40 Years of Michael Mann. 11 Nice Film Moments.

40 Years of Michael Mann. 11 Great Movie Moments.

Forty years ago Michael Mann released his first feature film this weekend, “Thief”, which in retrospect contained several signatures of the director’s work, such as stories that mostly revolve around lonely wolves and told with elaborate cuts, artful images and unexpected musical decisions will. We asked 11 writers to watch a career full of memorable films and choose the scenes that remain with them.

There is a lot of talk in most Michael Mann films: especially men who sometimes talk to women but mostly to other men about their work. The frequency of such conversations makes “Heat” (1995) the epitome of the Michael Mann film. The rightly famous diner scene in this context is the Michael Mann-est six minutes in the entire cinema.

During a frantic, epic cat-and-mouse game, tired and baffled Los Angeles cop Vincent Hanna sits down for coffee with Neil McCauley, the criminal mastermind whose plans he tries to thwart. They are mortal rivals, but only two who grapple with the existential demands of professionalism. They talk about marriage, about work, and while they don’t exactly become friends, there is no real animosity between them. Everyone realizes that the other is good at what they’re doing, maybe even the best. Of course they are: they are Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and they are sharing the screen for the first time. AO SCOTT

Mann has always been adept at extracting threats from the familiar hustle and bustle of public spaces, and the opening recording of this classic genre thriller (2004) is a good example. When Tom Cruise’s character, a relentless killer, slowly emerges from the crowd at a Los Angeles airport and approaches the camera, his deliberate step is deliberately inconsistent with the sea of ​​travelers around him. Silver-haired and expressionless behind pitch-black sunglasses, he glides through the terminal. His light gray, sharply cut suit and blinding white shirt give off a faint sheen. The shark metaphor is unsubtle and yet perfect: in just under 30 seconds of screen time and before we hear him say a word, we know that this man is a predator. JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

Mann is such a distinctive stylist with such a recognizable visual and acoustic aesthetic that it’s easy to overlook how skillfully he stages his actors. To prove it, Pacino’s big scene in “The Insider” is just the ticket. In the late 1990s, after winning an Oscar for his roaring twist on “Scent of a Woman,” audiences expected Pacino to work at full volume and high intensity. Instead, Mann keeps the actor on a low level – until this scene in which Pacino’s “60 Minutes” producer, who is working on an investigation into Big Tobacco, has finally had enough. Mann and Pacino are building the blast we’re waiting for beautifully. The director modulates the escalation like a symphony conductor, while the actor slowly but surely discharges his bosses, only to let his closest collaborator take the wind out of his sails. JASON BAILEY

In “Thief” (1981) is James Caan Frank, an artisanal safecracker in Chicago. He knows that to live outside the law is to live on borrowed time. After showing up late on a date with Jesse (Tuesday Weld), he gets mad at her and at himself and drives her to a diner. The screaming subsides, but the emotional register becomes more startling. Man chooses simple shots of two people in a cubicle who are almost strangers to each other and are suddenly associated with complete openness and vulnerability. “My life is very ordinary,” protests Jesse. Then Frank lays out his past, present and what he hopes will be his ideal and probably ordinary future – with her. Just like that. GLENN KENNY

The 10-minute opening scene of the 2001 biopic Ali, starring Will Smith, a visual storytelling master class, sees the boxer as Louisville Lip, ironically silent, while training with Sonny Liston for his 1964 heavyweight bout. For this kinetic volley, Mann alternates between a rough performance by the Sam Cooke Club, a Malcolm X speech, and the boxer’s meeting with his rival and a trainer (Jamie Foxx). All of this is connected through Ali’s intense training and memories of his childhood at Jim Crow South: the colored part of a bus and Emmett Till’s face on a front page of a newspaper. Mann’s impressive study of Ali’s inwardness perfectly introduces the impressionable man rather than the invincible pop culture icon he would become. ROBERT DANIELS

Mann’s great romance with the cinema began when, in 1936, at the age of 4, he saw the “last of the Mohicans” in a church cellar. For Mann, James Fenimore Cooper’s story was a “war zone love story,” embodied in Daniel Day-Lewis’ Hawkeye, who fights with Madeleine Stowe’s British émigré Cora to protect both his adopted native family and his future. Cerebral stuff, but man communicates the powerful ideas of the 1992 film through eye contact. The first confirmation of the characters’ appeal is a star contest that spans 40 seconds as the music tiptoes into the shadows. While “I’ll find you!” has become the meme, this moment draws on the kid in man who was once that appreciative boy who just knew he liked what he saw. Amy Nicholson

Mann’s 2009 gangster film “Public Enemies” is a 1930 Ford with a brand new engine. His preference for mixing classic melodramatic impulses with new video technology is noticed when John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) get to know each other over dinner. She looks out of place in her glamorous restaurant in her “three-dollar dress” and asks what he does for a living. He says matter-of-factly: “I’m robbing banks.” Depp and Cotillard play the scene with Old Hollywood glamor, but Mann’s digital eye (with cameraman Dante Spinotti) gives the meet-cute a modern electricity. The director captures precise details in her expressions and goes into the frankness of Dillinger’s admission and the magic of Frechette’s impotence. Here you shake up a genre like a good cocktail. Kyle Turner

Cursed by a chaotic production history, “The Keep” (1983) has developed into a trippy, fascinating curiosity. As with most of my favorite man scenes, my favorite in this film isn’t one of its vaunted set pieces, but a quieter, almost quiet segment. In it, madness takes over a Romanian village after Nazis unknowingly liberated the malevolent entity contained in a centuries-old fortress. A priest drinks his dog’s blood, a white horse wanders the deserted streets, sheets flutter on a clothesline. It’s incredibly quiet. This is man in the field of Werner Herzog, to a Tangerine Dream soundtrack that answers Popol Vuh’s music for “Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes” and “Nosferatu the Vampyre”. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI

There’s a lot to love about “The Last of the Mohicans” (not least as Daniel Day-Lewis pronounces “Kentucky”), but I’ve definitely seen it in full several times just to get through to the end. The last seven minutes of the film, almost completely free of dialogue, must be one of Mann’s greatest sequences. Call it a music video that serves as a finale if you want, but the combination of movement and emotion, human heartache and natural size, all held together by one of the best film scores of the nineties makes it undeniable. GILBERT CRUZ

As a reliable trendsetter, Mann has often played with cutting-edge technology, and “Collateral” used novel high-resolution video to capture the cascading properties of light in a Los Angeles nighttime setting. In the finale, Cruise’s visiting killer attempting to kill a prosecutor (Jada Pinkett Smith) in a downtown skyscraper cuts the power supply and pursues her through a law library lit by almost nothing but the sprawling, indifferent cityscape beyond. Tension becomes a matter of sheer light and shadow, as the silhouette of a wandering murderer is difficult to distinguish from dancing architectural reflections in glass. The scene has possibly the most inspired use of mirrors since The Lady From Shanghai. BEN KENIGSBERG

Blurred white dots above the blackness. Maybe stars in space. A golf ball picking machine drives by and its lamps glow alien. It’s night on the driving range where a lonely Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) relaxes with a bucket of balls. But a slow pan shows another golfer in the distance. The metal noise of his club makes Wigand nervous. A close-up of a golf ball crashing into the net. The floodlights turn off. Long shadows, aquamarines and an opera score. Has our insider been followed or is the scary scene evidence of his paranoia? NATALIA WINKELMAN

Where to Watch: “Thief” is available on HBO Max. Ali, Collateral, The Fortress, Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans, and Public Enemies can be rented or owned on major platforms.