might be taking things too far.

Or video tape, I mean. Only kids shooting a movie about zombies in the woods or ironic-unironic-ironic hipsters use that kind of technology.