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Michael Mann: NY Times Article

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General Sibley:
Nice article on Michael Mann in this Sunday's NYTimes Magazine.  Was in the Style section, commenting how influential he's been - but he makes some very interesting comments about his process as a filmmaker.  He's one of my favorite directors, he's as obsessive about detail as Leone.  I'm looking forward to "Collateral":


Macho Mann
Published: New York Times, August 1, 2004

Though he strenuously resists the notion, Michael Mann, the creative force behind ''Miami Vice'' and the director of, among other films, ''Thief,'' ''Heat'' and now ''Collateral,'' has, through his work, through his sense of style melded with character, created the dominant male aesthetic of the last 20 years. From the glowing pastels, sockless loafers and stubble of ''Miami Vice'' to Tom Cruise's gray hair in ''Collateral,'' Mann has evoked a revolutionary kind of cool. He has a precise instinct for how his men want to dress and live, and that sensibility, that particular code of tough guys who know how to wear a suit, pick a perfect bottle of wine and shoot a gun, has shaped a generation. Mann is prickly about this idea -- he doesn't want his work reduced to shoes and architecture. ''What it looks like is important to me,'' he says, barely eating his lunch of Japanese soup at his office in West L.A. ''But I've worked too hard to just be known as an arbiter of taste.''
Mann, who is 61 but projects a kind of boyish intensity of interest, winces slightly. He is, more than even most directors, obsessive about his work and the universe it represents. If the conversation strays to chitchat, Mann's focus instantly turns inward, back to whatever project is currently occupying his brain. Mann's large office is decorated with mementos from his films -- photographs from ''Ali''; models of sets; a painted poster from Koreatown that was used in ''Collateral''; a stuffed, snarling bobcat that was last seen in ''Heat.'' On the set, he is famously maniacal about details. He insisted on specially designed wire-brushed hangers for a scene in ''Heat'' because he liked the look of them and wanted the hangers to make a certain noise when they banged against one another. He brought water trucks to spray down the streets of Chicago when he shot ''Thief'' because he was trying to recreate the perspective of a Pissarro. On ''Miami Vice,'' he literally painted parts of Miami Beach. ''The whole city was grim; it was beige,'' Mann says, recalling the time he went to South Beach to scout locations. ''It was full of derelict hotels, and I realized the streamlined Deco look was still there, buried under the tan paint. I wanted to show heat, and I came up with the idea of vibrating pastels.'' On ''Miami Vice,'' earth tones were banned (as was red -- Mann doesn't like red), and everything about Don Johnson's character -- from his Ferrari Daytona to his Versace T-shirt -- was customized to Mann's specifications. On his next TV show, ''Crime Story,'' set in his hometown, Chicago, in the early 60's, Mann went retro. The lead detective lived in a Mies van der Rohe apartment with late 50's Egg chairs by the Scandinavian designer Arne Jacobsen and was dressed period perfect in boxy dark suits and skinny ties. As usual, the look caught on. Mann has been known to change a character's clothing three times to get the proper effect. He can spot the wrong tie in a sea of extras and will park a boring white car next to a snazzier baby blue model to enhance the mood. ''Adding white always makes color burn a little,'' he has said. ''I got that idea from a 20th-century British painter.''
This is a rare admission. Mann tends to shrug off any mention of his sense of style. Those hangers in ''Heat''? ''I don't remember,'' he says. The gray hair on Vincent, the contract killer played by Cruise in ''Collateral''? ''That guy is rough trade in a good suit,'' Mann says, almost amused. ''It's oppositional. Tom is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. And so you have to make him Vincent. I use everything -- the bones, the colors, the patterns, the rhythms of the character to end up with what you see. Everything goes into the performance. And then the clothes just fit. It all becomes seamless. I could go through every one of my movies and tell you exactly why everything is there. And maybe that's why the characters have resonance.''
Mann's twin fascination with art and tough guys was honed in lower-middle-class Chicago. ''Al Pacino has a whole theory about the drive that comes from growing up in a lower-middle-class environment,'' Mann says. ''He thinks that's where you find a lot of aspiration and movement.'' Mann's father, who owned a small grocery, supported his son's ambitions as long as he ''did everything full out -- he wanted me to apply myself completely.''
In the late 50's, Mann, who didn't much like movies, had a girlfriend who took him to see French New Wave films. ''I started seeing Resnais and Truffaut and Russian movies,'' he recalls. ''I was an English literature major at the University of Wisconsin and the accidental beneficiary of a good liberal-arts education. So if you know about anthropology and topography, then one day you can figure out how Hawkeye thinks at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in August 1757 when you're directing 'The Last of the Mohicans.'''
He enrolled at the London Film School, and when asthma kept him out of Vietnam, he stayed abroad and made mostly documentaries and commercials, honing his particular mixture of substance and style. After a divorce (he is now remarried and has four daughters), Mann became homesick for what he has called ''the pace and aggression of American life.'' He moved to California in 1971 and started writing for shows like ''Starsky and Hutch.'' When Aaron Spelling asked him to create a show about a private detective in Vegas, Mann's sensibility -- macho plus flair -- was born.
As usual, ''Vegas'' began with a place. ''Vegas was great then,'' Mann says. ''It had a lot of romance to it. I always look for transient zones, and Vegas in the 70's was a transient zone. When people enter these zones, there's a lot of money, a lot of stuff available, and there's an impersonality. Everything is mercenary, and all pretense is gone. 'I'll be nice to you for money' is the attitude of the doorman in Vegas. These kinds of cities are ripe with opportunities for drama.''
Those are also worlds -- sexy, violent, high-low worlds -- that men like to imagine themselves navigating. ''I found a private investigator in Vegas,'' Mann recalls. ''And he was an astounding disappointment. He had a skull ring with pieces of glass for eyes, and he wasn't even working interesting divorce cases. He was the Kmart of private investigators. So I had to make him up.'' That creation -- cool, tough, great car, lots of girls and lots of intrigue -- became the template for most of Mann's TV characters, especially Sonny Crockett, who, as played by Don Johnson in ''Miami Vice,'' combined existential angst and law enforcement without smudging his white unconstructed suits. In films, Mann went deeper with his research. ''Making movies is a license to project yourself into all kinds of different cultures, lifestyles, value systems. I did 'Collateral' because I was intent about seeing into the dark, and I wanted it to be set in L.A.''
''Collateral'' takes place during one night. A cabdriver, played by Jamie Foxx, is held captive by a hit man (Cruise). Although the time is compressed, the plot of ''Collateral'' evolves carefully, through observation and detail. In large part, the film is an ode to Los Angeles, the parts of the city that are never shown in films. ''L.A. is electively urban,'' Mann says. ''The Internet is metaphor for L.A. There are domains here, and there is no limit on capacity or cultural density. In Chicago, there are only so many brick three-story apartment buildings, but in Little Saigon in L.A., there are miles and miles of space. And when you get there, to the Buddhist gardens in Little Saigon, you may as well be in another country.'' Mann pauses. ''L.A., especially at night, has the deep purple glow of possibility. Anything can happen. And that doesn't last. Miami is not interesting now. But Havana is fascinating, and globalism hasn't reached Mozambique yet.'' Mann pauses again. ''You can imagine stories there; those are places where something could happen.'' He laughs. ''Part of my job is to build a vivid world. Any sense of identification is welcome.''

Bill Carson:
 8) COLLATERAL will rock. MANN is the Man.

dave jenkins:
Really interesting interview: http://deadline.com/2015/09/michael-mann-heat-al-pacino-robert-de-niro-ferrari-christian-bale-toronto-film-festival-1201529118/

Thanks, great read.



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