erik lundegaard

Mann, Cruise and the Devil in the Details

If Micheal Mann's movies feel denser, heavier than most films it's because they are. They have the weight of history on them, the weight of detail. Here's Mann, from the director's commentary of “Collateral,” talking up Tom Cruise. I'd copied it down years ago for a possible “In Defense of Tom Cruise” article that never happened, but it works here, on the day “Public Enemies” opens. I've been excited about this film for a while, writing about it here and here and here. In an odd coincidence, three years ago this month, I wrote about both Mann and Depp for Mann was my choice for subject, Depp was my editor's, but both were fun to write about.

In the meantime, here's Mann on Cruise and on why details matter:

“The real sign of how integrated Tom was to become with the skills that Vincent, in fact, would have, is the expression on Vincent’s face after he shoots these guys and when he’s holstering his gun. He’s not thinking about holstering the gun. He can do that in his sleep. Immediately after he fires that last round his attention gets focused on Wilshire Boulevard down at the end of the alley. Is anybody coming at us from there? Did anybody hear these gunshots? What’s Max doing? He immediately switches over to the next task and that’s absolutely perfect craft. And it’s exactly what somebody who had a lot of trigger time, who had been in the kinds of conflicts we imagined Vincent had been in, that’s exactly what he’d be doing. He wouldn’t be worrying about how he holsters his gun.

“So that is a beautiful little movement and it’s a testament to the commitment of Tom to the work of turning himself into Vincent, and having deeper and deeper understanding as well as acquiring all the physical skills. There’s no cutting in it, and Tom draws and fires five rounds in 1.4 seconds.”

“Tom and I did a lot of work in trying to understand where this guy came from. If he was in a foster home, if he had an institutionalized childhood. He was back in the public school system at age 11, that would have been sometime in the ‘70s. He would have been dressed very awkwardly, he would have probably been ostracized cause he looked odd, and the kind of brutality, you know, [of] pre-teens and early adolescents. We postulated an alcoholic abusive father who was culturally very progressive. He was probably part of Ed Sadlowski’s steel-workers local in Gary. He was a Vietnam Veteran. He had friends who were African American on the south side of Chicago. The Checkerboard Lounge is 30 minutes away at the Calumet Skyway, so the father probably, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, was an aficionado of jazz. There was a great jazzy scene on the south side of Chicago. Modern Jazz Quartet. But it’s almost as if the father blamed the son, i.e., Vincent, for what happened to the mother. And the father drank. And as Gary was being reduced—you know, it looked like Dresden at the end of the second World War—the father never tutored the boy in jazz but the boy extolled the virtue of knowing about jazz because he heard his father talking about jazz—not to him but to other people—and that’s why he knew about jazz."

“Now this is the truth but Vincent doesn’t play it for truth. And, again, this is a moment where I believe Tom absolutely hits a very difficult thing to nail, which is that Vincent is brilliant and he knows how easily shocked is petit bourgeois Max, and he says things to absolutely horrify and appall Max.”

“We all bring our whole history with us into any moment of the present.”

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Posted at 08:05 AM on Wed. Jul 01, 2009 in category Movies  


Mister B wrote:

Watching this movie on DVD a few years ago, it also seemed to me (both personality-wise and visually) that Vincent was monochromatic in a world of many colors.
Comment posted on Wed. Jul 01, 2009 at 09:12 AM

Uncle Vinny wrote:

Nice observation, Mister B! Makes me want to rewatch it. I want to see the reholstering again now, too.

I'm so excited about Public Enemies that I can hardly type.
Comment posted on Wed. Jul 01, 2009 at 09:24 AM
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