Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Green Mill Fireworks: Thief

The debut film of an auteur should act as a blueprint for what is ahead. Small brushtrokes that are discovered throughout the artist's later work. In the case of Mann, Thief was that blueprint. The director's films (the majority of them anyway) always seem preoccupied with the concept of work. Men who practice their craft and live a routine. Jimmy Caan's performance as Frank embodies this in his yearnings for a better life. Something that haunts the individualists of Mann's world. They have no need for contractions.

Mann chose to set Thief to a propulsive electronic score by Tangerine Dream. Another thing that is his forte: knowing how well music adds depths to scenes. To some, the synth-driven score may come off as dust on a stylistic heist film. I look at it as a coat of polish. Setting music over the wet streets with the neon reflections became a trademark. Particularly in some of his static compositions during the 80's. It links itself to the In the Air Tonight montage in Miami Vice. What's even more present than any other film of his is the extended dialogue exchanges. In particular, the one at the cafe between Caan & Tuesday Weld. Add in some great Peckinpah-like slow motion and you got Mann's early style.

Mann would trim these stylistic flourishes that he captured in this film. It's still an very impressive debut that lies in the shadow of his more operatic works. Remember, Frank is the mold from which characters like Neil McAuley were made. A

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