The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat (1995)

Samurai modernist Michael Mann offers his version of a heist movie

Crime, Film 1 Comment

Fanning out his concerns from frontier-America deerslaying (The Last of the Mohicans) to corporate-America whistleblowing (The Insider), in the 1990s writer-director Michael Mann did nothing much but become America’s best director. The culture didn’t always know what to make of him, a samurai modernist more passionate than ironic, and some worried unduly whether Heat was about a heist played out against relationships with women, or about relationships played out against the heist; clearly the point was that—in their sense of profound dislocation—neither cop (Al Pacino) nor criminal (Robert De Niro) knows for sure, either.

In any case Heat is the last word in crime pictures, either because or in spite of its effort to transcend the genre, to such an extent that later Mann films (Collateral) feel like variations on it, not to mention Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. A three-hour noir epic as Thackeray might have written it, finally it’s hued by the masculine silvers and blues of men locked in conflicts that are finally absurd compared with those confronted by the women in their lives. With as untouchable a supporting cast as in any L.A. movie in memory (in particular Ashley Judd, Diane Venora, and Jon Voight) and a scope as emotional as it is physical, constantly weaving in and out of rooms as though they’re mesas and up and down streets as though they’re hallways, Heat prowls a city that has no respect for either interiors or exteriors, where walls are as transient as everything else.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #25: L’Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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Comments

  1. Heinz

    May 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Definitely an action movie that transcends its genre. I think I’ll go through my DVD collection and watch it again.