Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Risk Vs. Reward: Heat

Heat would represent the last time Mann would shoot in his old style of filmmaking. He would end up framing shots differently and not locking down his camera in the same way he did on previous films. One thing that is still apparent in Mann's work is his painterly visual style. The use of architecture, glass surfaces, color coding (he loves those blue filters) and introspective characters mimic the paintings of Edward Hopper. Both artists paint lonely characters against visual motifs. Even looking at the work of David Hockney, one is bound to draw connections on how Mann was influenced by the architecture and how it informed the "dead tech post modern houses" that overlook the city.

The most striking thing about Heat, moreso than the gun battle which set a new standard in bank heist scenes, is the way in which the ensemble cast go about in making choices that will either diminish them or move them further along a path of hopefulness. & that's the thing with the characters- so few of them have taken that route by the end of the film. Moral and causal relativity amongst characters was something Mann was interested in and has always been interested in. It's not so much good or bad but that grey area between that is defined by behavior. With a cast this large, each character is given nuance and depth that play into that factor. Right down to the getaway driver who was recently released from prison.

Neil's "30 seconds flat" philosophy that he discusses with Vincent in the now famous coffee shop scene between the two screen legends is something he abides by up until the very end.That one decision made ultimately determines Neil's fate. One could say everything led up to that moment which climaxes into another scene between both leads. But the ending is neither triumphant or cathartic for Hannah. Capturing the duality of the professional thief & the cop is something Mann has always excelled at more than any other director. Here he shows the full potential of his abilities in that respect.

People claim this to be Mann's opus. His defining work. While it's not my favorite of his, it is the first of his works I would see and a constant reminder of why I love his aesthetic. A+

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