Zen pulp

Posted by · 3:02 pm · July 10th, 2009

I should really let Matt Zoller Seitz’s words speak for themselves in his ongoing five-part series of video essays concerning director Michael Mann at the Museum of the Moving Image, (“Zen Pulp: The World of Michael Mann”), but I’m a sucker for this stuff.

Part one (posted July 1), which you can check out below, concerns Mann’s early years, moving from TV’s “Miami Vice” backwards five years to his first directorial effort, TV movie “The Jericho Mile” (a movie I REALLY need to see, already). Then it’s back to “Vice” for some aesthetic analysis.

“The advertising part of Mann’s sensibility is encoded in the show’s brooding slickness,” Seitz says, “its fascination with clothes, cars, boats, buildings, and bodies as objects worth contemplating apart from their narrative function.” There’s plenty of talk about Mann’s penchant for authenticating the world on screen and the heavy body count and aesthetic violence in the ground-breaking series.  Then it’s a fast-forward 22 years to talk about the 2006 feature film starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.  Check it out:

(Keep reading to check out parts two and three.)

Part two of the series (posted July 3) kicks off with a fascinating look at the fierce individualists of Mann’s narratives.  “They have a code of honor and stick to it,” Seitz says.  “They value loyalty, respect and professionalism and despise incompetence, equivocation, and ass-kissing.  And above all else, they prize their freedom, freedom to live in the present moment, pursue their happiness without interference, and define themselves on their own terms.”

Films analyzed include “Thief,” “Heat,” “The Insider,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Collateral”:

Finally, Seitz uses part three in the series to concentrate on an element of Mann cinema we were discussing here just a couple of weeks ago: women roles.  Responding to the notion that Mann’s films busy themselves with the particulars of men and machismo, Seitz says “that label factors out one of the more notable aspects of Mann’s filmography: the central importance it grants to the relationship between men and women, and the mix of idealization and dread with which Mann portrays love, commitment, and the comfortable domestic life.”

This, I feel, is a more apt description of female characters in Mann films than critic F.X. Feeney’s assertion that they are “deeply observed.”  But he also comes around to the rather profound idea that “nearly all Mann films are tragedies.”  I’ll let you dig in to explore that notion further:

Not surprising, no discussion of “The Keep” so far.  Anyway, it’s a solid series, well worth the time.  Seitz will be posting parts four and five to wrap up the retrospective next week.

1 Comment Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

1 response so far

  • 1 7-10-2009 at 5:37 pm

    geha714 said...

    Wonderful stuff. Thanks!