I got home last night to find the August schedule for the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in my mail, and staring at me on the cover is none other than Jimmy Stewart in a scene from The Man from Laramie. You know why? Anthony-effin-Mann, that's why. These days, I can't go to a movie without seeing a trailer for Collateral from director Michael Mann. I know Michael has his followers, but I've never been such a big fan. I think all his films are at least 30 minutes too long, and he's basically an awful storyteller. He has a great visual eye, and every film contains a few brilliant sequences, but otherwise, they bore me. I know people love Heat, but I thought it was rather dull, except for the brilliantly choreographed bank heist and the diner scene with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Ali was a total snore, and that really should have been an impossibility. The Insider was good (not amazing) primarily due to the fantastic performances and the fascinating story, and frankly, it could have been better. If only Michael Mann could take some lessons from Anthony Mann (no relation), he'd be a much better filmmaker.
Dark Streets and Vast Horizons: The American Vision of Anthony Mann is a series that will run at the Walter Reade from August 11-29. If I could go to ever single film in the series, I would; and if Michael is the only Mann you know, you should.
Mann was one of the greatest American directors working in the 40s and 50s, but except to film enthusiasts, he's no longer as well known as the big names of the day: John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, etc. Still, an argument could be made without too much difficulty that Mann was the most influential filmmaker to the development of two particularly American-specific genres in post-WWII, cold war America: the Western and film noir. The French cineastes writing for Cahiers du Cinema and who created the nouvelle vague considered Mann one of the most important directors working in this period, and if you see his movies, you'll understand why.
His work with visionary cinematographer John Alton (possibly the most important noir DP ever) in films -- especially T-Men and Raw Deal, both screening in this series -- have (maybe even unknowingly) influenced many of today's filmmakers who search for ways to create more interesting visual tableaus. Even today, it's difficult to match the gritty and shady beauty of these movies, and not ever having seen them on a big screen, you can bet your ass I'll be there.
Mann also collaborated frequently with Stewart on several westerns, not to mention the biography of bandleader Glenn Miller. The Man from Laramie, Winchester '73, and The Naked Spur are all considered among the greatest films of the genre, even if none of them carry the same popular notoriety today of the iconic John Ford/John Wayne collaborations.
Mann is a filmmaker who deserves a comprehensive celebration of his important contribution to cinema, and as they often do, the Walter Reade comes through this August. There are plenty of notable titles among the 25 in this series I haven't mentioned, including what is probably his most well-known, El Cid starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. I highly encourage anyone in New York to give some of his films a try.
P.S.: Completely unrelated to either Mann, the Walter Reade will also be "celebrating the opening of the 2004 Republican Convention with this tribute to the man behind the man in the Ocal Office, Karl Rove." How will they celebrate? With all day screenings on August 30 of the new documentary Bush's Brain which premiered earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.