Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: A Must Read on Miami Vice (2006)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Must Read on Miami Vice (2006)

by Tony Dayoub

I don't generally do this, but Jake's humble retraction on Miami Vice over at Not Just Movies is so well expressed that I'm moved to climb to the highest hilltops to recommend everyone go read it.

Here's one particularly potent passage:
The first immediately apparent shift in aesthetic from the show's aesthetic sheen is Mann's willingness to paint Miami as a bit of a carelessly painted-over dump. In his documentary traversing the United States, British author/comedian/actor/renaissance man Stephen Fry found much to love about our country, save for an uproariously brief tour through Miami, which Fry cut short because he so detested it: "It has that feeling of being designed as a holiday paradise," he says of the beach area, "and, indeed, all the dreary things that go with the word 'paradise' -- like palm trees and huge cut-out parrots -- that promise so much and deliver so staggeringly little." Of the city itself, he drawls, "Surely it must have a heart and a soul and a meaning and a kind of delightful center or something, but I've yet to find it."

Mann seems to agree with this assessment of the two distinctly different yet wholly off-putting cityscapes of the Miami-Dade area: the director wrenches the dirty aesthetic of Collateral's night-time hell into the light, an effect analogous to picking up a date in a crowded, dark nightclub and bringing him or her into broad daylight to see the horrible truth of the person you thought was so slick under a blacklight and now realize that you were just looking at a photo negative. His color palette is dominated by a jaundiced yellow; the phrase "this city is dying" typically belongs in the realm of comic books, but by applying it through the visuals Mann subtly communicates the disease spreading through Miami, all the time using this color scheme to undermine the hollow allure of the city.
Impressive take on a movie which so many have misunderstood, and worth checking out by all of my readers. Let Jake know what you think in the comments.

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