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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Public Enemies

A Michael Mann film is always an event to look forward to but I was more keen to see how the Sony F23 HD camera would be used to depict a 1930’s gangster film, a genre that does not offer too much in the way of story variance. The story of Public Enemies is mostly atypical of the genre -- gangsters rob banks and split the loot to spend the cash on women and drinks while the cops hire their best to hunt the outlaws down. A love interest and strong opposing characters complete the story. But still, within a confined template there are plenty of moments where time stops and one can enjoy the scene for what it is. There is one amazing scene where the wanted criminal John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) audaciously walks into the police station department that is planning his arrest. The bright sunlight shines on his face which bears a confident smirk and he causally lowers his sunglasses to examine the evidence gathered against him and even has a word with a few policemen who are listening to the baseball game on the radio. The natural sunlight and pacing of the scene may be at odds with the rest of the film’s dark look but this scene highlights Dillinger’s confident personality and need for fame, be it from the police or even the media, as some other scenes attest with close-up of his eyes.

Overall, Mann’s style and usage of the camera prevents the film from being another run of the mill Hollywood gangster flick. There are some moments where the film is alive as the rich images flood the screen (example: in some scenes, the gunfire literally sets the screen on fire). The close-ups combined with the speed of the camera give a documentary feel and one forgets that Public Enemies is a 1933 period film.

In previous Mann films such as Miami Vice, Collateral and The Insider, there were plenty of ‘cool’ scenes with either a bluish or greenish tint. In Public Enemies there isn’t any such bluish tinting but instead natural sunlight or minimal lighting is used to light up most scenes. The police station scene would qualify as the patent Mann cool scene in Public Enemies. Plus, Diana Krall’s beautiful voice lends a jazzy touch to the film.

Next up: I am curious to see how the Red Digital Camera’s usage would make District 9 different from other alien films.

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