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The Mann / Film listings

by Now Then Sheffield

Let’s get over one tiny little thing that seems to upset a vast contingent of the population: Michael Mann makes films about men. How men behave as opponents of each other. How men take their vocation to the last consequences. How men, on either side of the law, conduct themselves in the face of private emotions and moral dilemmas. Full stop, but most definitely not where his cinema ends.
To overlook everything else he has to offer simply because women are not represented with the same degree of relevance is beyond foolish and misses the point. In fact, expecting or demanding every film made (by anyone, anywhere) to always have an equal balance in their gender representation is one of the paradoxes of the modern age. It’s a sign of how over-opinionated and vocally out-of-place western culture has become, a judgement which seems to say that art is only good if inclusive, when any true artist (in any medium) would tell you that it’s rarely about what you include in your work, but invariably a matter of what you choose to exclude.
Michael Mann is a genuine artist - what we call in cinematic circles an auteur - and no-one can take that away from him. His latest film is evidence of that.
Blackhat, a term given to a hacker with malicious intent, concerns grand-scale cyber hacking. The core of its narrative is sustained by the unlikely partnership between China and the US in the investigation of a cyber attack and enriched by the intricate and duplicitously bureaucratic relationships between the powers that be.
What you’re mostly aware of whilst watching it is that the film is researched to exhaustion, whilst also paying Mann’s trademark attention to the ‘traits of the local’, briefly highlighted by a term of companionship between men who have shared the same penitentiary space.
By some sort of coincidence, Blackhat also comes out following the real-life hacking of a Hollywood studio due to an undemocratic foreign power’s inability to recognise fictional farce for what it is.

Good release timing aside, the film contains many of the motifs of Mann’s cinema. There’s the recurring crucial realisation that moves the plot forward and tends to take place on a higher vantage point, offering a simultaneous 360-degree view of the surroundings and sudden clarity of mind. There’s the purely visual introspective moment, broken down into the simplest yet most effective photographic devices, an alternation of focus-pulling, off-centre close-ups and asymmetries. And there’s the culmination of a personal journey, which comes down to a final confrontation between two men.
The upgrade Blackhat undoubtedly brings to these is evident. The ‘crucial realisation’ is geographically pertinent and built to contrast the less tangible Google Earth imagery that leads the characters to the right place at the right time. The ‘introspective moment’ occurs on airport tarmac, with the recently-released protagonist savouring his freedom, but has the peculiarity of incorporating old and new companions into the aesthetics, giving the entire sequence a well-rounded sense of consequence and, again, time and place. Finally, the trademark ‘culmination of a personal journey’ is made all the more poignant with its low-tech climax. Yes, it comes down to a face-to-face between two men, but it’s gritty, violent, personal payback.
Blackhat speaks of how the virtual increasingly permeates, intrudes upon and corrupts the real. Its narrative unfolds from the generic to the personal, as its central characters seek an ever more tangible existence.
To feel the need to identify this or that plot implausibility is to disregard the humanity at the heart of the film. It’s to fail to recognise the tactile yet constructed world you’re in - the masterful cinematic vision of Michael Mann.

A Personal Countdown of the Best Five Films of Michael Mann

5. Miami Vice (2006)
A gritty, fully digital update of the iconic TV series from the 80s, which achieves the impossible - it makes you believe Colin Farrell can act.

4. Blackhat (2015)
Read above, then watch it.

3. Manhunter (1986)
Stylish like nothing else, it provides one of the most ambiguous central performances you’ll ever watch.

2. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
A double-barrelled reason in the shape of Daniel Day-Lewis and a flawlessly assembled clash of history and mythology.

1. Heat (1995)
Already remaking himself back then, Michael Mann delivers one of the best and most finely-tuned films of the 90s, plus Pacino and De Niro got to sit face-to-face for the first time. Enough said.

João Paulo Simões

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Hosted by Samantha Holland

The Swimmer
Frank Perry, USA, 1968
Friday 6 March | 7.30pm | Film Unit | £2.50

A flop on its release, this remarkable film follows Burt Lancaster playing a man who’s been away all summer and decides to swim home across town via his neighbours’ pools. On the way, different elements of his life and his past are revealed, and emotions build, especially hatred. Link


Citizenfour
Laura Poitras, USA, 2014
Friday 13 March | 7.30pm | Film Unit | £3.50

Already creating a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era, in January 2013 Poitras started receiving encrypted emails from someone identifying himself as ‘Citizen Four’. In June, she and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong to meet with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. Link


Film/Coffee/Poetry at #9
Monday 30 March | 7pm | Café #9 | Free

An evening featuring short films chosen to accompany poetry by Nether Edge wordsmith, Benjamin Dorey. Films and poems alike will be on and around the themes of time and the city. Link


The Showroom is 20
This year, the beloved Showroom Cinema is celebrating its 20th birthday. To coincide with this milestone, the charity-owned Sheffield institution is launching a huge fundraising campaign to refurbish its four screens, seating and more. There will be plenty of ways to get involved and donate across the year, but one method will get you your name on a seat. Yes. More info at showroomworkstation.org.uk/showtime

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by Now Then Sheffield

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