© 2015 by James Clark
Though it could not be called a pleasure, the other day I was afforded the chance to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s first feature film, Story of a Love Affair (1950). A text-book caution about screen writing by committee, only the architectural, fashion, landscape and industrial designs and control of light were a promise of mastery. The performance roughly based on the American novel and film, The Postman Always Rings Twice, was a non-stop lunge in some kind of mad homage to 19th century melodrama. Fortunately, no one shot him for it, and he went on to produce amazing films.
Next day I started to deal with a film about which any number of critics and viewers seem to believe that shooting the auteur is the only answer, namely, Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015). The rootless posturing making Antonioni’s debut a lost cause may, however, be a very different thing from the power failures of Blackhat. But to understand the difference one must have done more than detect that most of the players are disappointing wimps, even, to some extent, a square-jawed, sharp-eyed protagonist, Nicholas Hathaway, who enjoys a season of kicking ass. By the time his Blackhat had put in an appearance, Mann had mined a mother lode of dynamical phenomena pertaining to that bad form the experts decry. Rather than howling like myopic puppies, attempting to fathom those disconcerting phenomena staring them right in the face could derive an art work deserving more than inane noise. But it must be acknowledged that “right in the face” can still be a long shot when it comes to tracking down the mysteries of motion. (more…)