Sunday, December 13, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

Director: Michael Mann
Universal DVD

The problem with Public Enemies is the same problem I have with most biopics. We've heard of these people (in this case Dillinger, Purvis, etc..) we may have even seen movies about them before (as is the case here), and we know what's going to happen. So the only thing left is to tell the story in an interesting way. But that brings up a new predicament. How much of the story should be dramatized to make an interesting film that has a cohesive narrative? I think the easiest answer is don't make biopics. Since that won't happen, I believe it's important to come up with an unconventional way to tell what fundamentally becomes conventional stories. The best example of this is Peter Watkins' Edvard Munch (1974) which has a camera crew making a documentary about the subject and has the actors, in character, give interviews to the camera but still set at the turn of the century when this technology obviously didn't exist. This film came to mind immediately while watching Public Enemies as it is shot with a lot of hand held digital video giving it a cinema verite quality. And while this allows Mann to get some very interesting compositions in real world settings, it can also make the movie claustrophobic and almost small in it's vision. This could also be construed as a way to create intimacy with the characters, but after spending nearly 2and 1/2 hours with them, I didn't feel like I learned very much about them. In fact I got more information in the 10 minute bonus feature, particularly on Melvin Purvis. This isn't to say I disliked the film, it just didn't resonate at all once it was over. The story was very similar to that of Mann's Heat which is a far better film.

The DVD looks as good as to be expected from a new release and the DV used to make the film looks particularly cool during shoot-outs. The video production also allows for a lot of natural, low light giving us a sense that we are there. The only other extra, besides the 10 minute doc, on the single disc edition is a commentary by Mann.



  1. Yeah, I could live happily without ever seeing another biopic. Unless it's about Ian Curtis, natch.

  2. I still haven't revisited this on disc. Any comments on the sound in the first reel? There was some controversy about it upon theatrical release, with some rumors floating around indicating that Mann deliberately screwed with the sound and others citing rushed production.

    It's a real shame the interminable middle wasn't as electrifying as the prison break or the ending.

  3. Public Enemies is crime drama movie.John Dillenger is a bank robber,but after sometime he became a folk hero in public.It also involves the snapy techniques...Really Awesome movie. I watch public enemies movie from this website...