Michael Mann and Lev Kuleshov

Michael Mann’s commentary on the Restored Director’s Cut of MANHUNTER focuses primarily on the parallel psychology of the serial murderer and the cop. But let’s skip to the last few minutes of the commentary in which Michael Mann summarises his approach to filmmaking.

“Film is made in the editing room. In the writing and in the director’s preparation you’re planning what you’re gonna do in the editing room.”

He then refers to the Russian theory of montage from the 1920’s, which was followed by the Brits in the next decade (and used later to great commercial success by Alfred Hitchcock a.o.).

Anybody with a real interest in the effect of montage, should really do some reading on Lev Kuleshov and what is still known as the Kuleshov Effect. Using this, one could build a case that, if story is structure (which is what Stephen Gaghan doesn’t like), therefore transitions are structure.

Isn’t it remarkable that seventy years apart, two Russians were telling the world about transitions in their respective art forms?

Gaghan writes like a director. Similarly, Michael Mann is already thinking of what he will do in the editing room and therefore writes his story from scene transitions rather than starting from the overall dramatic arc.

(originally published 06/05/2006, edited 31/10/2007)

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