© 2015 by James Clark
Each film of Michael Mann is arrestingly sown with overtures bearing close resemblance to those salient in many of his cinematic inventions. This singularity has led more than a few viewers to conclude that though he might be a fine filmic “stylist” he must still be regarded as a “hack,” a manipulator of a grab bag of clichés in the service of giving structure to intrinsically shallow titillation. One of the recurrent choices pertains to remarkable craftsmanship in the course of breaking the law. Mann demonstrates an inordinate fascination with those performing physical tasks welling up from preparatory discernment of riches to be unlocked (sensuous payoffs). His protagonists are precise and resolute laborers immersed in resolute navigational considerations. We could say that he sees the world as a fabulous, monstrous and lethal creative power demanding fantastic discipline to derive what it offers. His sagas are structurally similar because only a sucker would imagine mastering those tests at one fell swoop, or even a million fell swoops.
Mann’s closest professional kin, Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973), often referred to as “Poet of the Underworld,” was similarly discounted, in his case by that noisy power bloc of self-congratulatory contrarians who came to be known as the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Melville chose his nom de plume in recognition that American novelist, Herman Melville, in his piece de resistance, Moby Dick, could see the lucidity within the action of tackling a dangerous kinetic force informed by rare and necessary verve and grace. As with Mann, Melville’s was an undertaking of wild and often violent endeavors. However, for the disclosures of both of those individualistic figures there also comes to pass a high premium upon amicable, even loving, relations with an unlovely, largely unlovable, but also lovely and lovable historical agitation. Implacable rejection and good-will. That’s the task of harmonics both these artists struggle with. And for the better part of the rest of this year, that’s the scene I’ll be hopefully revealing to be, when all is said and done, most enjoyable. (more…)