ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON CASTLECO-OP.COM November 28th 2010 Machismo after ‘new Hollywood’
To contextualise the varying incarnations of US masculinity from the end of ‘new Hollywood’ to the Reagan-Era conservatism of the ‘80s, Jeffords notes that:
First Blood  and Rambo: First Blood, Part II  set the poles for the alteration in the image of the veteran that transpired in recent years, an alteration in which the image of the victimised soldier/veteran/American male has been regenerated into an image of strength and revived masculinity.[i]
War Veterans before the Vietnam conflict were celebrated. When the veterans (who embodied everything the United States began to dislike about its image of the Vietnam War returned home in the mid-‘70s they became targets for public outrage and vocal opposition to the United States’ actions in Vietnam. However, after 1980, Remasculinization retrieves the Vietnam veteran “from his marginalised position and places him at the ‘heart of America.’”[ii]
Jeffords develops her argument in the Remasculinization of America (1989) by examining dominant literature and cultural texts of the 1980s which used the Vietnam War as subject matter specifically or implicitly, until Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war Full Metal Jacket (1987). Jeffords believed that intention and/or effect of masculine cultural production during the period was to reaffirm a damaged masculinity – and by extension the national psyche – after the US failure of Vietnam. She hypothesises that “by reaffirming masculinity and thereby the relations of dominance it embodies, other relations of dominance are reinforced as well and the system of patriarchy as a whole is supported.”[iii] Mann’s men function within a system of patriarchy but subvert the ‘macho’ archetype because the effects of Vietnam and Watergate continue to resound in the conduct of the films’ protagonists, whom all question their existence, the purpose of their profession and how they perceive themselves.
The remasculinization phenomena in the canon of Vietnam ‘revenge’[iv] films of the period was to be what Jeffords describes as “a promise to restore the manhood lost in Vietnam.”[v] Even so, Jeffords seems to miss the distinction between the newer, inherently self-reflective incarnation of masculinity as staged in the films around the end of the war and the reactionary masculinity present in the men of the 1980s Vietnam revenge films. For Jeffords, all masculine portrayal in the wake of the Vietnam War is fundamentally reactionary[vi]. Describing the tendency of reactionary national and cultural tropes to re-assert themselves through the rejection of modernity’s various elementary crises, Theodor Adorno writes:
“From a socio-psychological point of view, we may infer that the damaged collective narcissism is only lying in wait to be restored and seizes upon everything which allows consciousness to reconcile the past with these narcissistic desires – and that it also, wherever possible, re-models reality in such a way that the damage appears never to have happened.”[vii]
The mass masculine psyche of the US has yearned for a method to fully come to grips with the Vietnam War and Watergate. US masculinity remodels itself through remasculinization, and the Vietnam revenge films and the impervious bodies like Rambo to attempt to kill the memory of failed masculinity therefore the moral and existential slate is wiped clean.
The two most important filmmakers to consider in contextualising Mann’s portrayals of masculinity, both thematically and historically, are Scorsese and Coppola. The films produced by these two directors during the 1970s period featured foregrounded portrayals of masculinity: films such as Mean Streets,The Conversation, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now and Raging Bull. Mann’s perpetual portrayal of masculinity in crisis adheres to a bleak and unresolved narrative pattern concluding his films; his protagonists arrive at the conclusion of their journey without any clearer moral or existential resolution.
Mean Streets is the quintessential Scorsese film. It documents the Italian-American life of Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in New York City. Charlie is experiencing an existential crisis. This occurs because of the conflict between his preordained, familial, criminal destiny and breaking away from expectation and escaping New York with his lover whom his family disapproves of. Taxi Driver, on the other hand, is a journey into the psychosis of the main character, a Vietnam Veteran. In all scenes in the film except for one, Scorsese shows us the world though Travis Bickle’s psychotic and unreliable point of view. Jonathan Rosenbaum writes that Paul Schrader (the writer of Taxi Driver) viewed “the script as an attempt to take the European existential hero…and put him in an American context.”[viii] Taxi Driver also encapsulates, with great irony, the patriotism central to the Bickle character and his affinity for violence. The film’s ending is ambiguous about the meaning of Bickle’s actions when he kills Sport (Harvey Keitel), then receives praise from Iris’ (Jody Foster) parents, and through the media’s misinterpretation of events is categorised as a hero.
The other key touchstone to consider in establishing the ‘new Hollywood’ masculine archetype is another Scorsese, Schrader and de Niro collaboration,Raging Bull (1980). Mann has observed that when viewing the film the viewer is “sucked into the failing and besotted life of La Motta and his need for and pursuit of redemption.”[ix] Told through a characteristic Scorsese would-be redemptive structure, the most interesting, and specifically ‘new Hollywood’ phenomenon, is that Jake La Motta (de Niro) is a kind of extreme limit-point of a ‘new Hollywood’ man who cannot relate to women. British film scholar Robin Wood sees this as key to the character’s alienation, suggesting “Jake’s exclusion from a lived reality is dramatised particularly in his relationship to women, characterised by an inability to respond to them as people.”[x] This is presented as a clear rejection of domesticity (in Scorsese’s world of traditional gender-roles, clearly associated with women), which is an important characteristic of the ‘remasculinization’ after Vietnam that is catalogued by Jeffords’ work. La Motta’s paranoia and lack of trust is the catalyst for him to lose all that had previously been important to him: his family and his professional status. La Motta’s profession is the defining feature of his good life. His weight gain literally represents the gradual separation from how we wished he could be conceived.Raging Bull is all about La Motta’s identity and how his profession defined him. Mann similarly formulates characters whose professional identity is their defining feature and characters that fight against their own innate nature organised by their professional codes, but La Motta is more indicative of a reactionary relationship with women; especially when they don’t adhere to a model of domestic obedience. Instead of violent re-enforcement of the domestic boundaries to adhere with their profession, Mann’s men often realise that their professional codes restrict them from that sphere of interaction and remain alone.
Coppola’s other most quintessential ‘new Hollywood’ representation of masculinity is Willard (Martin Sheen) from Apocalypse Now (1979). Although Willard is a soldier he’s a veritable blank canvas for the audience as he traverses the landscape of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the chaotic US military presence. Coppola’s clean-cut, laconic and often-aloof marine is imbued with an undercurrent of despair and violence. Willard is the perpetual participant-observer who travels up the river, through the apocalyptic wreckage of US-occupied South Vietnam.[xi] The political and moral contradiction that plays out – between the more ‘liberal’, quasi-anti-war qualities articulated in his observations at the beginnings of the film and Willard’s enunciation of an extreme right-wing capital punishment ideology by the end – is a trademark of ‘new Hollywood’. His insanity resulting from the conflict, illustrated by his drunken breakdown at the beginning of the film, is Coppola’s impression of the irreversible damage that the purposeless, imperialist Vietnam War did to the US image of masculinity, which previously had been associated with “fighting and winning ‘good wars”, a general recognition of Yankee noble intentions in spreading the gospel of freedom and democracy around the world.”[xii] Mann continues to explore the US masculinity’s ‘problem’ throughout his work by exploring how a man’s defining quality is professionalism: an absolute, desperate commitment to their vocational identity.
In Heat, Hanna (Pacino) and Neil (de Niro) are essentially fractured reflections of each other. Like Willard and Kurtz, Hanna and Neil show the continuity of not only identity but moral and existential crises. This fracture highlights what film scholar Christopher Sharrett sees as “Mann’s nostalgic sense of eclipse of the male subject [which] is mitigated largely by his questioning of the demarcation of Self and Other [.]” [xiii] In most mainstream US cinema, masculinity after the eclipse of ‘new Hollywood’ reverts to a classical Hollywood of binaries played out through a ‘blockbuster’ form. Rather than partaking of his return to binary identity and moral coding, Mann’s films continually hope to break down the barriers of ‘Self and the Other’[xiv], and especially in the case of Heat (1995) he explores not only the self/other opposition of the characters but also of the men portraying those characters.
The Performance of Masculinity
Mann’s casting in Heat allows for Pacino and de Niro’s portrayals to incorporate the same, morally ambivalent and politically ambiguous archetypes formulated during the 1970s period, because the actors’ previous work permeates and influences their portrayals – without being explicit in either execution or effect, in their multi-levelled performance. The role-histories of these actors epitomise ‘new Hollywood’ as they were the pioneers of a new generation of actors that were cast because of their lack of established studio/role history.
The work of Lesley Stern and George Kouvaros has provided a key framing of cinematic performance theory as a method to interpret screen performance, with particular attention paid to filmic portrayals of masculinity. What is interesting about deconstructing the portrayal of masculinity through the guise of performance theory is that an actor, simultaneously and unconsciously, can add complex layers of affect and meaning to their on-screen ‘characters’ as performed, by invoking previous characters he or she has played, and by the given actor’s intertextual – on-screen, through multiple film appearances, and off-screen – persona. Crucial here is the ‘gestural’ sphere of performance theory, concerning embodied movement that transcends the ‘role’ or character. The method of performance theory is to develop a means of capturing the quality of the performance and explicate it in the writing in a way that is comparable to the affect of the performance. Stern and Kouvaros distinguish that “in terms of film this is not to argue for a fictionalisation and misrepresentation, but for a way of evoking rather than effacing fictional change.”[xv] The purpose of this critical mode is to be able to describe and analyse a scene for a reader while being able to elicit a similar feeling that the scene evokes when one is watching it. Heat was advertised (prior to its release) as the film to finally feature an on-screen interaction between two of Hollywood’s prominent acting forces both of whom had emerged out of the ‘new Hollywood’ period. ‘New Hollywood’ filmmakers cast their films from an emerging group of actors (including Pacino and de Niro) to free their films from the ‘baggage’ of more established stars. However, years later these actors’ own ‘baggage’ is crucial to the intertextual performance that Stern and Kouvaros catalogue. This ‘baggage’ is the viewer’s recognition of a particular persona, acting style or inescapable genre association that an actor collects over their body of work. For example, John Wayne is the perpetual frontier ‘cowboy’ no matter the film or the role. Mann’s classical narrative style is conducive to casting already established actors, and casting these two actors could be seen in two ways. One as a way for Mann to knowingly bring the genre, (but more importantly), the ‘new Hollywood’ ‘baggage’ of these established actors informs the characters; and two, to explicitly connect the film to ‘new Hollywood’ by casting the actors that have come to define it. Mann’s characterisations of self and other are implicit in the performances of Pacino and de Niro through the comparison of their on screen role-history, similar genre trajectory and also because of their similar method-acting preparation styles. To illustrate this parallel, I will focus on Hanna/Pacino and Neil/de Niro’s two main confrontations in the film – the coffee shop conversation and the airport confrontation – using Stern & Kouvaros’ performance theory. The coffee shop conversation focuses on how the persona of the actors and their previous performances implicitly amplify the characters, and the runway scene illustrates a more specific study on the repercussions of the collapse of the self/other distinction and thereby masculine identity with its over-investment in professionalism.
‘Whatdaya say I buy you a cup-a-coffee?’[xvi]
The entire film plays to the viewer’s anticipation of a confrontation between de Niro and Pacino.[xvii] Pacino/Hanna pulls over de Niro/Neil and invites him for a cup of coffee. The staging of this confrontation is neutral; each man sizes the other up. Mann frames each actor in a mid-range shot focusing on their torsoes and faces; and despite their participation in the scene, both actors’ faces still do not appear in the same frame. Even before they start speaking there is an omniscient foreboding, a calm before a storm. They begin. Pacino/Hanna probes for de Niro/Neil’s motivation by querying his prison time, and as Neil acknowledges his time in jail he in turn queries the line of questioning. There is never physical altercation, but there is a verbal sparring. Each statement is parried and countered. It feels like the physical presences of Pacino/Hanna and de Niro/Neil are battling, and neither man is getting the upper hand. Pacino/Hanna probes de Niro/Neil with a group of questions intended to elicit a reaction, in order to gain greater understanding of his adversary:
NEIL: You see me doing thrill-seeker liquor store holdups with a “Born to Lose” tattoo on my chest?
De Niro/Neil stares, querying Pacino/Hanna with a stoic distain for the accusation of a lack of professionalism, his eyes instinctively looking to his right while searching for his words and directly back to centre. His delivery is rhythmic, sharp and concise. Pacino/Hanna answers in his husky drawl.
HANNA: No, I do not.
He nods, affirming his professional manner. De Niro/Neil would have been surprised if Pacino/Hanna had disrespected him so much as to associate him with a lack of professionalism.
NEIL: I am never going back.
HANNA: Then don’t take down scores.
Pacino/Hanna glances to his left, and back to centre, staring into de Niro/Neil’s eyes. His lips purse at the end of his statement and his body language bespeaks a desperate finality that already knows the answer that de Niro/Neil is formulating.
NEIL: I do what I do best. I take scores. You do what you do best; try to stop guys like me.
With a much more concise glance to his left and back to centre, looking Vincent in the eyes, de Niro/Neil delivers the above respectful acknowledgement. Throughout his delivery his words are enunciated with a barely noticeable grin, but at its conclusion his resolute stare returns. This professionalism is a defining feature of a Mann’s man, sacrificing the normality of a domestic or familial existence for the elevated experience of the profession. The next line of questioning is the most laden with the heavy history of ‘new Hollywood,’ and in particular the history of these actors on screen personae.[xviii]
HANNA: So you never wanted a regular type life huh?
Pacino/Hanna glances left and back to centre, adjusting his posture to give a more relaxed delivery. De Niro/Neil delivers the next statement with cynicism, but primarily because it is outside of any conception of his life.
NEIL: What the fuck is that, barbecues and ballgames?
De Niro/Neil shakes his head with disdain, and searches for the most ready generic domestic stereotype that he can identify.
Pacino/Hanna pauses to respond, never taking his eyes from de Niro/Neil, his blank but intent expression subverted by the uncontrollable grin that graces his lips, and he delivers the answer with an almost comic air.
NEIL: That regular type life, that your life?
De Niro/Neil returns the next question with an amused and knowledgeable expression. The cadence of this question follows his immediate and succinct responses to begin with, but the last part of the question slows down and trails into inaudibility.
HANNA: My life no, my life… No my life’s a disaster zone.
Pacino/Hanna stutters his statement and leans toward de Niro/Neil as if to finally be honest. Hanna is knowingly inept in his consideration of the domestic sphere and he portrays a history of regret about essential addiction to his profession. The delivery of the next part of his statement lowers in volume slightly, as if to secretly confide in de Niro/Neil.
HANNA: I got a stepdaughter’s so fucked up because her real father’s this large type asshole. I got a wife, we’re passing each other on the downslope of a marriage, my third.
Pacino/Hanna leans back, he’s reserved and accepting of his following confession.
HANNA: Because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block; that’s my life.
Pacino/Hanna’s regret is exhibited as he punctuates his declaration with a wounded look aimed directly into Neil’s eyes and his final and ironic smile. De Niro/Neil acknowledges with a conciliatory nod and leans forward slightly and gesturing his head to the left he begins to pass on advice on how to cope with a life devoted to professionalism.
NEIL: 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. Now if you’re on me and you gotta move when I move, how do
you expect to keep a …
De Niro/Neil searches for the word, glancing to his left and shaking his head as an internal query. Domesticity is so absent from his life’s conception that it does not readily flow from his lexicon.
NEIL: a marriage?
HANNA: That’s an interesting point. What are you, a monk?
This query illustrates the difference between the two characters. Neil is a sociopath, who will revert to complete narcissism if there is a potential that his life is threatened or if it is impossible for him to escape a potential imprisonment.
NEIL: I have a woman.
HANNA: What do you tell her?
NEIL: I tell her I’m a salesman.
De Niro/Neil affirms his connection to the world. He is quick to say that he has a woman; but the smile that punctuates his occupational quip emphasises that he cannot connect both spheres of his existence.
HANNA: So then if you spot me coming ‘round that corner…
Pacino/Hanna’s dreamy delivery of the statement (while he’s scanning the periphery) is punctuated by suddenly facing de Niro/Neil. This descriptive gesture echoes the statement. He’s not expecting de Niro/Neil to see him coming which affirms the character’s manic unpredictability and serves to highlight the contrasting performing styles of the actors. He stares and then just as quickly as he pauses, he relaxes and continues his query;
HANNA: …You just gonna walk out on this woman? Not say goodbye?
NEIL: That’s the discipline.
De Niro/Neil is focused. He advocates his professional method, both as the character but by definition the actor.
HANNA: That’s pretty vacant, no?
Pacino/Hanna shows his care and humanity, once again showing the contrast between the two men. Although Pacino/Hanna professes his ineptitude in the domestic sphere, he holds onto his empathy and is mournful of his failures in the sphere of personal relationships. Beneath the bravado of the persona is a character whose guilt even reflects in his dream confession later in this conversation.
NEIL: Yeah, it is what it is. It’s that or we both better go do somethin’ else, pal.
HANNA: I don’t know how to do anything else.
NEIL: …neither do I.
HANNA: And I don’t much want to either.
NEIL: Neither do I.
Each man affirms this agreement with an almost playful irreverence. There is mutuality in their condition. Rayner states that “professional expertise [is]…the dominant and defining element of character” in Mann’s Cinema.[xix] Across all characters exhibit a chilling lack beneath or beyond their professional identity. As Rayner puts it the “professional and perfectionist criminality is explored and venerated in Mann’s work as a valid career choice, mutually exclusive with family life.”[xx] I would agree with Rayner, that Mann’s portrayal of these men is definitely not conducive to the familial or the domestic; however, it is evoked as a necessary and present dimension that these characters problematically inhabit. They can neglect their domestic desires because their profession becomes the ‘elevated experience’[xxi] of their lives and all other responsibility becomes secondary. If the are not flawless professionals it seems to inhibit their very existence.
Rayner suggests that in Mann’s films, “the realisation of personal (masculine) identity is accomplished through vocational activity; and this refinement of action (in the protagonists’ evaluation) … discounts moral and legal distinctions [.]”[xxii] In this light, Mann’s men subjugate all societal distinctions of what is right and wrong when the commitment of perfection to undertaking your vocation is insured.
The viewer cannot help but to contrast Pacino and de Niro’s previous on screen incarnations because of their similar method in acting style and subconscious referencing of their historic ‘baggage’. These actors were the onscreen personification of the ‘new Hollywood’ prolific filmmaking practice. The performative personae evoke the continuing crisis of American masculinity unyieldingly driven by profession, a process continually manifested in Mann’s work, here through referencing already troubled male identities and performance derived from ‘new Hollywood’ figures.
Hanna approaches the electrical station on the outskirts of the airport runway. Having a shotgun at the beginning of the chase gave him a tactical advantage in his pursuit. Neil has drawn him to the electrical station for a hastily planned ambush. Both men confirmed at the end of their coffee house conversation that despite their civility neither one would hesitate in killing the other if they were forced into this confrontation. Neil is shaken: his professional instinct for closure with Waingro (Kevin Gage) forced him into the decision to abandon Eady (Amy Brenneman), his eyes are wild and his demeanour is unsettled. Neil assesses the electrical station for the most advantageous position. Hanna stalks the station with an intense focus concentrating on any possible anomaly to reveal Neil. Neil, still uneasy, and clearly disadvantaged, hugs the walls of one of the station’s buildings, and while briefly glancing at the shadow of his opposite man in amongst another part of the electrical station, a landing plane activates the guiding lights on a nearby runway, quickly illuminating the dimly lit station. Neil’s action is telling of his strategy. He positions himself on the side of the building that will disguise his position. Hanna unconsciously steps into the open. Two electrical facilities are in Hanna’s line of sight. Neil may be behind either of the outcroppings; walking toward them, Hanna is careful to scan both areas. Hanna’s focus is so intent that he looks as though his awareness is outside of his body. Neil regains his professional focus behind cover as he realises that his opportunity has arrived. A second plane begins to land while Hanna is in the open. Lights fully illuminate the runway. The light is blinding, Hanna lowers his eyes to the ground, his focus seemingly distant. Neil steps out from behind his cover confident that he has successfully ambushed Hanna. Hanna sees the shadow of his man dividing the streams of light. Reflexively, Hanna fires toward the shadow. Neil is hit and instantly expresses disbelief. Hanna enhances his focus firing three more times at his acquired target. Neil falls back, mortally wounded, onto a grouping of power boxes. Hanna stares at his target, his intense gaze transforming into a regretful acknowledgement. He walks through the grass to Neil whose painful delirium has made him vulnerable. Despair is etched upon the face of Hanna as he arrives at Neil’s position. Neil gathers his strength to reiterate his claim made in the coffee shop.
NEIL: …I told you I was never goin’ back.
There is a melancholic sincerity illustrating the importance of his last words, not only for his final rebellion, but also for the resonance that the statement has with Hanna.
Neil gently raises his hand and gestures for Hanna to hold his hand. Once Hanna grips Neil’s hand, the gravitas of the situation is evident. Hanna’s face is steeped in regret. What does Hanna have left? He gave up his domestic life with Justine (Diane Venora) because he had finally accepted the incongruity of his domestic and professional life. His most admirable and professional adversary is vanquished. He is alone. Hanna’s emphatic gaze illustrates that although he has survived this confrontation he cannot easily resolve how he is meant to feel about it. He accomplished the seemingly impossible capture of Neil and now is forced to reflect upon every part of his existence. Rayner aptly concludes that Mann’s work within the crime genre stands at the “apologia for the classical gangster film and the apotheosis of the heist movie, in its articulation of insoluble social and moral ambiguities.”[xxiii] Neil slips away into death and Hanna continues to grip his dead hand. As the film concludes, Hanna’s gaze posits questions: Is this the end of his existence in his profession? Is it the apex of his professional experience? All we know is that like Neil, Hanna can never go back, which is typical of ‘new Hollywood’ masculine representation.
The coffee-shop and runway scenes are both representative of the Mannian archetypal masculinity and the self/other parallel in its most accentuated and realised form. Performance theory helps to see that the portrayals are coded with the ‘new Hollywood’ ideas thereby enhancing Mann’s thematic preoccupations with a ‘70s man but as restaged and interrogated years later. During the coffee-shop conversation, Pacino/Hanna and de Niro/Neil both admit to the lack of normalcy that their characters and career paths illustrate. Their conversation is understanding and representative that these emphatic ‘new Hollywood’ men realise the futility of their attempts to claim the domestic sphere in their lives. Their final confrontation is inevitable and necessarily cathartic for both men. They must finally measure their professional wits against their adversary to affirm their own professional dictum. Why this is resolutely different from the self/other interaction and confrontation of Apocalypse Now is that Willard must become Kurtz to kill him. Hanna doesn’t kill Neil to become him; it is a necessary truth for Hanna to kill Neil because of their profession. What is distinct about how Mann portrays their confrontation is the air of despair that follows its conclusion. Hanna knows that the bond they share is unique; their main similarities are their shared professional codes; and although Neil’s isolation and absence from human interaction is intentional where Hanna tries (in vain) to incorporate the domestic sphere into his life and both realise that they are incapable of achieving this ideal. Their divergence is their ability to empathise. The crisis of identity is illustrated as Hannah experiences the loss of the person that he was most alike, and the moral conundrum is that all that separates him from Neil is the empathy for normality and domesticity that he cannot achieve.
Mann’s men in Heat are re-staged ‘new Hollywood’ men, and their portrayals are loaded with the history of not only their previous roles but with the thematic, existential musings of and on masculinity associated with the period. Mann’s perennially ‘70s men reject the cause of reactionary masculinity, which seeks revenge for Vietnam by reaffirming a reconstituted and newly confident machismo, and instead use the framework of professionalism to muse afresh on the crisis of identity and morality still facing US masculinity.
Mann’s purposive evolution away from the identifiable features of the ‘new Hollywood’ begins with Ali(2001). Ali was an important and cathartic experience for Mann’s body of work as the one film in which he directly portrays on screen the historical period, which had heavily influenced the cultural, thematic and aesthetic tenets of his cinema, but also to see how the figure of Muhammad Ali can be seen as the apex of the Mannian professional. It is also important to chart the evolution of the self/other dynamic as seen in Collateral (2004) and how this portrayal works to deconstruct reactionary masculinity, particularly how Mann is able again to again harness the performing personae of his actors to enrich the representations of masculinity with multiple intertextual layers.
Finally I’ll discuss Mann’s modernised Miami Vice (2006). This modern retelling of the 1980s television series he produced is his most formally dynamic film to date. The formal exuberance lends to a more explicit representation of his male characters’ affinity for the sublime – often a subdued but important presence in Mann’s work. In his seminal account of the sublime, Immanuel Kant writes: “The sublime may be described in this way: It is an object (of nature) the representation of which determines the mind to regard the elevation of nature beyond our reach as equivalent to a presentation of ideas.” [xxiv] An element of the (male) professionalism represented throughout Mann’s criminal protagonists is a fantasy ideal located ‘somewhere else’ that is the unattainable yet the ultimate purpose or motivation for their work. This fractal of what has been prevalent throughout Mann’s masculine portrayals is most clearly demonstrated in Miami Vice.
To be concluded in:
What Makes a Mann?: Part 3 – Mann’s Style: Ali, Collateral & Miami Vice
[i] Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War, 130.
[ii] Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War, 125.
[iii] Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War, XIII.
[iv] I’d like to qualify the use of ‘Revenge’ here to categorise that this group of films were not always literally revenge films but their reactionary masculinity became a means to avenge the assumed interference in the Vietnam conflict that cost the United States and U.S ITS ‘masculinity’.
[v] Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War, 143.
[vi] Her most interesting analysis is a ‘reactionary masculine’ reading of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket (1987). For Jeffords the primary force of this film is to affirm masculinity and denounce its enemy, femininity (The lone sniper the US Army unit are up against turns out to be a young Woman). One can’t help but argue with Jeffords’ apparent disavowal of the blatant and intentional deconstruction of the masculine, and especially the perverse technological construction of the American marine. Kubrick uses the drill Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Emory) on Parris Island to not only berate the marine recruits into sociopathic obedience, but, in effect, he berates the audiences into humoured immunity of the violence of the recruitment process and mechanisation of troops.
[vii] Adorno (1963), ‘Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit’, p. 136,
quoted in [G]ertrud Koch, ‘Torments of the Flesh, Coldness of the Spirit: Jewish Figures in the Films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’, New German Critique, No. 38 (Spring – Summer, 1986), pp. 28-38 Thanks to Hamish Ford for pointing me to this quote.
[viii] Jonathan Rosenbaum, Essential Cinema: on the Necessity of Film Canons, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2004) 301.
[ix] Coincidentally, Mann in 20002 listed Raging Bull (1980) as one of his top ten films of all time. [Michael Mann, Sight and Sound – Directors Top 10 Poll 2002,http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/topten/poll/voter.php?forename=Michael&surname=Mann]
[x] Robin Wood, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan – – and beyond, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005) 225
[xi] As Willard wanders up the river there is a shift in Willard between quietly acknowledging the horrors of war, to a growing appreciation for Kurtz’s (Marlon Brando) methods. His final confrontation with Kurtz and cathartic assumption of Kurtz persona through sacrificial killing completes his mission but by becoming Kurtz, Willard becomes apocalyptically pro-war. The final destruction of Kurtz’s camp completes Willard’s mission, and is emblematic of destruction of self.
[xiii] Sharrett, “Michael Mann: Elegies on the Post-Industrial Landscape,” 255.
[xiv] Mann’s preoccupation with the ‘Self and Other’ problem is also evident very prominently in Manhunter (1986), when Will Graham (William Peterson) can literally inhabit the gaze of his serial killer target Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), though the cost of this great profiling ability is more cerebral. Adding to his injuries inflicted while catching serial killer cannibal Hannibal Lektor (Brian Cox), Graham (Peterson) suffers a complete mental breakdown that forces him out of his profession, and to immerse himself in the ideal escapist domesticity. His return to active duty interrupts this domestic escape because of the considerable pressure from his previous boss Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) and the guilt that if he were to continue his idle existence, that would somehow make him responsible for future deaths attributed to Dollarhyde (Noonan).
[xv] Stern and Kouvaros “Descriptive Acts: Introduction,” Falling For You: Essays on Cinema and Performance, 17.
[xvi] Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
[xvii] The only film they both appeared in before Heat was The Godfather Part II(Francis Ford Coppola, 1974), in which Pacino Michael and de Niro (the young) Vito Corleone IN parallel story lines – the actors were never seen together on screen.
[xviii] Pacino is associated with great versatility in portraying the cold cunning of Michael Corleone (in The Godfather, Parts I, II & III), the strange desperation of Sonny (Dog Day Afternoon), the anti-corruption moral crusading of Serpico (Serpico), and the psychotic bravado of Tony Montana (Scarface). De Niro, meanwhile, is associated with the intense method acting practice he undertakes to inhabit the manic violence of Johnny Boy (Mean Streets), the psychotic Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver), the regal power of the young Vito Corleone (The Godfather Part II) and the operatic rise and fall of Jake La Motta (Raging Bull).
[xix] Jonathan Rayner, “Masculinity, morality and action: Michael Mann and the heist movie,” Criminal Visions: Media Representations of Crime and Justice, ed. Paul Mason (Willan Publishing, 2003), 76.
[xx] Rayner, “Masculinity, morality and action: Michael Mann and the heist movie,” 74.
[xxi] Michael Mann, Heat Director’s Commentary 2005
[xxii] Rayner, “Masculinity, morality and action: Michael Mann and the heist movie,” 76.
[xxiii] Rayner, “Masculinity, morality and action: Michael Mann and the heist movie,” 87
[xxiv] Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement (originally published in 1790), translated by James Creed Meredith, Rendered into HTML on Sun Apr 9 14:22:37 2000, by Steve Thomas for The University of Adelaide LibraryElectronic Texts Collection.
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.