Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Year 2003: Counting Down the Zeroes - The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci)

In 1968, students protested in France over what were some archaic rules that called for strict separation between the sexes in the universities. Through a complicated chain of events, this led to the involvement of the revolutionary film directors and actors of the French New Wave after the closing of the Cinémathèque Française, and the ousting of its founder, Henri Langlois. Many have traced the beginnings of the liberated French culture of today to the days of the protests when the anarchic students of France, emulating the revolutionary nature of their distant brothers in America, took a stand against the antiquated mores of the previous generation's society. Eventually after several months of confrontations between the students and the police, it all culminated in a general strike that lasted for weeks in May, involved over 10 million workers despite no authorization being given by any labor unions, and ended changing French society forever. Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers sets its story against the tumultuous backdrop of those events. It focuses on the near-incestuous relationship between French twins Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), as seen through the eyes of American student, Matthew (Michael Pitt). When the twins' parents go on an extended holiday, leaving them alone in their apartment, Michael soon gets lured into a perverse triangle with the immature siblings, enabling their transgressive sexual desires through him, if not necessarily through each other. Bertolucci uses the relationship to parallel France's violent rebellions, implying that American culture was the inspiration behind the country's social upheaval. We first see, Isabelle and Theo's fascination with Matthew, a strong silent type they are unaccustomed too in their native land. This is a reflection of their idolization of American cinema and its directors (Bertolucci directly quotes films as diverse as Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor and Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It, among others). Once Matthew is drawn in by the two, the three bond over their different takes on American culture, debating the virtues of Chaplin vs. Keaton, Clapton vs. Hendrix. Theo's revolutionary spirit is lit by the gritty gangster films and rock-and-roll music slowly making its way overseas from the U.S. Isabelle, representative of the beauty and culture France has been so protective of for so many years, is a tad more resistant to follow her brother down the path of protest he seems intent on travelling. Finally, it is Michael who gives Theo the initiative to act and join the protesters outside the apartment where they've been conducting their taboo affair, by criticizing Theo's constant intellectual regurgitation of Maoist doctrine. He points out that Theo, and in fact, the French, only seem to approach revolution from a cerebral standpoint instead of engaging it viscerally. Unfortunately, Matthew, who so perceptively diagnosed Isabelle and Theo's dysfunctional infantilism in regard to their strange relationship, is unable to consummate the spark he lit within Theo, refusing to join him once the protests escalate into violence. It is this that points to Bertolucci's notion that Americans, so shining an example in its pursuit of change with its own protests during the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, women's liberation, etc., ultimately gave up too easily. Watergate, the consumption era of the eighties, the refusal to let go of antiquated dependence on foreign oil, all can arguably be said to stem from our inability to stand up to the establishment the way the French did. Thus, it is the French who continued on to a new age of idealism, while leaving us behind. This post was first published at Film for the Soul for its continuing series on the best movies of the 2000s, Counting Down the Zeroes, on 7/19/09.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

by Lissette Decos (500) Days of Summer is a rare cinematic experience. The kind where you watch someone suffer through something you have actually endured. But this time it’s funny. It’s about the sad and completely inconvenient truth that in a relationship someone inevitably falls harder. And sometimes, it’s only you. We’ve all been there... some more than others. But regardless of how many times you’ve had your heart stomped on, this time you are at a safe distance and you can laugh at the poor sap on the screen as he flutters about looking silly, misreading things and experiencing those extreme highs and lows that one-way love brings (and you know so well), all while the "one who has not fallen" sits calmly, and sips their tea, and does a crossword puzzle. Zooey Deschanel plays the quirky love interest, Summer (though it’s not a far stretch for Zooey who I believe is quirky without even trying. Probably quirky just sitting there. Taking the bus or blowing her nose. I love Zooey, and I hate that Katy Perry looks like her because Zooey is so unique and quirky). And Joseph Gordon-Levitt expertly plays Tom, who falls hard from the very first moment he sees her.

Ah, why was it so much fun to see this movie? Probably because it’s fun to see someone else get hurt. Someone else misread all the signs. Someone else get their heart crushed. And it was also fun to see it all happen to Tom. It’s always the girls who fall hard and who need to wake up from their unlived life, and falling in love with the "right" guy is what does the trick. She now has the courage to let her hair down and quit her thankless job. In this film all these rules are broken, and it’s the “wrong girl” who gets the guy to do all of these things... which is what makes this film funny, honest and refreshing. The structure of the film is also way cool as we shuffle through Tom’s 500 days of loving Summer in random order. Just like we often remember our own broken love stories. Oftentimes remembering the good days more than the bad. What bad? There were bad? No of course not. And just like the aforementioned poor sap on the screen, you don’t remember the bad ones and hence make it harder for yourself to get over the person.* *Are we all pre-wired for self-destruction? I say, definitely. Otherwise, why would eating healthy salads be so difficult (this would also explain my hourly craving for pain au chocolat)? Finally, we see the signs Tom missed, the ones we missed, nay, ignored. So we’d fall head over heels anyway regardless of the hints and subtle cues we get so early on. Like when a guy avoids your hand when you reach for it, or says things like “I don’t want a serious relationship;” “I’m still in love with my ex;” or “You remind me of my Aunt Edna.” Okay, they’re not so subtle. Right up front we are clearly and painfully aware where a relationship is headed but take the leap anyway. Regardless, I was in a much better mood when I left (500) Days of Summer, this film about a boy with a broken heart, than the last couple of romantic comedies I saw where everything works out in the end.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Trivia

So there's this wonderful site that you should check out, Dennis Cozzalio's Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and from time to time he comes up with these wonderful exams for us cinephiles. My answers to his most recent quiz are after the jump. 1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film. Paths of Glory (1957) 2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil. The increase in American films that sacrifice adult content to submit to the PG-13 rating in order to gain a wider audience, and therefore make more money. Sellouts. 3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)? Altman and Newman? Buffalo Bill Cody. 4) Best Film of 1949. The Third Man ... did you even need to ask? 5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)? Joseph Tura for the same reasons bill r. put down. 6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché? I don't think so. Just another tool in the toolbox. 7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw? La niña de la mochila azul (1979) 8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)? Charlie Chan. 9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970). The Great Escape (1963) is a drama, right? Right? 10) Favorite animal movie star. Flipper, because he practically lived in my backyard. 11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema. George Lucas' rehabilitation of Han Solo's mercenary image by having Greedo shoot first in his special edition of Star Wars: A New Hope (1997). This is further compounded by his decision to make it extremely difficult to find the original version released in the seventies. 12) Best Film of 1969. Easy Rider 13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray. Theatrically: Moon, Blu-ray: The Searchers (1956), DVD: Thief (1981) 14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film. The Long Goodbye (1973), with the first being a certain western. 15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print? Glenn Kenny's blog, Some Came Running 16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? I have no idea who either is, unfortunately. I'm inclined to go for Mao only because she's in Enter the Dragon (1973), but I don't remember her. 17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)? Definitely Olive Neal. 18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence. The Elephant Man (1980), which has that awesome dolly into the back of Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) just as he swishes around to face the camera... at the carnival. 19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date. Miami Vice (2006), because the night sky looks like it does in life, not like it does in other movies. 20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre. The Godfather Part II (1974) 21) Best Film of 1979. Apocalypse Now 22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies. Lumberton in Blue Velvet (1986) is pretty close... until Dennis Hopper shows up. 23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division). The Freudianly frightening alien from Alien (1979) 24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film. The Conversation (1974), and just to clarify... The Godfather Part II is my favorite. Coppola had a great year. 25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see. This one's a tie between Dune (1984) and Nightbreed (1990). But studio interference with each doomed them to failure. 26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film. The subway station gunfight and chase in Carlito's Way (1993), for making me forget that we see Carlito Brigante shot at the beginning of the film. 27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor. Sister Ruth's descent into madness in Black Narcissus (1947), because Jack Cardiff was a genius. 28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. The extended television version of Dune, which fills in some blanks, but doesn't really do it for me even more than the theatrical version doesn't really do it for me. Also gets extra points for the writing credit: Judas Booth. 29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)? Crash Davis, but only because I haven't seen The Bad News Bears (1976) 30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) 31) Best Film of 1999. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai 32) Favorite movie tag line. In space, no one can hear you scream. - Alien 33) Favorite B-movie western. Johnny Guitar (1954), and yes, despite it being rediscovered years later, it is a B-movie... a great one. 34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work. Larry McMurtry, but that might change depending on how good The Road turns out to be later this year. And I'm assuming we are leaving Shakespeare out of this. 35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)? Susan Vance for much the same reason as question number 5. 36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie. Bluesman Mighty Joe Young in Thief 37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping? Subversive satire in cities... purveyor of stereotyping in rural towns. 38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. I've met David Lynch and William Shatner, so those two are off my list now. That leaves Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly, Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, and Michael Mann.

Friday, July 24, 2009

DVD Review: Green Lantern: First Flight

Nothing new to say here. As many of you who have read my reviews before on these direct-to-video animation efforts by comics' Big Two, it basically boils down to this: DC good... Marvel bad. And while Marvel deserves a Most Improved award for their last release, Hulk vs., DC—by way of Warner Premiere—just keeps getting better and better. Their latest release, Green Lantern: First Flight—designed to prime the pump for the parent company's upcoming live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale)—streamlines the traditional superhero story to get right into the good stuff. Before the credits roll, we are treated to one of the quickest superhero origin stories ever put on film. Test pilot Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni) is summoned by the dying alien Abin Sur, an intergalactic cop known as a Green Lantern. They are so called because they wield a ring powered by an immense green-energy-emitting lantern located on the planet of Oa, at the center of the universe. After the credits, other Green Lanterns led by the veteran Sinestro (Victor Garber) show up looking for their fallen friend and take Jordan to Oa. There, a committee of blue-skinned elders known as the Guardians, skeptically agree to assign Jordan to Sinestro for training. In a Training Day-like scenario, Jordan soon learns that his mentor has grown bitter and resentful towards his bosses and is getting ready to stage a coup. Hilarity ensues. Well no, not really. One of the most rewarding qualities of DC's animated movies is their refusal to dumb the story down for kids. Whether it's The New Frontier's exploration of superheroes against a more realistic and turbulent fifties and sixties backdrop than the one comics provided, or Wonder Woman's examination of sexual politics, DC has more on their mind in these PG-13 releases than Marvel has ever had. First Flight may never attack any topics as substantial as the aforementioned, but it is still a nifty morality tale about the dilemmas one can face if they blindly follow authority. And what's the last time you saw the subversion of the establishment in a cop thriller? Green Lantern: First Flight is available Tuesday, July 28th on Blu-ray, Standard DVD, and Two-Disc DVD.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Criterion Blu-ray Sale at Amazon

I've never plugged any of my advertisers directly, but this was too good a deal not to. Those who are interested in stocking up on the fine Criterion Blu-rays available now (and even some you can pre-order) should hurry to Amazon where you can get most of them for as low as $19.99 (for a limited time, I'm sure). These normally retail in the neighborhood of $39.95. Roman Polanski's Repulsion (there's a link to it on my sidebar) is my top recommendation, but other movie include Chungking Express, Seventh Seal, Last Year at Marienbad, and many others. If you're a Blu-ray connoisseur, you owe it to yourself to stock up on these now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 40th Anniversary Movie Tribute: The Right Stuff (1983)

There is no movie that pushes my patriotic buttons as deftly as Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff. Based on the book by Tom Wolfe, the film compares pioneering test pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) to the seven Mercury program astronauts on the subject of what it truly takes to be a hero. As in Wolfe's book, a considerable amount of time is spent on the nonsensical experiments conducted on a group of pilots before being pared down to the famous seven candidates: Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), John Glenn (Ed Harris), Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid), Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom (Fred Ward), Donald K. "Deke" Slayton (Scott Paulin), Scott Carpenter (Charles Frank), and Wally Schirra (Lance Henriksen). The implication is that a certain amount of randomness came into play in the selection of these American idols, in contrast to Yeager's self-inspired pursuit of danger in the service of knowledge.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The 50 All-Time Greatest Films and Random Thoughts on the Sotomayor Hearing

I was recently invited by Iain Stott, of The One-Line Review, to participate in a poll of filmmakers, critics, historians and other cinema enthusiasts to determine the 50 greatest films of all time. Here is the master list that Stott spent so much time compiling. And here are my personal choices that I contributed. I hope to read some commentary generated regarding this list.
Random thoughts about the Sotomayor Hearing: Does anyone else find it amusing to see Stuart Smalley on the panel grilling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor? Also, in a recent exchange, liberal MSNBC host Chris Matthews—often the one known for movie references peppered throughout his reportage—asked conservative Pat Buchanan how he felt about the right-wing fringe's ideas that Sotomayor's interest in foreign court precedents would contribute to our nation's government being supplanted by a foreign one. To paraphrase Matthews, he was speaking about the "black helicopter" contingent. Buchanan responded with a chuckle, "Red Dawn!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

In The Hurt Locker, Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) has just taken command of Bravo unit, an EOD team of bomb techs in Iraq with about a month left on their rotation before they ship home. For his other squad members, Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty)—who just lost their previous team leader in a detonation gone awry—the remainder of their time is a ticking time bomb that will inevitably go off early if they don't tread carefully. For James, it is a countdown of a different sort, one which he wants to stretch to infinity in avoidance of his return home to a life and family he can hardly relate to anymore. Director Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) focuses on James throughout, delineating the character of a man who has been so efficiently trained by the military to thrive under the extreme pressure of defusing bombs; so inured to the consequences of the violence he dances with everyday, that he can no longer switch off the adrenaline addiction he's cultivated in order to survive. James can be sensitive, confiding in Sanborn that he isn't their to replace their venerated commander, only to be a team player; or fostering a friendship with a young Iraqi boy, "Beckham," who like him, seems to be thriving in the war zone (selling black market DVDs in his case). But every indulgence of sentiment he gives in to is immediately refuted by the circumstances of his harrowing surroundings. Bigelow returns to her exploration of men who live in an extended moment between life and death. But whereas in the past, she expressed the danger of such a balancing act, she now validates it by giving it its proper context. The character of Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) in Near Dark (1987) was forced to conform to walking this highwire by the gang of vampires who "turned" him. Point Break's Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) wallows in the existentialism of living in the moment, partaking in progressively more dangerous activities while pursued by Johnny "I am an FBI agent" Utah (Keanu Reeves)—who himself is tempted by the same liberating rush, but cautious not too look as deeply into that abyss. Even Lenny (Ralph Fiennes) is drawn into a dangerous cat-and-mouse by the taboo enticement of a rape-murder he relives on a virtual reality clip, in Strange Days (1995). Perhaps Bigelow's most extreme expression of the danger inherent of sustained exposure to the thrill preceding death can be found in Ron Silver's Eugene Hunt, in Blue Steel (1989). Eugene becomes addicted to the power he feels when brandishing a firearm he picks up after witnessing a rookie cop lose it during a shooting. The former stock broker finds that not even the thrill of the financial markets can compare, becoming twisted by his constant temptation to attain the orgasmic high he can now only get from firing the weapon. In The Hurt Locker, Bigelow sanctions the same quality she previously expressed misgivings about by allowing that war provides the proper outlet for man's usually reprehensible addiction to violent stimulation. James recognizes the societal disapproval he would normally face, and chooses to indulge in his pathology alone. Breaking procedure in the initial bomb threat he faces with his new team, he suits up, going in himself to defuse the IUD, rather than send in the remote control robot that protocol calls for. The moment doesn't inspire respect in his teammates as much as it does incredulity. Eldridge is fearful that he may be called upon to kill any sniper that tries to sideline the suited-up James (a failure he perceives to be the cause of his previous commander's death). Sanborn is disgusted at the recklessness of the act. Yet after a night of drinking, Sanborn feels the need to ask James if he thinks he has what it takes to suit up. You can hear the wistfulness in James' voice when he answers Sanborn, "Nah, you don't have it in you." Renner's performance as James is spectacular. Always cool in even the most nerve-racking situations, he is nonetheless able to evoke the vulnerability of the man at some surprising moments. When he is in his protective gear—facing a man forced to be a suicide bomber and apologizing for his inability to defuse the device he is locked into in the sufficient amount of time—he doesn't seem nearly as human as when he is back home in the States, faced with a monumental decision of which cereal to buy at the supermarket. At that moment, he seems lost, a slow fuse burning down ever shorter within him at the prospect that life with his family holds no victories for him to measure himself by. For men like James, Bigelow declares, only the battlefield can serve as home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm Back

Whew. What a week. My absence was not intentional, I assure you. First, my youngest son, was sick. Since I'm the one who stays home, I had to care for the poor little guy. As he got better, I caught what he had, and that laid me up for the remainder of the week. So now I'm back. In the coming days you should see some reviews for current films like Moon and The Kreutzer Sonata, a special drive-in double feature edition of Seventies Cinema Revival spotlighting The Last House on the Left (1972), Vanishing Point (1971), and some special stuff, like my contribution for the year 2003 at Counting Down the Zeroes/Film for the Soul, and the way overdue next installment of my Pasolini Retrospective, Mamma Roma (1962). Of course, there are other surprises. I just can't tell you about them yet because they haven't been finalized. Thanks for your continued support, and I hope to have something up later today or tomorrow morning. P.S. Can anyone guess what movie the screen capture is from? This one's easy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Movie Review: Away We Go

by Lissette Decos In Away We Go, John Krasinksi (The Office) and a restrained—and pregnant—Maya Rudolph(Saturday Night Live) play Burt and Verona, a very much in love couple who set off in search of a new home for their growing family. These two can wander freely because they are, like most thirtysomethings nowadays, unmarried and still don’t have a baby. And like most thirtysomethings nowadays they have too many options and find it difficult making decisions (this may just be me). So away they go with the flow to check out some random cities where they happen to know someone until they find the one that feels right. These characters have the kind of relationship you want. Ok, the kind I want. They know each other so well that when they are together it’s like they are in on their own secret. They are cool and calm and say smart things to each other and nothing phases them. Well, except having a baby. So they are stumped, and try to pick up what they can from the families they meet along the way. There’s angry/drunk families; adoptive families a la Brangelina; and the ultimate so-Earth-friendly-it’s-hazardous family whose mom is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal in an excellent performance. Much better than The Dark Knight. And Stranger than Fiction. Combined. Maya doesn’t do any of her usual SNL slapstick, and maybe that’s why it felt strange to hear her normal voice. It felt like she was forcing a foreign accent. Like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. This film is also a stretch—though a clearly comfortable one—for director Sam Mendes, who breaks his usual character with this sweet, light, and innocent comedy. At the heart of the loving couple in this film is another loving couple. The script was written by real-life literary “it” couple Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and Vendela Vida. These two are successful novelists who got the idea for this film when they were pregnant with their first child and entered the whole new world of crazy strangers giving you parenting advice. Which leads me to one of my many frustrations. Should talented people be allowed to collaborate let alone marry? Should talented people in one field be allowed to enter and conquer another? Should the laws of monopoly prevent these things? Ugh. But I will give them this, they have created the most intimate pregnancy test scene of all time. At least that I have seen. So far. In a movie. That moment is only plausible because this is one intimate couple. So close that I would dare say their search for a new home is somewhat in vain, because this couple is always at home when they are together (Yes, cheesy, so what? Back off, I need a date with John Krasinski!). And because you’ve read this far, I’ll give you my too analytical (and definitely wrong) theory about the film: it’s all about going back into the womb—let’s face it—our first home.

Karl Malden

This is a brief acknowledgement of Karl Malden's death on Wednesday since I am not as familiar with the man as I wish I was. Early in my life, he made a personal impact on me as Detective Lt. Mike Stone on TV's The Streets of San Francisco (1972-77), where he exhibited some wonderful chemistry with a young Michael Douglas. And of course he was even better known to my generation for his stint in the 80s as a pitchman for American Express ("Don't leave home without them"). But later, it was through my discovery of his wonderful supporting performances in films as varied as A Streetcar Named Desire(1951), On the Waterfront(1954), and Patton (1970), that he truly reached a measure of eminence. His ability to mix a working-class everyman quality with a certain level of dignity made him a character actor with a pliability that one rarely finds in today's performers. He died on July 1st at the age of 97. Recommended Films - A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Baby Doll, One-Eyed Jacks, Birdman of Alcatraz, Gypsy, How the West Was Won, The Cincinnati Kid, Billion Dollar Brain, Patton

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Movie Review: Public Enemies (2009)

[This is a contribution to Michael Mann Week currently running at Radiator Heaven from June 28th to July 4th.] Michael Mann's newest film, Public Enemies, confirms what many of us who follow him have long suspected about the director. He is deliberately focused on his larger body of work and how each of his films fits in with the others. Unlike many of cinema's modern auteurs, who seem to move from project to project based on whims or moods—and how deeply a script they happen on strikes their fancy—Mann seems intent on refining the same theme he has been addressing since Thief (1981), and perhaps even earlier. Public Enemies covers the last year of bank robber John Dillinger's life. Dillinger (Johnny Depp) represents an old world, Robin-Hood-style thief who adheres to a certain code. As he tells fellow crook Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi), he respects the public, for it is amongst them that he must hide. He tells one bank customer to put his money away as he robs his bank, declaring that he is there for the bank's, not his. But society is evolving, and Dillinger's sentimentality is becoming a liability in this new world. Psychopaths like Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) are giving bank robbers a bad name. And nobler thieves like Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) are falling to the new generation of law enforcement, G-men like Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Like Thief's Frank (James Caan), and Neil (Robert De Niro) in Heat (1995), Dillinger is a bandit who must weigh the importance of his personal relationships against the life of crime that defines him. As Mann has matured his perspective on this subject has evolved from rebellion to resignation. Frank's philosophy on personal attachments—never keep any that you can't walk away from should you be in imminent danger—is one that the young Mann believes in, and approaches rather admiringly at the conclusion of Thief, when Frank is able to robotically detach from his new wife, child, home, and businesses, to confront Leo (Robert Prosky), the gang boss who "holds the paper" on Frank's life. However, an older Mann seems to view things differently by the time he directs Heat. In that film, Neil tells the same story, "A guy told me one time, 'Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.'" But when it comes time to put it into practice, Neil finds that he can't just walk away from his obligations. At great personal risk to himself, he decides to go after someone who betrayed him, even when faced with the knowledge that he will most certainly walk right into the hands of his pursuer. Mann's thinking on this has changed even further in the 14 years since Heat's release. Their is a certain doom that hangs over Public Enemies, a sense of predestination that lingers over the character of Dillinger. Though Dante Spinotti shoots in some of the grittiest high-definition clarity yet for a Mann film, the film has a lyrical quality that adds to this—best demonstrated in the scene where Dillinger walks into the Chicago Police Department's Dillinger squad room. Here the room is hauntingly vacant—the cops all out in force looking for their quarry—save for the photographs of Dillinger's associates, all stamped DECEASED, lining the bulletin boards throughout the room. Red (Jason Clarke) warns Dillinger that their time is up, moments before he is shot. As he lays dying, he advises Dillinger to let him go, let his girlfriend Billie (Marion Cotillard) go, let everything go and run—like Frank and Neil were also advised to do in Mann's earlier films. Yet Dillinger doesn't even entertain the notion, demonstrating the more mature Mann's new outlook that breaking off personal ties is not nearly as easy as Frank made it look in Thief. In fact, to move so dispassionately through life may ultimately prove to be one's undoing, as implied through the character of Dillinger's opposite, Melvin Purvis. Like in Heat, where Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) served as both antagonist and doppelganger to Neil, Bale's Purvis mirrors Dillinger. They meet face to face but once in the film, where Dillinger assures Purvis with no small amount of swagger that he has become more inured to the loss of his comrades than Purvis will ever be to the loss of his officers in the line of duty. Bale's expression when he turns his back to Depp reveals that, for Purvis, this is quite true. His single-mindedness in the pursuit of Dillinger recalls that of Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) in pursuit of gang boss Ray Luca (Anthony Denison) in Mann's Crime Story (1986-88). But unlike with Torello or Hanna, Mann implies that Purvis—a strong and disciplined officer—is only human in his inability to walk away from the pain. The title card at the end of Public Enemies sadly reveals that Purvis died by his own hand in 1960. Michael Mann's Public Enemies is a summation of a filmography that has often explored the noble man's ability/inability to dissociate from his personal attachments when threatened. So it is perhaps fitting that Mann bookends the movie with closeups of two notable character actors that have contributed to his oeuvre, James Russo (Miami Vice, Crime Story) and Stephen Lang (Manhunter, Crime Story). Russo plays Walter Dietrich, a man that in many ways "created" Dillinger, tutoring him on how to attain success as a bank robber. And Lang portrays Charles Winstead, the old Texas lawman who killed Dillinger with a shot through the face. Both play honorable men, yet in different circumstances, whose time of sentiment, nobility, and personal codes of honor are quickly coming to an end. And Mann's Public Enemies asserts that our society is diminished by their extinction.