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Michael Mann and film noir


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So, I noticed that Thief (1981) directed by Michael Mann is coming up on our viewing list in July.  Seeing this prompted me to watch Collateral (2004) and think about Manhunter (1986), Miami Vice (2006) and Heat (1995), all MIchael Mann films.  While Mann's name has been invoked within the discussion of film noir in numerous critical writings, I was wondering what people thought.

 

Do the Mann films mentioned above seem to fit with the concept of film noir as we have discussed thus far, or do you think he is better defined as a director or "crime movies," not necessarily film noir?  The reason I ask, while the themes are often dark and expose a moral ambiguity seen in some of the movies we have studied thus far, there are other elements that are clearly absent, like a femme fatale.  Interested in all opinions.

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You'll get an enthusiastic "yes" vote from me, regarding Michael Mann as an important director of neo-noir or post-noir.  Manhunter is an astonishing film that relatively few people have seen.  IMHO, it's the best of the Hannibal stories, and the most haunting.  I don't think it's necessary to have all the iconography (like the femme fatale) to qualify.  To me, it's more about style and content.  It's all there with Mann.  

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You'll get an enthusiastic "yes" vote from me, regarding Michael Mann as an important director of neo-noir or post-noir.  Manhunter is an astonishing film that relatively few people have seen.  IMHO, it's the best of the Hannibal stories, and the most haunting.  I don't think it's necessary to have all the iconography (like the femme fatale) to qualify.  To me, it's more about style and content.  It's all there with Mann.  

I agree that Mann has the mood, imagery, and story that is needed for noir.  I am just playing devil's advocate here...at what point does noir become overused.  That is not to mean that Mann's films don't have an awesomeness about them that no one else can do, but (and I am just throwing this out there), when does noir lose its significance.  I could see someone looking at a movie with a dark tone (Psycho, Gone Girl, Snatch) and say, "Hey, that's noir!"  Should it be used so widely?  (I am seriously wondering, not a rhetorical question). 

 

I use Mann only because he seems to have carved out a niche for himself that some have called "crime noir," and he is one of the more recent directors to seem to continue to fall into that slot.  I can see that -- especially in Heat and Collateral.  His protagonists are not vehicles to solve the conflict, but they require investigation and unraveling.  The mood is tense, dark, and existential.  I have always enjoyed his films, but I probably would not have thought of them as film noir as intensely before this course.  

 

Anyone have thoughts?

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I'd argue that crime is the genre, and noir is the style.  Not all his movies qualify, but Thief seems to make a lot of neo-noir/post-noir lists.  I'd include Heat and Manhunter, again based on the style and the content. These are dark tales of a sinister world, where in my opinion (and that of several "popular" film critics - David Thomson is at the top of my list), the stories are told with a visual style that reinforces the dark cynical world they inhabit.

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I'd argue that crime is the genre, and noir is the style.  Not all his movies qualify, but Thief seems to make a lot of neo-noir/post-noir lists.  I'd include Heat and Manhunter, again based on the style and the content. These are dark tales of a sinister world, where in my opinion (and that of several "popular" film critics - David Thomson is at the top of my list), the stories are told with a visual style that reinforces the dark cynical world they inhabit.

 

These are dark tales of a sinister world, where in my opinion (and that of several "popular" film critics - David Thomson is at the top of my list), the stories are told with a visual style that reinforces the dark cynical world they inhabit.

 

I like this part of your reply the most.  Very well said.  

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