Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Melville's the Mann

I'm officially geeked out for Public Enemies, the John Dillinger picture set for a July release. First, the material is juicy and second, I'll check out anything Michael Mann is helming and boy is he due for a good one, (after the not as bad as it should have been Miami Vice and the atrocious Collateral). Recently, I've availed myself of the Criterion Collection editions of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Deuxieme souffle and Le Doulos and found them to be right for what ails me. They're elegant criminal romances of perfect scale dealing with men, (almost exclusively), bound by codes more timeless than the law of the land, who go stoically to the small deaths and victories they suspect they're destined for. As in his major works, (Le Cercle rouge, Le Samourai, Bob le flambeur), Melville plays with classic themes of loyalty and betrayal, duty and honor, fate and choice with a light touch. He makes tragedies tarted up as cops and robbers popular entertainment, and perhaps that's why I've had such a taste for Michael Mann recently. Like Melville, Mann seems concerned primarily with men conscripted by causes indifferent to time and civilization. They move through their lives with a sixth sense for the society of others to which they belong and with little to no recognition of responsibility or tie to the rest of us. Even their mortal enemy is better known and more deeply connected to them than family or lovers. Both M&M have something on their minds or maybe even their hearts, but God bless 'em, they don't make mopey, self serious, unwatchable statement pictures. Rather, both keep to the cutting edge of their mediums as popular entertainers, making lush and robust movies Joe the Plumber could sink his teeth into. Do yourself a favor and check out Le Cercle rouge before Johnny To's remake, The Red Circle, (with Liam Neeson, Chow Yun-Fat and featuring frequent Melville collaborator Alain Delon) hits theaters, then put aside some time to properly digest Army of Shadows, his recently recovered French resistance masterpiece. And before Public Enemies conquers the world, revisit Mann's Thief, Manhunter and Heat, (the one he was working up to so long - he recycled the plot of his tv movie L.A. Takedown and scenes straight out of previous work - compare Al Pacino's performance of catching his wife cheating on him to Dennis Farina's in Crime Story). Then go read a book or something.s

No comments: