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Hannibal Recap Season 3, Episode 12, "The Number of the Beast Is 666"

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Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “The Number of the Beast Is 666”

NBC

Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “The Number of the Beast Is 666”

“The Number of the Beast Is 666” finds Will (Hugh Dancy) and Jack (Laurence Fishburne) turning desperate as Francis (Richard Armitage) remains at large, with their only pipeline to the killer embodied by an increasingly contemptuous, puckish Hannibal (Mad Mikkelsen). Said desperation is predominantly embodied by three conversations, duets as always, that serve to heavily foreshadow whatever awaits us next week in Hannibal’s season, perhaps series, finale, “The Wrath of the Lamb,” a title that derives from a phrase in Revelation 6:16: “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb.” Hannibal evokes this phrase this week, in the first duet, likening Will to the lamb, or to a spurned savior, taking in stride Jack’s comparison of his truly to “The devil himself, bound in a pit.” Hannibal retorts that, in these analogies, Jack would be God, then, sending his savior to battle Satan and the Great Red Dragon, a suggestion that Jack takes with something like a fusion of fury and good humor.

Hannibal Recap Season 3, Episode 11, "…And the Beast from the Sea"

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Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 11, “…And the Beast from the Sea”

NBC

Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 11, “…And the Beast from the Sea”

“...And the Beast from the Sea” is structured as a perverse quasi romantic farce, in which two working-class guys are pitted against one another by a rarefied man who literally lives in a gilded cage. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) has been trying to jerk Will’s (Hugh Dancy) figurative chain over Francis Dolarhyde’s (Richard Armitage) crime spree for some time, suggesting that the latter has replaced the former as the primary occupier of his affections. (Or of whatever precisely counts as “affections” for Hannibal Lecter.) Will hasn’t been taking the bait, having a variety of other things on his plate (a new wife and superstar killer to pursue will fill one’s calendar fast), but Hannibal escalated the state of affairs this week, disclosing the address of Will’s family to Francis and ordering him to “kill them all.” Does Hannibal mean Will, too, when he says this to Francis? It’s a question that hangs over the narrative. There are only two episodes remaining in the season, and probably of the entire series, so a discarding of subtlety is in order. Is Hannibal in love with Will, or running him through another psychological thresher? If it’s love, does Hannibal want Will back, so to speak, hence his wanting the latter’s family dead, or does he seek revenge for the gall he perceives Will to display in taking a family to begin with? Or is it all of the above? As one considers these questions, it’s fruitful to remember: The F.B.I. never caught Hannibal; he gave himself up to stay closer to Will, which is to say that he feels as if Will hasn’t honored his side of that bargain.

Hannibal Recap Season 3, Episode 8, "The Great Red Dragon"

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Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “The Great Red Dragon”

NBC

Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “The Great Red Dragon”

When we first see Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), he’s sitting in what appears to be a cafeteria, having coffee, looking over a Time magazine with rapt fascination. On the cover is a reprint of William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, one of several paintings the poet and artist produced depicting images of a seven-headed, 10-horned monster from the Book of Revelation. Francis turns the magazine’s pages and finds within them an even more striking image in the series, a reprint of the nearly identically titled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun. The paintings cumulatively dramatize both sides of a single image: In the first, we see the front of a woman as she’s descended on by the dragon, and in the second, we’re behind them, looking predominantly on the dragon’s powerful, startlingly sexualized back, which is rippled with muscle, supporting great sprouting wings and a coiled tail that suggests a phallus. In the first painting the woman is accorded dramatic agency, and our empathy is drawn to her; in the second, she’s seen cowering between the dragon’s legs, our senses primarily taken with its power over her. It’s this power that transfixes Francis.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Aaron Aradillas’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Aaron Aradillas’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Aaron Aradillas’s Top 10 Films of All Time

How do you distinguish a movie that’s one of the greatest of all time from one of your all-time favorites? Is there a distinction? Making a top 10 list of the greatest movies of all time made me realize that there is and there isn’t. For example: John McTiernan’s Die Hard is one of my favorite movies, but it didn’t make this list. On the other hand, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Un Chien Andalou is one of the greatest movies ever made, but it didn’t make this list either. Maybe it would’ve been easier to choose movies in specific genres and categories. For example: Most people would argue that Singin’ in the Rain is the greatest musical of all time. It certainly is one of them but I’d make the case that Saturday Night Fever is just as monumental an achievement in the musical genre.

But the task at hand is to make a list of the 10 movies I consider to be the greatest ever made. Following the model of the Sight & Sound critics’ poll, I consider this list to be fluid and not set in stone. Surprisingly, I didn’t agonize over this list that much (I agonize more when I make my year-end list). My choices are movies that continue to speak to me long after I can anticipate every line of dialogue, every edit, or plot point. I feel I will never fully understand why I consider these movies to be the greatest ever made. So, if some of my choices baffle you, take comfort in knowing they baffle me, too.

Summer of ‘86: Dragon’s Breath: Manhunter, Take Two

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Summer of ‘86: Dragon’s Breath: <em>Manhunter</em>, Take Two
Summer of ‘86: Dragon’s Breath: <em>Manhunter</em>, Take Two

Penetrate the dream, and you’ll understand the nightmare. Early in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, retired F.B.I. profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) suggests as much during a tense visit to the maximum-security prison cell of infamous flesh-eater, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox). The two men share a traumatic cat-and-mouse history, and Graham enters this antiseptic lion’s den to regain a “scent” for Lecktor’s special brand of madness so he can catch a ruthless killer. But Lecktor’s mind games cut too deep, gutting Graham’s still-healing psyche one carefully modulated word at a time. Even the pressing timeline of a terrifying serial murder case isn’t enough to keep Graham from sprinting out of the fortified mental hospital into the fresh open air, his heavy breathing amplified by classic Mann-style synthesizer tones. Insanity like this is infectious, and Graham knows it.

Released theatrically on August 15, 1986, Manhunter signifies two important beginnings: the cinematic introduction of America’s favorite cannibal, some five years before Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, and the flowering of director Michael Mann’s ice-cold specialist auteurism, a stylistic approach he initiated with 1981’s Thief and has perfected in the decades since. Because Manhunter examines Lecktor’s mania within the closed off boundaries of Mann’s tight professional universe, the character’s impact lies in the subtle tweaks of Brian Cox’s marvelously evil performance, a smoldering combination of thinly veiled smiles and slicked back charm that is wonderfully opposed to Anthony Hopkins’s lip-smacking showboat turn. In Cox’s hands, Lecktor treats serial killing as a calling, respecting the nuance and detail of his work just as Will and his F.B.I. colleagues do with their own investigation. A few brief but crucial scenes show how Lecktor manipulates the entire narrative of Manhunter by subverting Will’s trust in institutional procedure. Rules and regulations can’t contain Lecktor’s flair for the evilly dramatic, controlling each character’s fate like a demented cat pawing at its helpless prey. Only Mann’s blue-moon color schemes and sporadically dynamic slow-motion shots evoke a world apart from Lecktor’s maniacal omniscience.

Summer of ‘86: We Don’t Invent Our Natures…: Manhunter, Take One

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Summer of ‘86: We Don’t Invent Our Natures…: <em>Manhunter</em>, Take One
Summer of ‘86: We Don’t Invent Our Natures…: <em>Manhunter</em>, Take One

I was never quite as taken as everyone else was when I first saw The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. After just coming off of two post-punk films which married comedy to violence in unpredictable ways (Something Wild and Married to the Mob) Lambs seemed like a dank, watered-down, miscalculated step into typical thriller territory for director Jonathan Demme. Worse, its Oscar wins seemed to temporarily derail Demme’s career for a while, as he pursued projects more for their awards-worthiness than for any personal interest in the material. Admittedly, Anthony Hopkins’ performance as serial killer Hannibal Lecter was electrifying. But the fact that this cannibal killer was imprisoned in what looked like a dungeon struck me as both phony and a little too on-the-nose in its attempt to force Jodie Foster’s heroine to descend into Hades every time she needed more help with her case. So deliberately unusual was Hopkins’ glassy-eyed intensity and odd vocal inflection, it was years before I connected his character to Brian Cox’s Hannibal Lecktor (sic) in Manhunter, a film I had caught in theaters just five years earlier.

The Conversations: Michael Mann

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The Conversations: Michael Mann
The Conversations: Michael Mann

Ed Howard: During the course of our conversation about David Fincher earlier this year, I posited Fincher as one of the few modern American directors who fit the classical model for the Hollywood auteur: someone who makes intensely personal and idiosyncratic films, in a variety of styles and forms, within the Hollywood studio system. I’d suggest that Michael Mann is another of these rare directors, bringing personal style to the Hollywood film at a time when American directors are increasingly either independent auteurs or blockbuster craftsmen for the big studios (or, in the case of fence-sitters like Gus Van Sant and Steven Soderbergh, shuffling back and forth between the two extremes). Mann’s body of work exists entirely within recognizable generic forms: the crime film (Thief, Heat, Public Enemies), the thriller (Manhunter, Collateral, Miami Vice), the horror film (The Keep), the epic Western (The Last of the Mohicans), the biopic (Ali), the “based on a true story” social drama (The Insider).

His films, almost without exception, tell straightforward, direct stories, the kinds of stories that writing gurus love because they can be summed up in a single sentence. And yet these stories are seldom the main point with Mann. He can be a conventional storyteller if he needs to be, but his default mode—and, I think, his preferred mode—is to place the emphasis on mood, on atmosphere, rather than on narrative. He’s more interested in the accumulation of small details than he is in how they fit together into the big picture. He’s more interested in archetypes and how they feed into his signature themes than he is in crafting fully realized characters in their own right.

He also loves playing with light, color, focus, composition, with the elements of form. He’s a stylist working in a context where style is generally a secondary concern. How many big-budget action/crime films spend as much time on setting mood as Heat? How many heist pictures would rhapsodize over the spray of sparks from a welding torch, as Mann does in Thief? If most modern genre films consider style second (if at all), for Mann, in contrast, there are times when style seems to be his only concern.

Zen Pulp: The World of Michael Mann, Pt. 4: reflections, doubles, and doppelgangers

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This is the fourth in a five-part series of Moving Image Source video essays on Michael Mann, whose new film, Public Enemies, opened July 1. To read a transcript of the video’s narration, click here. For links to more episodes, click here. To read MZS’s review of Public Enemies at IFC.com, click here.

Zen Pulp: The World of Michael Mann, Pt. 2—Lifetime Subscriptions: Mann’s Honor-Bound Individualists

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This is the second in a five-part series of Moving Image Source video essays on Michael Mann, whose new film, Public Enemies, opened July 1. To read a transcript of the video’s narration, click here. To read the author’s review of Public Enemies at IFC.com, click here.

Taking All the Fun Out of Vice

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Taking All the Fun Out of <em>Vice</em>
Taking All the Fun Out of <em>Vice</em>

The TV show Miami Vice is a relic of the 1980’s, a weekly descent on a fancy speedboat into a pastel-colored Heart of Darkness full of sex, drugs and, worst of all, macho posturing. Filmmaker Michael Mann and series creator Anthony Yerkovich took NBC boss Brandon Tartikoff’s description of “MTV Cops” and built a show around it; the title has become synonymous with Reagan-era excess. Mann’s theatrical visuals were edited for maximum adrenaline; entire set-pieces played out as short films cut in sync to the songs of the era; the sense of stylistic overload was leavened only by fleeting references to current events.

When Vice became the latest in a line of TV shows scheduled for movie upgrades, it came attached to the show’s master stylist. Back in the day, Mann’s sole purpose was to bring an 80’s movie into your home every week. Now, freed from the content restrictions of NBC censors, I expected to see what Vice might have looked like if HBO were doing TV series back then. Either Mann was going to give us a jolt of 80’s nostalgia, reminding us why the show was so terrible yet compulsively watchable, or he was going to play it straight, upping the angst quotient and macho bullshit, muting the color scheme, and reminding us why you can’t make a ho into a housewife.