Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Public Enemies: We Spray Spots.

by Ryland Walker Knight

fire away, charioteer

What began in giddy anticipation as Michael Mann's Public Enemies fast approached through June, with talk of something like a symposium, turned out to be that series of set dispatches by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (one, two, three) and this: a subsequent, massive e-mail exchange between Ignatiy, Kasman and yours very truly. The movie's moment may be past in blog-time but that doesn't stop us from throwing our belated lot in with the crowd of almost equal parts praise and derision. For one thing, for us, it's one of the real highlights of the summer. For another, who says we need to be so timely? In any case, we know this thing is long, but we do hope you like it, and try to read it all. Or, I really do, if only because I know Danny took a lot of time to cobble together these broad range missives. And to think that we could still miss talking about so much.

hold on tight
staring at the sun

For my money—big shocker here—Manohla wrote the best review of the weeklies. And to re-link, here's the Log's post and Martha's enthusiasms.


  1. Thanks for the second mention!

    Enjoyed reading your comments at The Auteurs. Your insights into Mann's work warrant a monograph. I hope you're considering writing it.

    It's always tough to reconcile how Mann talks about his films -- the "hyper-reality" of the HD, the unfaltering stress on characterization -- with the intensely aestheticized environments he gives us on the screen. Sometimes it seems as if the humblest object, like an ashtray or the texture of wallpaper, can pull us away (effortlessly!) from the narrative, the "character arcs," and even from the historical events.

    As for the avant-gardist strain in Mann: the nocturnal machine gun shootouts in Public Enemies deserve a place in the history of the flicker film and its strategies of physiological stimulation. Both times I saw the film, in a fairly packed theater, many people sitting around me jumped and convulsed during those sequences.

    The thing I like about Depp/Dillinger watching Gable in the theater is how it riffs on Mann's peculiar shot-countershot schemes, as though to construct a dialogue between Depp and what he's watching.

    It's also worth pointing out, if no one has yet, that Mann has a thing about ending films at the precise moment a character passes through a doorway -- Public Enemies ends this way, as do Miami Vice and The Insider. . .

    Again, great site here. Always a pleasure to check out.

  2. Backattcha: Thanks, RW, as ever.

    I'd love to write a monograph on Mann, if somebody would pony up some kind of advance. Who knows if that will happen, pitch or no pitch, these dying daze of print. In any event, the vote of confidence feels great!

    I'm totally with you on the flicker film shot from behind Baby Face. I still get jazzed thinking about that half-second.

    And, yes, doorways are crucial. I love that shot that signals the end of the club prelude/prologue in _Miami Vice_ that follows Crocket, on his cell phone, from the dance floor to the roof and we see the technology's limits grain up in our face around his head. That vibrant, violet sky; the world as a glitch.