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Anticipating “Public Enemies” — Roundtable Podcast on Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice”

A circle of New York film lovers gather for an impromptu discussion of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006).

To warm up for last week's release of Public Enemies, a circle of New York film lovers gathered for an impromptu viewing of the theatrical cut of Michael Mann's previous movie, Miami Vice (2006).  A few even stuck around to talk about the film—including myself, Kevin Lee of Shooting Down Pictures, Keith Uhlich of The House Next Door and Time Out Magazine, Evan Davis of Film Comment, Gina Telaroli of Project Film School and Take Part, and Matt Noller of Slant Magazine.  Kevin Lee has posted a podcast of the conversation here, listen in and give us your thoughts!

For more angles on this avant-garde blockbuster, see this (thanks Ryland!) and listen to this (thanks Dave!).

Daniel, Clipse? Hardcore. That’s how you roll, huh?
Taking it to the limit, one more time.
I dunno, maybe you make a better impact with no words and only simply recommending the Clipse track. Same with Ryland and the De Kooning.
i’ve enjoyed the films of michael mann for a long time. i’m looking to be entertained, to be pulled in & taken away at the same time. public enemies was just what i expected it to be – so was miami vice. only in the movies are people that supercool. that’s one of the reasons we go to films like these, isn’t it?
Glad you are such a fan not only of Mann but recent Mann Anna! No doubt that’s why we got to movies.
I think this commentary settles for me that when it comes down to it you ultimately have to like Mann’s underlying philosophy and value. You can like all the other stuff—the cinematography and all that—but to truly like them you have to kind of like the existential tough guy attitude they have. I think that’s where the divide is. (So I pretty much agree with Glenn Kenny here:
Glad to hear such a devoted group discuss a truly fascinating film.
Felicia, I disagree. What I like about Mann is how he expresses the, as you put it, existential tough guy attitude, just like I can like how Sirk expresses, say, American suburban domesticity. It doesn’t mean I have to like that attitude, or that domesticity, it just means I have to be interested in, find beauty in, find insight and meaning and emotion in those subjects.
Well, I say that after considering Mann’s body of work thus far, including Public Enemies. His latest is (I hope this isn’t too spoilerish) highly derivative of his previous work. People can make variations on the same themes and so forth as long as they like, but I don’t think there was much variation on Mann’s work this time, and whatever was new was superficial, like the period setting. Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice and Public Enemies feel too similar thematically. So, I think there has to be something that draws people back to his films time and time again and I think it is all the stuff he laid out in Heat. I can’t say I care for Mann’s visual style because while it is good, it looks like fancy dressing over what are conventional crime pictures. His style is suggestive of something more but I don’t think there is anything. As an example (and this is probably spoilerish about PE so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on, heh) I had no idea what I was supposed to feel about Dillinger’s death (shock!). The prolonged death scene, complete with somber ambient music, slow motion, and the whole scene ending from high above - it’s like, am I supposed to feel sad? But then this man was a crook and a killer. Why is it getting all sad in this scene? I think right Mann wants to evoke powerful emotion, but is bundled up in a bunch of historical and emotional contradictions that all falls flat (and becomes confusing)-and it’s pretty conventional too, by the way I’m describing it of course. But I’m kind of getting ahead of myself, and these series of posts.
Loving all the Mann talk, Felicia is making me re think some things about PE. I also felt it was a little derivative of Heat and others, but since I liked his other films I got past that. Planing on watching all Mann’s movies/films in reverse chronological order but I kind of want to skip Ali and Last of the Mohicans. Would I be missing allot in anyone’s opinion?
@Ryan – Don’t skip Last of the Mohicans, I actually think Public Enemies shares a lot in common with it, especially the sweeping and classical scope, as for Ali, it’s flawed but the opening 10 minutes are flat out genius, the cross-cutting between Sam Cooke and Ali training is top notch Mann.
Good story on Mann.
Ryan, Don’t skip any of them. Ali is underrated. A funny thing to say about a film that was nominated for 2 Oscars, but it’s true. It seems to me that, besides Miami Vice, it’s Ali that Public Enemies has the most common with. Maybe because it’s the one of the few Mann (along with Miami Vice and Public Enemies) films to be constructed out of reverberations and reflections instead of oppositions. It paved the way for Miami Vice and Public Enemies more than Collateral did.
I’ll second that Ignatius – and I’ll go one further and call Ali a masterpiece. If one is concerned about being told exactly how to feel at every particular point in a film, they might be left cold by it. If you like things a little more opaque, Ali is a mesmerizing experience. It manages to be somehow simulateneously razor sharp (the editing, framing) and free floating, or amorphous (lots of rack focusing, whip pans that destabilize mid-movment). If Heat represents a period at the end of a sentence, Ali is the opening shot of a new paragraph.
Im sorry but I cant buy that Ali or Miami vice are masterpieces, even if ur just sayin Hollywood masterpieces. I love Mann but those two are easily the weakess. Vice is in the mode of Fast and Furious/crank filmmaking, the plot is all over the place and the acting is terrible. its like a bad tony scott movie (and i like scott) vice gives me a headache. and Ali is lacking, i left the theater unsatisfied. foxx and smith did a fine job but somethin was missing, i mean its ok but vice is shit. id give it another look but im afraid id probly turn it off midway…again. collateral, now thats underrated
i agree w/ Ignatiy. And as for the last guy- I dont think Vice is supposed to be candy (like fast and the furious, which you compare it to). It’s not aiming to be easily digestible action diversion. It s purposefully denying your satisication.
Nice to see some Miami Vice love, a terribly underrated movie. About time The Keep got a DVD release too!!
Me and some friends just caught up with The Keep (we vfound a dvd dupe of an old laserdisc). It was fun, and a lot better than I remembered it to be (I saw it first about ten years ago, and hated it). There’s a certain bombastic quality to the images that Mann has moved away from over the years – critics who accuse him of making music videos could use The Keep as Exhibit A. There’s also ample evidence of post-production tmapering. Still, if you’re a fan, it is worth seeing. “Mayor of Hell” – I’m not sure what you mean by"Hollywood Masterpiece". Certainly, if I’m calling a film, any film, a masterpiece, it is only on a scale to be compared with any other masterpiece. I think Jessica is on the right track with Mann’s later films denying certain kinds of easy satisfaction. Certainly, he seems increasingly less and less interested in dubious notions of “psychology”, which so many recent films have shoved down our throats in the name of versimillitude and/or character “motivation”. Action motivates in Mann’s universe.
Wow. I apologize for all of my glaring typos. Really, I’m not a total idiot. I should probably re-read before posting.
purposely denying my satisfaction huh? brilliant!

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