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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

The Sound of Michael Mann

And an upcoming feature film

I’ll read anything about Michael Mann, so, clearly, I’ll be reading the upcoming Heat 2 (!) novel (!!), co-written with Meg Gardiner. I love that this lengthy New York Times interview gets into the role of sound in Mann’s productions, for film and TV alike.

Pinned to a wall behind him were several images of vintage Ferraris painted different screaming reds. He’d tasked his crew with making full-body 3-D scans of these vehicles, crafting perfect facsimile shells and fitting these with contemporary drivetrains capable of high-performance racing. Special recordings, Mann said, would capture the engine sound of period-accurate “small-displacement V12s running very high, this shriek, driving down narrow canyons through masonry, then suddenly they’re out in an open field.” He smiled. “It’ll feel like the air is being ripped apart.”

More from the Times article, written by Jonah Weiner. It’s mostly about Mann’s upcoming movie, Ferrari (a biopic I’d otherwise pay close to zero attention to, but, you know, it’s Michael Mann).

[Christopher] Nolan calls “Heat” Mann’s masterpiece, and when we spoke, he singled out a “tiny detail during the bank robbery, where the money is stacked and wrapped in plastic, and they put it into the duffel bags, then use a razor to slash the plastic and bang it, so that it comes loose and takes the shape of the bag.” This moment flies by, but it “grounds the entire robbery in a technical reality that you respect and enjoy,” Nolan said. “You feel you’re watching a film about experts made by experts.” The sequence’s most indelible aspect is its terrifying sound. Mann recorded the gunfire — “full-load” blanks, containing the same powder charge as live ammo — not on a soundstage, as is common practice, but out on the streets, as it reverberated off the sunny steel-and-glass canyons onscreen.

I wrote a short appreciation of Thief in 2019 for hilobrow.com, and followed that up with a close listen to his feature debut, a TV movie called The Jericho Mile.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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