Michael Mann is total and universal to the point of being overflowed even in the cinema of those who came later. Without mentioning the now well-known comparison with Christopher Nolan, who constantly draws from Mann's films (here is the gravity mentioned by Joker in The Dark Knight in a very similar dialogue), situations and images of "Mannian" art can be found almost everywhere in contemporary Hollywood, but it is almost impossible to match the master.
This because only Michael Mann is capable of making a film à la Michael Mann, he invented the style and timbres that distinguish him and masters them in that unmistakable way, immediately his own even when "loaned" to others. Always experimental, the director's cinema helped to shape new imaginaries and re-invite Hollywood classic clichés. In the new millennium he has been able to continue to do so through the advent of digital cinema, of which he has always been too unconvinced.
Tasted with But in 2002 and enhanced with Collateral in 2004, it is in 2006 with Miami Vice that digital becomes a definitive body, an extension of conceiving the staging, the manifesto for an alternative cinema and an evolution of the classic.
The air of Miami
Not too unlike Ridley Scott and Michael Cimino, too Michael Mann as an author insistently returns to themes, situations and characters almost coming to make and remake the same film over and over.
Come Violent streets also Miami Vice - film adaptation of the homonymous television series of which Mann was the producer - part in medias res, concerns two policemen who identify themselves as criminals, overturning the concept behind Heat (in which Robert De Niro identified himself with the policeman of Al Pacino, and vice versa), thus plays on the color palette of blues and on symbolism of the sea like Manhunter and similarly to Collateral it begins after dark and ends at the crack of dawn (although the thriller starring Tom Cruise died out in the course of a single night).
In general, however, the plot offers once again the starting point for a drama on incommunicability and a fresco bigger than life on the condition of eternal loneliness that grips man, who seems already engraved in his destiny whatever choice he makes.
Michael Mann's work immediately traceable to Miami Vice it would seem though Collateral, of which it is an evolution: not so much for the presence of Jamie Foxx (but curiously Colin Farrell was initially imagined to play Vincent instead of Tom Cruise) as for the pastel features of digital photography, which escaping from the hyper 2004 thriller realist gives the work an impressionist look, almost abstract and in a grand manner.
The refinement of the image gives an allegorical meaning to each frame, populated by characters / symbols struggling with the maximum systems of existence while melancholy and restlessness stir under the surface, transforming parables into epic and epochal human odyssey.
The digital also - which Mann implements the Super 35 for some scenes - is used not only for the dynamism of the action sequences (which are also not lacking) but also as real canvas on which to paint spaces with immense depth of field. Michael Mann seems to be the director who most of all, ever, is able to return to the screen the verticality of modern urbanization, entrusting her with the same task that in westerns was left to the landscapes of wild nature: that of making man appear even smaller and infinitesimal.
And the camera, never tame and always in motion, hungry for moments and gestures, gazes and sensations, seems to want to take the scene to the viewer. The goal, successful, is almost unrepeatable: no other action film or director would have tried later to replicate Miami Vice styles and aesthetics, not even the Michael Mann's Public enemy O Blackhat.
In addition to the visual aspect and the ability to make space a real protagonist of the story told, Michael Mann's cinema manages to stand out also for the use of soundtracks and music: if cities are characters, songs for Michael Mann become commentators and in Miami Vice we are witnessing the umpteenth exaltation of this symbiosis between "audio" and "visual".
The soundtrack is omnipresent and accompanies the emulation of the staging from video clips of which the images are carriers: the entire subplot (actually rather central) of the relationship between Sonny and Isabella is constantly marked by the music, is born and dies with them and moves according to their rhythms.
In this sense, the first love escape in Havana on a motorboat is exemplary: "triggered" by a shot over the shoulder of Yero, whose point of view is already a prelude to the growing suspicion that the villain will mount towards the couple, is punctuated by the melancholy One of these mornings, whose text serves as a tragic counterpoint to the exuberance of the sequence.
Colin Farrell and Gong Li are beautiful, their conversation is already full of allusions and glimmers of love, Michael Mann's bedroom escapes the oppressive city skylines and shows us the ocean almost as if to underline the sense of freedom and independence that Isabella desires (and that he will get, albeit with bittersweet implications).
Everything should be electrifying and full of expectations, yet the soundtrack somehow curbs the enthusiasm, its notes herald a distant but inevitable farewell and conflict with the images. creating an epic imbalance that carries the weight of Greek tragedy.
Different musical genres and various melodies accompany the two characters along their journey together, marking highs and lows and offering an apt and precise parallelism with the other couple in the film (Ricardo and Trudy, or Jamie Foxx and Naomi Harris) through recurring but opposing images like the two scenes in the shower, an intimate and tender moment for Ricardo and Trudy and a power game between Sonny and Isabella.
Until the final editing manages to restore the balance, when the damned and cursed love between Sonny and Isabella is sacrificed to preserve the safety of the team.
While the character of Gong Li leaves, using that motorboat that had previously laid the foundations for a romantic getaway, that of Naomi Harris awakens from a coma, while a tracking shot from left to right "stretches" the hospital bed into that of Isabella's house, joining the two temples and the two spaces.
Returning to Sonny's hospital is an awakening to reality, is a farewell to the dream that the symphony accompanying her love story symbolized from the beginning. And it is no coincidence that in the director's cut distributed on Blu-ray, as soon as Mann cuts to black to show the Miami Vice logo and closing the circle, the musical theme that marked the whole final sequence is abruptly interrupted. In its place it returns One of these mornings, final prophecy that is finally fulfilled.