by Playlist Staff.
“I only do films I truly believe in,” Michael Mann said in a 1990s interview expressing frustration with his somewhat unproductive pace and yet simultaneously articulating the vital quality that makes him the filmmaker we know today. It’s the sort of thing many directors might say, but Mann, more than many others, has the courage of his convictions and the resulting short but blazing filmography to back up his sincerity.
“I don’t work 40 hours a week and come home, take [weekends] off and leave my work at the office. I don’t know how to live like that,” one of the lead detectives says in “L.A. Takedown,” Mann’s 1989 TV movie that he remade faithfully years later as “Heat.” These fixations are as much Mann’s words to live by as they are axioms that could conceivably apply to practically every lead character the filmmaker has ever created.
In fact, the central male in the films of Michael Mann (and it’s always a man) is almost always defined by his code of life. His central preoccupation is often professional obsession, even fanaticism, often at the price of ordinary existence, which is perhaps why so many of his men are ascetic, Zen-like students of their own trade; detached to the point where they are able drop everything if things go south and walk away with only the skills they have worked on. Somehow we never doubt those skills will be enough.
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