A Few Words About A few words about...™ Public Enemies -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Dec 9, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Michael Mann's Public Enemies is an interesting film.

    With incredibly solid and detailed period recreation, and use of actual locations, the film was shot in a mixture of Super 35 and HD. To me the use of HD took the film out of its time era and gave it a look that just didn't sync with the subject matter, making it appear at times more like a TV movie, especially with its occasionally burned out highlights.

    As a Blu-ray, all is well, as the original intended look appears to have been ported over from the final DI data files.

    Quality performances in this cat and mouse drama hold up nicely, but I found the running time at 140 minutes, a bit bloated.

    A quality Blu-ray from Universal that image-wise is what it is.

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer
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    I couldn't agree more. I like Mann's work and it is an interesting film, but to me the video look of the film didn't fit the material and took me out of the story. What's more interesting to me is that HD video doesn't have to look like it did in this film which means this particular look was a stylistic choice. One that I don't understand.

    Still, glad to know the Blu-ray is solid.
     
  3. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I didn't participate in any of the discussion threads when the movie came out, so it's nice to hear I wasn't the only one bothered by the anachronistic image qualities.
     
  4. Guest

    This was one of the worst transfers I've ever seen for a modern film on blu-ray... yet I ran to internet to read reviews and I'm told that this was probably the film elements that caused this.

    There seems to be a few trouble spots for me. The shootout appears as a grainy, jaggy, edge enhancement mess. Anything with dark scenes also looks like a mess.

    Sometimes dark walls turn into a swarm of grain so thick and "buzzy", it's distracting.

    Edge enhancement is applied VERY, VERY liberally. We are talking Jesse James/Gangs of New York territory. I saw this in the theaters and don't remember it looking like this. I own about 200 films on Blu-Ray and this is probably the worst.
     
  5. willyTass

    willyTass Second Unit

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    Mann should have called this one " Days Of Our Lives"
     
  6. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Guess I'm one of the few that found the running time fine, it didn't drag for me at all. Also, I didn't have an issue with the image quality. The audio on the other hand had it's fair share of being very unbalanced.
     
  7. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    I watched it on my little bedroom TV, 32", and it looked really grungy in places. There were several brief shots that looked as if I was looking through a dirty window screen. I don't even know what to call that! I really like the film on content but this is one butt-ugly movie. My wrath will likely escalate once I've viewed it on my 58" screen.
     
  8. Bill Buklis

    Bill Buklis Supporting Actor
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    I saw this in the theaters and although I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I can't say it was beautiful. It was deliberately grainy at times. And the use of video was obnoxious. It was immediately obvious every time they switched to video (generally interiors and hand-held shots). Butt-ugly probably sums up this movie, yet story wise it was well done.
     
  9. esl88

    esl88 Auditioning

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    I agree that the use of digital cameras took the film out of its time and place, but I'm not convinced this is necessarily a bad thing. I think that a lot of people misunderstand what Michael Mann was trying to do here; Public Enemies isn't a period piece so much as it's an anti-period piece. A lot of historical films use soft filters and over-exposure to get a "period" feel, but that generally just romanticizes the past. The point of Enemies, I think, is to completely eschew all pre-conceived notions of how a film set in the 30s should look. This is really just a film about bank robbers... which happens to be set in the 30s. And while I greatly prefer film over digital (both in terms of shooting and projection), I admire Mann's decision to present the digital footage as-is instead of dressing it up to look like film. The artifacts didn't even bother me since they are, for once, actually part of the intended look.

    Conversely, I think a good example of a period piece done wrong is The Black Dahlia. That movie used all sorts of pedestrian filters and artificial lighting to look like a 40s noir film. The result is something that looks neither like a film made now or in the 40s. It just looks fake. Enemies, on the other hand, uses naturalistic lighting, coupled with a decidedly modern aesthetic. I'd compare it more to Chinatown, which also opted for newer, smaller cameras to create a window into the past. I like this approach; it doesn't put the story into quotations. That's not to say that there haven't been amazing films emulating a "period" look (Schindler's List, The Godfather), but this isn't a necessity either. I think people are just kind of conditioned to expect the latter approach because it's what filmmakers usually go with. But this is mainly because Hollywood tends to forget that the rest of the world isn't a giant set.

    In any case, I liked it.
     
  10. Peter Neski

    Peter Neski Supporting Actor

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    I Think this dvd looks great,sure a lot has to do with the fact that I think this was the
    only good looking film I saw this year,Because Mann knows how to use color and
    is only of the few who is great with Photograpy(Video or Film)
    I am not crazy with all steady cam work,and a wish someone would use a tripod
    now and then.(That goes for Malick too)

    While Miami Vice wasn't great(just a redue of a old show from the series,with poor
    casting) It was great looking


    Could this PE BR look better? It sure looked better in the Theatre,but I don't think that was 1080p....2000p???
    Unlike Miami Vice which I saw transfered to film which look like crap in the Theatre.

    From looking at the Making of footage,I couldn't spot any film cameras,what was shot
    on Film??
     
  11. Bobby Henderson

    Bobby Henderson Stunt Coordinator

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    I've had a pretty negative reaction to the video sourced imagery of Public Enemies from the time I saw the movie's first trailer. The look of it is screamingly anachronistic and ill-fit. That kind of choice would be akin to me filming a mild romantic comedy with the music score being nothing but tunes from Slayer and Fear Factory. It just does not work. Video with 1930's gangster material goes together about as well as ice cream topped with laundry detergent.

    I do have the opinion and prejudice that any major Hollywood movie should be shot on film using the best motion picture film cameras and lens systems available. They achieve the true "film look." And they yield a higher quality, more future-proofed image. Glorified HDTV video cameras do not deliver that yet. Far too many people are eaten up with the "digital" buzzword to realize "analog" still does a great job in some cases.

    Nevertheless, I have seen "digital" done very well. I thought Sin City looked great. "Digital" has some obvious advantages for certain shooting situations. I might consider shooting a comedy 100% digital for all the extra improv footage one could capture without fear of a film magazine running empty.

    However, the look of Michael Mann's movies has been going downhill after his first mostly "digital" movie Collateral. And in the case of Collateral I actually wish Mann would have left the native video look of the electronic cameras intact instead of crushing the RGB video color structure through film look filters. The video look seemed fully appropriate for Collateral. The footage of Miami Vice was marred by a lot of artificially added noise that was either added as a choice of style or to hide various flaws of using electronic HD cameras in low light levels and high gain settings. I never associated the TV series of Miami Vice with any sort of grungy, documentary style look. Miami Vice should have looked slick. Public Enemies? Well, I just have the impression Michael Mann and his crew are too eaten up with "digital" enthusiasm to be fully critically objective in how their footage looks. If they were truly impartial I think they would be renting out a bunch of Panavision or Arri film cameras for their next shoot.
     
  12. Zack Gibbs

    Zack Gibbs Screenwriter

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    I agree mostly with Eli (post #9), and I enjoy Mann's embrace of video.

    He understands it's not cheap or anachronistic, people have just been conditioned to feel that way. They'll just have to re-condition.
     
  13. Bobby Henderson

    Bobby Henderson Stunt Coordinator

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    I disagree. The customer/viewer does not have any obligation to re-condition. They enter the theater in whatever mindset they choose. The filmmaker (or in this case "videographer") must communicate with the audience better. If he takes unusual chances and the gamble blows up in his face it is the "videographer's" fault, not the fault of the audience. The audience should not have any sort of pre-requisite to be conditioned into a collective video camera fanboy in order to understand the show.

    Simply put, the video look is a modern day, TV-oriented thing. Dillinger did not have TV way back in the 1930s. Movies on film existed back then. If we wanted to be really purist about it a movie on Dillinger should have been filmed in black and white in 1:33:1 ratio. But that would take even more guts to do than shoot a movie with electronic HDTV cameras.
     
  14. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    It's interesting to note that, according to the American Cinematographer article on PUBLIC ENEMIES, Mann originally wanted to shoot entirely on film, but cinemtographer Dante Spinotti talked him out of it.

    Vincent
     
  15. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

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    Not just that, Vincent. They did a test between the two formats, using costumes and whatnot, and Mann liked the HD version better.
     
  16. Brian Borst

    Brian Borst Screenwriter

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    Who says the 'gamble' blew up in his face? Just because some people don't like the look of it, doesn't mean it's the fault of those who shot it. Being in the right mindset absolutely has to do with everything. Or is a movie bad when it turns out to be different than you expected?

    And of course your second point is ludicrous. Does that mean that, for example, L.A. Confidential (happens to be shot by Spinotti too) doesn't look right either?
     
  17. Bobby Henderson

    Bobby Henderson Stunt Coordinator

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    L.A. Confidential was photographed in a conventional manner that didn't call attention itself.

    And that's really the point. The obvious video look of Public Enemies calls attention to itself like it is shouting "video" from the roof rafters. It is distracting. If a "filmmaker" is going to make an odd choice of shooting methods where the results are obvious looking those results need to fit the subject matter of the movie.

    At the very least, Michael Mann and Dante Spinotti could have worked harder making their "digital film" look more like a film instead of a time-traveled TV episode of COPS. The way this movie looks, they might as well have left the RGB video looking like straight video. At least the image quality would have been quite a bit better. The same goes for Mann's last two movies.
     
  18. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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  19. Bobby Henderson

    Bobby Henderson Stunt Coordinator

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    You and Brian are missing the point, or perhaps ignoring the point deliberately.

    The appearance of video, as opposed to film, is unmistakable. It has a certain look that calls attention to itself when it is used in mediums outside of broadcast television. People associate the video look with daytime TV soap operas, the 6 o'clock news, talk shows, live TV sports broadcasts, variety shows and sit-coms taped in front of studio audiences. That is the conventional view of where the video look fits. Video has a live, present day, immediate feel to it. It does not have any sort of historical vision of the past vibe to it at all. Film does.

    The video look doesn't work well in feature films. And every "digital" movie being released tries through post processing in some way to mimic the film look as much as possible. Some electronically shot movies succeed pretty well in imitating the film look. None of Michael Mann's "digital" movies have accomplished that, although they have had the original wide RGB gamma range crushed down to a muddier level in a vain attempt to do the film look thing. It takes more than shooting in 24p and throwing a stock color curve at the video footage to achieve the film look.

    This topic reminds me of one of the bigger laugh out loud anachronisms I saw in a movie. In John Woo's awful WWII Iwo Jima epic Windtalkers he needed footage of battleships firing off shore for a naval shelling sequence. What did he use? Stock NTSC SD color video footage of battleships firing. It looked like footage of battleships from the 1980s firing on Shite positions in the mountains outside Beirut. Blown up to 'scope, you could see the video scan lines unmistakably clear. Really bad choice there.
     
  20. Zack Gibbs

    Zack Gibbs Screenwriter

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    Mann has never tired to make his video look like film. If anything he has done the opposite.

    The conventions you associate video with have nothing to do with his choices to use it, as he does not make those same associations. Nor will anyone else as video steadily continues to take over the industry. It's an antiquated viewpoint to be avoided.
     

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