Wednesday, April 08, 2009

April Showers: Miami Vice

In between Michael Mann (Public Enemies) movies I always forget that I really like his work. If you could reach into one of his movies you would be able to feel something... a cold surface maybe, vibrations from a loud noise or a drop of sweat hitting you. He has a real gift for atmosphere and texture. And apparently he has a thing for sex in the shower since two of Miami Vice's three big sexual scenes take place there.

The first shower scene is basically relationship detail. The music is soothing and we're just observing the easy intimacy of co-workers/lovers Naomi Harris's Trudy and Jamie Foxx's Tubbs.


The second shower scene is curious. We've spent several minutes watching Gong Li's Isabella and Colin Farrell's Sonny fall in love/lust (same thing in the movies on account of time is sped up). They've just realized that their relationship is a bad idea. Or maybe they've just decided it's a good idea to vocalize that obvious conclusion. The shower scene following this announcement begins oddly though it follows the same structure as the first shower scene. The man is lost in thought or zoning out, as one sometimes does when the hot water is drumming into one's skin. The woman enters and the intimacy begins. Only this time the music moves into ominous chords as we see Gong Li approaching the shower. She's all blurry like killers are as they approach shower curtains.

She tears open the shower curtain in a rather violent edit. It's the cinematic language of threat. Michael Mann is trying to ratchet up the tension in this dangerous affair (they're violent business partners and Sonny is also an undercover cop and could bring her down) but there's something about the shower entrance that feels little cheap. Like a 'Boo! Gotcha... she's just there for more nookie' red herring.

It probably shouldn't have tipped that threatening. After all, what's threatening about showering with Gong Li or Colin Farrell? Unless you have a heart condition, jump in and grab the soap!


But I love that Michael Mann is determined to keep the audience off balance. This next bit works better. He's been pulling us into the relationship and then suddenly, he's pushing away. The lovers kiss and stare and Isabella whispers something into Sonny's ear. See, we can ogle. We can practically touch the wet tendrils of hair clinging to hot skin but we're not allowed any closer. We're no longer privy to this conversation.

[Come see the new blog. We'll renew this series in April]
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13 comments:

michael (opinionated australian) said...

I loved that film. Admittedly it's not his peak, but Mann cooks up such a brew of textures that it's hard not to get drunk on the sight of it.

The death of Alonzo earlier in the film, and the narrative spiral out from the club scene that leads to that death, was one of my favourite sequences in cinema that year.

James Hansen said...

Woot woot. I remember getting savaged at my work for praising this film to everyone when it came out, but I really think its a visually stunning, well executed, and supremely effective action(ish) movie. So many were thrown off by the fact that "it wasn't Miami Vice" (ie the show), but who the hell cares? Judge what's there yo. And what you've got there, as you point out, is some good shit.

rosengje said...

I similarly really enjoyed this movie when I saw it in theaters and was shocked to find that wasn't the prevailing opinion. I have really been rooting for Colin Farell's career upswing of late. I really enjoyed his work in Cassandra's Dream and Pride and Glory and I loved In Bruges. I was so happy for him when he won the Golden Globe and thought his acceptance speech was one of the few sincere moments of the telecast.

18 Year Old Blogger said...

There's a tub scene in Public Enemies with Cotillard and Depp. So maybe he does like shower scenes.

Nick M. said...

Colin Farrel's shower scene in Schumacher's Tigerland is even better. Oh, to be a confused youth again...

pomme said...

i dislike this movie because Mann didn't choose if it's an action movie with love scene or a love story with action scene and then Colin Farell isn't good!

Anonymous said...

Gong Li was esquisite in this film and as usual the best thing about it.

Danielhardy23@gmail.com said...

definitely deserves a better reputation. i liked the stripped-down no bullshit aesthetic, although actually, i could have done without a second shower scene.

absolutely avoid the extended director's cut though, as it ruins the brilliant club opening with an unnecessary speedboat credit sequence, and uses that god-awful hard rock cover of 'in the air tonight' over the final gun battle (in the original cut, it's over the end credits, which is bad enough).

i love michael mann's musical choices , but every now and then he goes super cheese. (like the wolf scene in collateral) must be an 80s thang.

Glendon said...

Don't understand the hate for this movie. It has some flaws, sure, but there are some serious flashes of brilliance. But regardless, this movie introduced me to John Ortiz. Therefore I can't hold anything against it.

Actionman said...

The film is a masterpiece.

Temple of Schlock said...

We here at the Temple never miss a Naomi Harris film (she is soooooooooo goddamn gorgeous and sexy in AFTER THE SUNSET), but even with the shower scene, MIAMI VICE just didn't do it for us.

Temple of Schlock said...

And by the way, it's spelled Naomie. :)

rapidshare movies said...

If their going to do a reunion movie, they better do it within the next 5 years. I read the script and this script is very done professionally. The way the script is written, this script could make it work. The 2006 movie was alright. I was sort of disappointed by it though. Anyhow goodluck on trying to get the script thru. If a reunion movie is in the works, I will be watching it.