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Public Enemies


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#1 Peter Moretti

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 05:21 AM

Okay, I just got back from watching the 12:01 showing at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. Here's my take, FWIW.

Costumes and sets gorgeous and authentically used looking. Production design was excellent.

Script, not enough of Johnny Depp versus Christian Bale. J. Edgar Hoover's character had too much screen time and was just a kicking boy. Hollywood's hatred of him seeped into the film too much and unfortunately enabled the film to avoid more Depp vs Bale.

I also feel Bale was somewhat wooden and not all that likable. I wanted to see the Christian Bale of "The Prestige" not of "Rescue Dawn."

The Dillinger and Billie relationship lacked some chemistry. And none of the characters were all that developed--some well placed exposition is not enough, IMHO.

But the film does excel at showing the time period and having actors believable perform in great shootouts.

Okay, on to the camera. In good light the F23 looks excellent, no crushed blacks. I can remember only one interior scene where the windows looked blown-out from incoming light. In low light there was significantly noticeable noise. And some of the night shots didn't match very well. E.g. it's night, it's dawn, it's night again.

The 2/3rd size chip did not prevent some shallow DoF shots. I almost felt like there were a few focus racks and shallow focus shots thrown in there just to show-off what 2/3rd's is capable of in the right hand.

Okay, have at it, LOL!
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#2 Steve McBride

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 12:21 AM

I'm glad you posted this first, I was going to start commenting on the film, didn't know it was shot on an F23.

I agree with the writing, I definitely wanted to see some more Depp vs. Bale in the movie. I was really excited for their first scene when Dillinger was in jail and while it was well acted and shot well, I wanted more.

I loved the handheld view to the movie, I think it definitely added to the rough feel of crime in the past. None of the nice, smooth flowing camera like in modern crime movies like the Oceans movies.

There were a couple parts that the shooting got to me a bit. There might be spoilers here, so don't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet.

The scene where Billie swaps places with another woman felt to me like it was a home movie and I wasn't really liking how it was shot. It was very flat and warm. There was also a lot of noise in this scene which I didn't really understand.

Also, the final scene in the women's jail seemed like it was shot completely different from the rest of the movie. Mostly because it was a completely white room that was well lit. It just seemed like it was a clean room in a hospital instead of a prison. The scene was also very sharp in the overall look. I guess that is due to being shot digitally.

I have question as to one of the shots in the scene after Baby Face's car flips over. In the background right where the bureau guys are coming out of their car, there was a flashing light, it was in the upper right part of the frame. I'm wondering if anyone else saw this and knows what it was? It wasn't gunfire as there were no guns firing and it was definitely a white light.

One thing that pissed me off was after the movie I heard some kids talking about it outside the theater and two of them said that they hated it and thought it was the worst movie ever. This didn't bother me (though worst movie ever is ridiculous), but they supported this by saying that people were never in the middle of the frame, they were always off to the side... Sure, they know nothing about cinematography or filmmaking, but come on. Then I just figured they were idiots because one said he didn't like the director, another of his friends asked who directed it and the kid said "Michael Moore." I left the theater then.
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#3 Tom Lowe

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 12:28 AM

Did we see the same picture? :lol:

In terms of cameras and format, I thought the look of the picture was a disaster. The nice shots you liked with shallow DOF were probably shot on 35mm film, or maybe the F23 or F950. But there were dozens of blown-out shots, and even worse -- severe purple and green banding around the edges of windows in buildings and cars. Over and over again the picture was screaming "VIDEO!" Mann used the Sony EX1 and some other, smaller, HDV-style cameras, which produced disgraceful results, and were a terrible distraction.

Rodrigo Prieto was able to successfully mix film and digital in State of Play, but in that movie, he specifically used film for the old-school newsroom and news reporting scenes, and the Genesis for the ultra-clean and polished world of politics in Washington. In State of Play, the difference between film and digital was subtle, almost subliminal. It served a clear purpose and worked very well.

But Mann's mixture of five or six different cameras and formats on Public Enemies resulted in terrible distractions from the story, at least for me.

Mann should have chosen one camera -- Gensis, F23, Red One, D21 -- and stuck with it.

Now.... leaving aside the technical issues, I really loved this film... it's my favorite of the year so far, I think. The shootout at the cabin was epic. ;)

Edited by Tom Lowe, 02 July 2009 - 12:29 AM.

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#4 Peter Moretti

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 03:14 AM

I saw a few shots that looked washed-out and I figured were from the EX-1, but they were few and I just didn't think of mentioning them while writing at 3am. Maybe the EX-1 was used in the noisy low light shots--b/c I really expected better from the F23.

I'd love to read other people's impressions. The Arclight prides itself in high-quality projection, so maybe that accounts for some of the difference. Maybe I just wasn't very good at evaluating what I saw. And maybe the shallow focus stuff wasn't shot on an F23, I assumed it was and was duly impressed. I thought they shot long at a wide stop and cheated the spacing in the composition a little. But I could of course be wrong. Maybe it was S35.
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#5 Suave Hupa

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 10:34 AM

Attached File  reply.pdf   16.85KB   272 downloads

I'm glad you posted this first, I was going to start commenting on the film, didn't know it was shot on an F23.

I agree with the writing, I definitely wanted to see some more Depp vs. Bale in the movie. I was really excited for their first scene when Dillinger was in jail and while it was well acted and shot well, I wanted more.

I loved the handheld view to the movie, I think it definitely added to the rough feel of crime in the past. None of the nice, smooth flowing camera like in modern crime movies like the Oceans movies.

There were a couple parts that the shooting got to me a bit. There might be spoilers here, so don't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet.

The scene where Billie swaps places with another woman felt to me like it was a home movie and I wasn't really liking how it was shot. It was very flat and warm. There was also a lot of noise in this scene which I didn't really understand.

Also, the final scene in the women's jail seemed like it was shot completely different from the rest of the movie. Mostly because it was a completely white room that was well lit. It just seemed like it was a clean room in a hospital instead of a prison. The scene was also very sharp in the overall look. I guess that is due to being shot digitally.

I have question as to one of the shots in the scene after Baby Face's car flips over. In the background right where the bureau guys are coming out of their car, there was a flashing light, it was in the upper right part of the frame. I'm wondering if anyone else saw this and knows what it was? It wasn't gunfire as there were no guns firing and it was definitely a white light.

One thing that pissed me off was after the movie I heard some kids talking about it outside the theater and two of them said that they hated it and thought it was the worst movie ever. This didn't bother me (though worst movie ever is ridiculous), but they supported this by saying that people were never in the middle of the frame, they were always off to the side... Sure, they know nothing about cinematography or filmmaking, but come on. Then I just figured they were idiots because one said he didn't like the director, another of his friends asked who directed it and the kid said "Michael Moore." I left the theater then.


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#6 Peter Moretti

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 04:44 PM

... In low light there was significantly noticeable noise. ...


I was surprised by this, as the F23 should do well in low light from what I understand about its sensors and the camera's gamma adjustability. But I just heard that Sony's S-Log feature was not used, which I think, FWIW, was to the detriment of low light performance.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 04:53 PM

I thought Scott Foundas of the LA Weekly had a pretty good take on the look:

http://www.laweekly....ital-dillinger/

Dillinger (played superbly by Johnny Depp) spends most of the time on the run, and so does the movie itself. But even when Dillinger is at rest — in those moments when he finds himself in jail or in the arms of a woman — Public Enemies exudes a nervous tension, the sense that flight is imminent. (Little wonder that one of the tensest scenes takes place at a traffic light.) It’s a feeling Mann intensifies by shooting the entire film with a battery of high-definition video cameras — most of them hand-held — which record the action in violent jolts and swooshes, the way things might look if Dillinger were still robbing banks today, his exploits captured by camera phones and broadcast over YouTube. The result, like Bonnie and Clyde 40 years earlier, is a period gangster movie that scarcely feels period at all, from its sense of style to the state of the nation’s banking industry.

Visually, Public Enemies is the summation of something Mann has been steadily building toward ever since he first incorporated video-shot footage into the dynamic opening training montage of Ali in 2001. Where digital methods have gradually become the industry standard by simulating the dense, luxuriant textures of film, Mann embraces video precisely for the ways in which it is unlike film: for the hyper-real clarity of its images, for the way its lightweight cameras move through space, and for its ability to see sharper and more deeply into the darkness of the night.

Mann previously shot a TV series (Robbery Homicide Division) and two other features (Collateral and Miami Vice) via similar means, but with Public Enemies he gives up pushing the digital envelope in favor of tearing it right open. At every turn, he rejects classical notions of cinematic “beauty” and formulates new ones, just as the intensely stylized urban vistas of Thief, Manhunter and the Miami Vice TV series cast off the gritty naturalism of the previous decade’s New American Cinema. The sounds and images rush at you, headlong, and before you can fully get a handle on them, something else takes their place, as if by a brusque stroke of the painter’s brush. (I am haunted by one particular shot, of Dillinger being wakened by gunshots while hiding out in Wisconsin’s Little Bohemia lodge, the camera springing off his body as if it too had been startled from sleep.) Much of Public Enemies wouldn’t look out of place in a video-art gallery space. What the convention-craving multiplex crowd will make of it all is anybody’s guess.


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#8 Adam Garner

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 10:12 PM

Fail.
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#9 Justin Hayward

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 01:00 AM

It's funny how many critics specifically noticed the HD photography AND pointed out how pretty it was... I mean, reviewers certainly didn't notice Benjamin Button's Hi Def photography,... or Superman's or anything else. They say it's pretty because they see it, but certainly not because they know what they like in terms of photography.
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 03:14 AM

While I reject the tired cliche that digital is more "real" than film (although 30 fps, which isn't used in this film was/is more real to me; too bad no one uses it these days), I happen to like Mann's use of digital.

I haven't seen this film yet, but will be sure to do so.

"Collateral" which everyone seems to hate, is one of my favorite digital movies, because it was different.


But, yeah, I don't really think it will work in this movie, like RED worked in "Knowing" or Vipers & F900 worked in "Collateral".



Either make it look real (35mm) or make it look like movies looked back then. There is no commonality between 15 year-old popcorn eating theatre-goers and '20s gangsters other than sub-standard intelligence quotients.

What's next, a t-shirt wearing cell-phone yakking "revisited" look at the Gangsters of the 1920's? I read about them doing this with the play "Julius Ceasar" and felt nauseated. Did they SMS "Et tu Brute" or "With a spot, I damn him" in this version, I wonder?

If you can't connect with human beings in different times and different places, seeing past the petty facades (sorry, but Cinematography is definitely an extension of this) of the way people dress, talk, communicate, and the period of time they inhabit, you should be learning to read not wasting your $10, that it probably took you more than an hour of flipping burgers to earn.

Unfortunately, the cinematography of this era is a big part of the blame for these romanticized nostalgic notions of the past that many of us have.
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#11 K Borowski

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 03:21 AM

EDIT:

While I reject the tired cliche that digital is more "real" than film (although 30 fps, which isn't used in this film was/is more real to me; too bad no one uses it these days), I happen to like Mann's use of digital.

I haven't seen this film yet, but will be sure to do so.

"Collateral" which everyone seems to hate, is one of my favorite digital movies, because it was different.


But, yeah, I don't really think it will work in this movie, like RED worked in "Knowing" or Vipers & F900 worked in "Collateral".



Either make it look real (35mm) or make it look like movies looked back then (grainy B&W, or what they tried and failed miserably to do through the DI in "The Aviator". Props to someone that scrounges up Kodachrome or comes up with a way to make a technicolor camera work and come up with a way to scan and re-integrate it, or someone that actually shoots on non-panchromatic film.

There is no commonality between 15 year-old popcorn eating theatre-goers and '20s gangsters other than sub-standard intelligence quotients, so I see this as an attempt to get the former to relate to the latter as a rather obvious and tacky tactic, in this case.

What's next, a t-shirt wearing cell-phone yakking "revisited" look at the Gangsters of the 1920's? I read about them doing this with the play "Julius Ceasar" and felt nauseated. Did they SMS "Et tu Brute" or "With a spot, I damn him" in this version, I wonder?

If you can't connect with human beings in different times and different places, seeing past the petty facades (sorry, but Cinematography is definitely an extension of this) of the way people dress, talk, communicate, and the period of time they inhabit, you should be learning to read not wasting your $10, that it probably took you more than an hour of flipping burgers to earn.

Unfortunately, the cinematography of this era is a big part of the blame for these romanticized nostalgic notions of the past that many of us have. And, now that K-64 is gone the farthest back in time you can go, at least in a color movie is the early 1970s with Ektachrome, or the late '80s with neg. film. Even 35mm movie film is decidedly "modern" looking now, and there is not much we as cinematographers can do about it in the optical realm. Sure you can push, flash, fog, or light in the old style, but there really is something about early Eastmancolor that looks decidedly "vintage" that you can't have back.

IDK. This film would have been great had someone revived the old two-strip or three-strip cameras or mimicked the old still sheet film process whose name escapes me at the moment where they had special potato starch screens dyed in color.
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#12 Lars Zemskih

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 09:39 AM

Collateral was mostly shot on 35mm, HD was for outside mostly night exteriors, which I think really worked. Digital handles night very well though.
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#13 K Borowski

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 02:01 PM

Collateral was mostly shot on 35mm, HD was for outside mostly night exteriors, which I think really worked. Digital handles night very well though.


Huh? No it wasn't. Film was only used for day shots.

We talked about this film on this forum when it came out.



This isn't against you personally, Emile, but I am really tired of this constant "one-upmanship" on this forum. I'm not trying to impress or one-up anyone else, just trying to provide the most accurate information possible.

Please don't guess or speculate and make it sound like a fact, which you sort of do here.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 04:02 PM

Huh? No it wasn't. Film was only used for day shots.


There were some other scenes on 35mm film besides those early day scenes, the dialogue scene in the jazz club for example. But the bulk of the movie was shot on HD.
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#15 Tom Lowe

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 07:45 PM

The bottom line is this: if the choice of cameras pulls audience members out of the story in a negative way, it's a failure.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 07:55 PM

The bottom line is this: if the choice of cameras pulls audience members out of the story in a negative way, it's a failure.


That's the traditional view, what Bordwell calls classic Hollywood narrative style, that technique supports the narrative in an invisible way.

I'm just saying that there are other ways to approach cinema. One is where the technique is not only visible, it's actively disruptive and calls attention to itself.

Truth is that most movies are a mix of approaches and audiences factor into the equation -- the jump cut in "Breathless", for example, was jarring for its day and now is easily accepted by modern viewers.

I just get uncomfortable when someone says "This is the rule: you can't do "x" and "y"" and then when a filmmaker who doesn't believe in that rule makes a movie according to their way of thinking, it's judged a failure for breaking a rule that the filmmaker didn't even agree to follow in the first place. To me, that's arbitrary. You have to judge a movie by what you perceive was the intent of the filmmaker. Now it's one thing to say that it didn't work for you, that you prefer more traditional filmmaking rules, but to call it a failure for failing to follow rules that you have set that the filmmaker didn't agree to follow, well, it's a bit unfair. How is cinema ever to advance if we can't break some rules now and then?

I mean, you're saying that the "rule" is that a movie must be a series of harmonious images that are consistent in quality, texture, and if it fails to follow that rule, it's a failure. But what if Michael Mann doesn't agree with you? What if he doesn't believe that consistency is the highest goal that a filmmaker has to follow?

It reminds me of that Godard quote where someone said "well, surely we can agree that a movie must have a beginning, middle, and end?" Godard paused for a moment and then said "Yes.... but not necessarily in that order."

The style of this movie is the sort of controversial thing that challenges conventional wisdom and thinking -- is that a bad thing? Is it bad to have your senses assaulted and your notions of photographic beauty disrupted? Is it a bad thing when a movie makes you think about the nature of movies in general, and what the best way to tell a story is? What is the best way to recreate the past?

Personally, I'd rather a dozen "Public Enemies" come out and stirred the pot than one more "Transformers" movie come out and put us to sleep. I'm tired of seeing movies that I forget about before I've walked out the door. The fact that you are still motivated to post about what a failure "Public Enemies" is says something.

Also, how is it possible to say that you liked the movie yet found the cinematography to be a failure that took you out of the movie? If you were taken out of the movie, then you couldn't have liked it, could you? Seems like the movie must have involved you on some visual, atmospheric level for you to have liked it at all.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 08:22 PM

What's next, a t-shirt wearing cell-phone yakking "revisited" look at the Gangsters of the 1920's? I read about them doing this with the play "Julius Ceasar" and felt nauseated. Did they SMS "Et tu Brute" or "With a spot, I damn him" in this version, I wonder?

If you can't connect with human beings in different times and different places, seeing past the petty facades (sorry, but Cinematography is definitely an extension of this) of the way people dress, talk, communicate, and the period of time they inhabit, you should be learning to read not wasting your $10, that it probably took you more than an hour of flipping burgers to earn.


You are aware that in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" there is a clock that chimes, alarming the conspirators? There were no chiming clocks in ancient Rome, nor did they speak Elizabethan English.

Or look at Caravaggio's "The Calling of St. Matthew" -- the figures are dressed in contemporary clothes for Caravaggio's time. In fact, a lot of Renaissance paintings of religious tales from the Bible have characters wearing contemporary clothing, not historically accurate clothing. You'd have to imagine the modern version of that Caravaggio painting having Jesus step into a poolhall with neon signs on the wall to imagine how it looked to people in Caravaggio's time.

There is a very long tradition of telling stories set in the past in modern dress.

Look at Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ" -- he was originally going to set that in modern Brooklyn or Queens, on the docks, but he opted to instead have people speak in a modern style. It's not because he thought audiences were dumb, but he questioned the "authenticity" of having people speak in English accents, as if that were somehow more realistic. He wanted the words to seem very modern, contemporary, not like they were from the King James Bible.
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#18 Tom Lowe

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 08:54 PM

That's the traditional view, what Bordwell calls classic Hollywood narrative style, that technique supports the narrative in an invisible way.

I'm just saying that there are other ways to approach cinema. One is where the technique is not only visible, it's actively disruptive and calls attention to itself.

Truth is that most movies are a mix of approaches and audiences factor into the equation -- the jump cut in "Breathless", for example, was jarring for its day and now is easily accepted by modern viewers.

I just get uncomfortable when someone says "This is the rule: you can't do "x" and "y"" and then when a filmmaker who doesn't believe in that rule makes a movie according to their way of thinking, it's judged a failure for breaking a rule that the filmmaker didn't even agree to follow in the first place. To me, that's arbitrary. You have to judge a movie by what you perceive was the intent of the filmmaker. Now it's one thing to say that it didn't work for you, that you prefer more traditional filmmaking rules, but to call it a failure for failing to follow rules that you have set that the filmmaker didn't agree to follow, well, it's a bit unfair. How is cinema ever to advance if we can't break some rules now and then?

I mean, you're saying that the "rule" is that a movie must be a series of harmonious images that are consistent in quality, texture, and if it fails to follow that rule, it's a failure. But what if Michael Mann doesn't agree with you? What if he doesn't believe that consistency is the highest goal that a filmmaker has to follow?

It reminds me of that Godard quote where someone said "well, surely we can agree that a movie must have a beginning, middle, and end?" Godard paused for a moment and then said "Yes.... but not necessarily in that order."

The style of this movie is the sort of controversial thing that challenges conventional wisdom and thinking -- is that a bad thing? Is it bad to have your senses assaulted and your notions of photographic beauty disrupted? Is it a bad thing when a movie makes you think about the nature of movies in general, and what the best way to tell a story is? What is the best way to recreate the past?

Personally, I'd rather a dozen "Public Enemies" come out and stirred the post than one more "Transformers" movie come out and put us to sleep. I'm tired of seeing movies that I forget about before I've walked out the door. The fact that you are still motivated to post about what a failure "Public Enemies" is says something.

Also, how is it possible to say that you liked the movie yet found the cinematography to be a failure that took you out of the movie? If you were taken out of the movie, then you couldn't have liked it, could you? Seems like the movie must have involved you on some visual, atmospheric level for you to have liked it at all.


David, I liked the movie very much, in SPITE OF the photography. The story, the characters, the acting, etc, were leaps and bounds above the typical trash Hollywood has been churning out. While I greatly respect Mann as a director, I do not agree with his format and camera choices for this picture. It's as simple as that. I liked the movie in spite of his camera choices.

I understand what Mann was trying to do, I respect him as a director, but I feel that he failed in terms of camera choices, that's all.

Edited by Tom Lowe, 03 July 2009 - 08:55 PM.

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#19 Keneu Luca

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 09:28 PM

I thought Scott Foundas of the LA Weekly had a pretty good take on the look:

http://www.laweekly....ital-dillinger/


I'd like to respond tho this. Especially this section:

Dillinger (played superbly by Johnny Depp) spends most of the time on the run, and so does the movie itself. But even when Dillinger is at rest — in those moments when he finds himself in jail or in the arms of a woman — Public Enemies exudes a nervous tension, the sense that flight is imminent. (Little wonder that one of the tensest scenes takes place at a traffic light.) It’s a feeling Mann intensifies by shooting the entire film with a battery of high-definition video cameras — most of them hand-held — which record the action in violent jolts and swooshes, the way things might look if Dillinger were still robbing banks today, his exploits captured by camera phones and broadcast over YouTube. The result, like Bonnie and Clyde 40 years earlier, is a period gangster movie that scarcely feels period at all, from its sense of style to the state of the nation’s banking industry.


This is certainly a well articulated and on the surface a reasonable argument. I do not know if Mann would justify his use of video on this film (or movie) in the same way. Perhaps.

Despite the intelligence of the review, I'm not quite sold on it. As far as "violent jolts and swooshes" are concerned, they too can easily be achieved on film. And if Mann wanted the movie to look as though it were captured by camera phones and broadcast over youtube...well....he could have shot the film with camera phones, and then severely compressed the footage in post. This argument, for example, works much better for the movie, "Cloverfield." Not that I'm endorsing that movie, just saying the video argument can be made with more validation for it.

But let's say that that in fact is Mann's motivation for employing video origination. What purpose does that serve? Does it really strengthen the emotional, intellectual, or visceral impact of the movie if the audience feels as though it were happening today? As if there hasn't been any media-saturated criminal activity that somehow glorifies the criminals since Dillinger. Arent we all well aware of this real-life phenomenon? Is this element necessary in the telling of "Public Enemies"?

What does it add? We know the story is decades old. Using video doesnt really modernize it. The movie is set in the 1930's. We see the cars, the clothes, etc. If it were shot on film, would we be less connected to the story and the action and the characters and the emotions? Do you really think those elements would suffer without the use of video? If you agree, does that mean every movie you make set a few decades back should be shot with video so that we can make a relevant connection to it?

It becomes an issue of subjectivity versus objectivity. And it takes more than using video to achieve either one of those. Is the use of video harmonized with the other directorial choices to achieve its effect?

Mann, like a few other successful and established filmmakers today, obviously likes video. And that's perfectly fine. But rather than try to justify its use in each movie, I myself would rather he just say, "I shot in on video because I like video."

Honestly, anyone can create a work of art with any given "tool" and justify using the tool. "Public Enemies" could have been done as a black and white cartoon and someone could come up with justification for it.

But of course, Mann himself has not justified PE in this manner. This is the opinion of Scott Foundas.

I would like to know Mann's reason for using video. And, to be honest, rather than hear him justify or rationalize, Id really rather just hear him say, "Because I like video."
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#20 Joe Taylor

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 10:51 PM

Hmmmm, this is one of those movies I will have to see a second time. Certain scenes are quite masterful-- the prison breaks and the hyper-real shootouts were thrilling as anything I've seen. The death scene of Hamilton (the most interesting character in the movie) is really too disturbing. Check out this guys eyes as he goes out and then watch Johnny Depp-- I think he quite acting halfway through the scene.

The photography was hit or miss. Most of the bright day-lit scenes really jumped out at me, particularly the opening scene outside the prison. Most of the darker scenes, the cameras seem to struggle.

The one big esthetically problematic scene for me was when Dillinger is being trailed out the theatre before he is shot. The background just looked way off. Might this critical scene have been a re-shoot with Johnny Depp filmed in front of a green screen for this sequence?
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