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Phil & Will:
Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day,
Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2

manhunter-19865,774 words

Part 2 of 2 (Part 1 here)

Manhunter (1986); 119 minutes. Director: Michael Mann; Writers: Thomas Harris (novel), Michael Mann (screenplay); Stars: William Peterson, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan, Chris Elliot

Groundhog Day (1993); 101 minutes. Director: Harold Ramis; Writers: Danny Rubin (screenplay), Harold Ramis (screenplay); Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky 

We’ve been using a variation on what Baron Evola called The Traditional Method, in which various historical traditions, each more or less incomplete, are held up against each other to provide a mutual critique of each one’s imperfections, and suggest the presence of the higher truth each imperfectly embodies.[1]

Point of Terror, despite its somewhat endearing sleaziness, critiques Groundhog Day’s premise, and suggests the more Traditional notion that one’s character is a given, perhaps selected pre-natally but subject to very little variation in life, no matter how many repetitions one is given; in fact, the more likely result of endlessly repeating one’s life would be a kind of living Hell rather than resolution, reform, and living happily ever after.[2]

Or perhaps, madness. The film Manhunter suggests that an unlikable jerk-ass in Phil’s situation is far more likely to develop into a serial killer than a saint, secular or otherwise.

Constant Readers will not be surprised when I disclose that I am a Big Fan of Manhunter, Michael Mann’s post-Miami Vice pastel-and-neon take on Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon.[3] Yes, we have here another Neglected White Masterpiece; perhaps one may suggest, neglected precisely because it’s a White Masterpiece? Despite all the “controversy” over the casting, the photography, and the music, if you listen closely, you can tell it’s hated because it’s so White.

It is indeed a very White film, meaning that, like America of old, it is an unself-consciously, taken for granted White world. Will Graham, the retired FBI profiler (or “manhunter” as the tabloids dub him) is called back — having retired after first entering the mind of, and then being gutted with a linoleum knife by Hannibal Lecktor –to find the killer of two large, well-off White families in the New South (Birmingham and Atlanta, no less). His task is to save the next family — as so often in fiction, the psycho has provided a handy timetable for the authorities.[4]

Graham’s mission is to save White families; he’s well-suited for the role, since he has one of his own — his very ’80s rail-thin and frizzy-haired wife (Kim Greist) and his very blond son.

Jack Crawford: Oh, for Christ’s sake, it’s a foregone conclusion! It’s 11:30 P.M., the full moon is happening tonight. Give it up. Forget this month. It’s too damn late.

Will Graham: I gave it up! Till you showed up with pictures of two dead families, knowing God damn well that I’d imagine families three, four, five and six. Right?

Jack Crawford: You’re fucking right I did! And I’d do it again!

Will Graham: Great! But don’t talk to me about late, pal! I’ll tell you when it’s too fucking late! Until then, we go as late as I wanna take it!

It’s such a White film that even the bad guys are White: Hannibal Lecktor and Francis Dollarhyde.[5] Lecktor, whom Brian Cox plays very differently than Anthony Hopkins did, still seems to be vaguely British, and obviously likes to read; two very suspicious traits.[6]

Doctor Hannibal Lecktor: But you haven’t threatened to take away my books yet!

Dollarhyde’s Otherness is more intriguing. Played by Tom Noonan, he’s very White, nearly an albino, identified by a blond hair on his note to Lecktor and as a Caucasian on van permit at work. Yet his more striking characteristics seem to suggest a Negro villain. When we first meet him, he jumps up and towers over a White female co-worker; his absurd height, chrome dome, gangly limbs and powerful build suggest an NBA thug.[7] His obsession with sight, his outsized vampire dentures, and his disfigured lip all suggest stereotypical Negro features that set them apart from Whites — eyes, teeth, lips. Even the blind Reba knows there’s something different about him, and when she tries to compliment him on it, she sounds like Joe Biden complimenting Barack Obama:

Reba: You know, you speak very well, although you avoid fricatives and sibilants.[8]

Of course, another stereotype would require a serial killer to be White anyway (all those African massacres don’t count, I suppose) but Dollarhyde’s preferred method is nothing other than the White suburbanite’s great fear: home invasion.

But then, it’s all the same in the dark:

Doctor Hannibal Lecktor: Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.

It’s always great to find a film that, even in the ’80s, takes place in an implicit Whitopia. Things will be perfect again as soon as that pesky Tooth Fairy is taken out. As far as I can tell, there are only two Negro characters. One, who appears so briefly that I only noticed him on my most recent re-viewing, is a jogger that is mistaken for Dollarhyde when he runs into the trap Graham set for the Tooth Fairy.

The Runner: [to the cops] What you movin’ in slow motion for, man? I’m being mugged.

It’s played as comic relief; today, he’d be screaming “racial profiling” (Graham is a profiler, after all, but serial killers are White, so that’s OK) and the whole film would be about his struggle for justice.

The other is some kind of police officer near the end, essentially a servant, whose job is just to relay information to the White Men in the plane overhead; significantly, neither he nor any other cop plays a role in capturing Dollarhyde, only Graham himself.[9]

Anyway, I’m suggesting that our two bad guys, Lecktor and Dollarhyde, are examples of what Phil would likely become if someone like him were to find themselves in an endless loop.

According to TV Tropes,

No Endor Holocaust: The movie glosses over two things. . . . 2: Given the suggested timespan there must have been days when he did incredibly cruel things to relieve his frustration, but those days aren’t shown. . . .   Ramis and his co-writer Danny Rubin have said they deliberately avoided one of the logical extremes that Phil could have done: create despair and kill people with no consequence. They decided to avoid the sadistic possibilities of the time loop. Presumably, the fact that even at his worst Phil has enough of a moral compass to avoid murder and overt sadism is one of the things that helps him on the road to redemption.

If it sounds strange to think of Phil as Lecktor, that’s like because you’re thinking of Hopkins’ Count Dracula. As someone once said online, Cox’s Lecktor is the sort of ordinary guy who might sit down next to you on the bus, or the DMV, and engage you in a casual conversation that suddenly finds you in his basement, hogtied.

manhunter2Cox’s most Murray-moment comes at the end of the scene where he makes a late night call to convince a temp to give him Graham’s home address — today’s hackers would call this “social engineering.” The look on his face, literally tongue in cheek, as he chews the gum whose foil wrapper enabled him to re-direct the call supposedly to his attorney, is pure Bill Murray, and miles away from Hopkins feasting on rare lamb chops.

cox-final-small-copyAnd I’m glad to see that image has been chosen for the recent “Brian Cox-fest.”

Both Phil and Lecktor are smug jackasses, who seem to have some kind of unearned omniscience. Lecktor, like Sherlock Holmes — or Dr. House — is supposedly so damn intelligent they can “deduce” just what you’re thinking or about to do. Although Phil was already a condescending jerk, we know that his thousands of repetitions of the same day have given him omniscience the easy — or perhaps the hard — way. In fact, if Groundhog Day had been filmed as originally planned, Phil would have appeared at first without back-story, leaving us to wonder how he was able to know everything that was going to happen.

It’s Lecktor who will, unwillingly, provide Will — get it? — with the essential clue he’ll need to find  Dollarhyde. Will, as a profiler, is able to enter the mind of the likes of Lecktor or Dollarhyde, making him another Double of both. As such, we can see him as a Good Phil, while Lektor wants him to become a Bad Phil like Dollarhyde. To do so, he gives him the same counsel about the exchangeability of character we’ve already emphasized — as usual in movies, it’s the psychopaths who speak for Tradition:

Will Graham: I’m sick of you, Lecktor. If you’ve got something to say, say it!

Doctor Hannibal Lecktor: l want to help you, Will. You’d be more comfortable if you relaxed with yourself! We don’t invent our natures, they’re issued to us with our lungs and pancreas and everything else. Why fight it?

Will Graham: Fight what?

Doctor Hannibal Lecktor: Did you really feel depressed after you shot Mr. Garrett Jacob Hobbes to death? I think you probably did. But it wasn’t the act that got to you. Didn’t you feel so bad, because killing him felt so good? And why shouldn’t it feel good? It must feel good to God. He does it all the time. God’s terrific! He dropped a church roof on 34 of his worshippers in Texas last Wednesday night, just as they were groveling through a hymn to his majesty. Don’t you think that felt good?

Will Graham: Why does it feel good, Dr. Lecktor?

Doctor Hannibal Lecktor: It feels good because God has power. If one does what God does enough times, one will become as God is. God’s a champ. He always stays ahead. He got 140 Filipinos in one plane crash last year. Remember that earthquake in Italy last spring?

Groundhog Day presents us with Good Phil, who after some initial shenanigans gets with the program as outlined by Rita (as we noted in Part One, the Sanskrit notion of rule or order) and worked to become a better person. Being a comedy, the screenwriters know they can only go so far; Phil can attempt to harm himself, but not others.

Tasked with producing a “thriller,” Harris and Mann have a freer hand, and we can see the whole dialectic played out. Lektor is a Satanic figure who tempts Will into accepting his murderous impulses (which enable him to “profile” actual serial killers) and become as God is; Dollarhyde has already accepted this Faustian bargain.[10]

Lecktor’s coded message, “inherit my mantle and surpass my achievements” is directed at Will as much as Dollarhyde. But Lecktor is a false Guru, who would trap Graham in the endless repetition of Samsara; the climax shows us Graham somehow summoning up the Will to resist, disrupting rather than joining the Tooth Fairy’s fantasy world.[11]

Will Graham: I’m sick of you crazy sons of bitches, Lecktor

While Phil/Murray looks even less like Dollarhyde than Lecktor, we’ll see that he has even more in common. Graham has previously imagined his way into Dollarhyde’s mind and intuited the reason for his crimes —

Will Graham: You . . . rearrange the dead families into an audience. You think what you do makes you into something different. You’re becoming . . . What is it you’re becoming? The answer is in the way you use the mirrors. What do the mirrors make you dream?

The parallel with TV weatherman Phil, whose automatic, couldn’t care less greeting is “Thanks for watching” should be clear.

Graham is then able to “put it together” (using a clue his “sick of you” outburst goaded Lecktor into giving him):

Will Graham: He dreams about being wanted and desired. So he changes people into beings who want and desire him.

Jack Crawford: Changes?

Will Graham: It’s a word. Killing and arranging the people to imitate it. And Lecktor told me something: “If one does what God does enough times, one will become as God is.” You put it together, you get: If our boy imitates being wanted and desired enough times, he believes he will become one who is wanted and desired and accepted. It’ll all come true.

I think this is clearly what Bad Phil would be doing, especially after a couple hundred or so repetitions; not change himself, but change other people. And if that seems too dark, remember, no one “really” dies, since the day repeats; Phil can’t even kill himself.

Phil: I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned.

Rita: Oh, really?

Phil: . . . and every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender . . . I am an immortal.

Indeed, Phil has become as God is.

But finally, how does he select his victims?

Will Graham: Jack, all the women have a bloom on them. He didn’t win them in a lottery — he picked these women! There’s selection and design in his choices.

As Graham obsessively replays the tapes made of families’ home movies[12] he suddenly intuits that the killer has already done the same thing:

Will Graham: But he doesn’t take anything. He needs souvenirs from the houses, so he can relive the event. So he can see himself accepted over and over and over again.

Crawford: Maybe he records it somehow. VTR’s, Polaroids, stills, what? — How do I know?

Graham: And you know you need a bolt-cutter and every other Goddamn thing. Because everything with you is seeing, isn’t it? Your primary sensory intake that makes your dream live is seeing. Reflections. Mirrors. Images. . . . You’ve seen these films! Haven’t you, my man?

Both families’ films were developed at the same lab, leading the FBI to  Dollarhyde.[13]

In effect, Phil is in the same situation. Just as the repetitions allow him to develop Lecktor’s level of omniscience, so they serve the same function as Dollarhyde’s viewing the films and planning his invasions. The parallel, as Holmes would say, is exact.[14]

The Phil/Rita and Dollarhyde/Reba doppling is most apparent in two scenes, or rather, two particular shots.

hqdefaultIn Manhunter, Dollarhyde, who works in a photo processing plant and has just killed two entire families so as to get them to look at him, meets Reba, a blind woman who, unrepulsed by his unseen harelip, not only finds him “a sweet, thoughtful man” but initiates a night of lovemaking. In the morning, we have a shot from the ceiling, showing the two in bed, Reba asleep. As the camera glides lower, Dollarhyde places her hand over his mouth (hiding the harelip) and, in a remarkable bit of acting by Tom Noonan, we seem to see his entire face collapse into a kind of corpse or skull, as the realization sinks in that he has found redemption, but it is too late, his stupid “posing the victims” idea has doomed him already.[15]

Will Graham: This started from an abused kid, a battered infant . . . My heart bleeds for him, as a child. . . . At the same time, as an adult, he’s irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks.

There’s a remarkably similar shot in Groundhog Day, looking down on Phil as he wakes up yet again on February 2nd, and apparently hit’s the rock bottom of his despair.

groundhogday_3

But Phil, as we know, hasn’t murdered anyone, and Rita is still available. Phil breaks the cycle by changing himself — he stops obsessing with being seen (“Thanks for watching!”) and instead listens to Rita.[16] In the end, the Dollaryhyde/Reba shot is repeated, but as a happy ending.

Groundhog dayWill, like Good Phil, resists Lecktor’s fatalism and chooses — wills — to save the families, not kill them — or at least not let them be killed.[17] He makes that decision in a very blunt way, at the very climax of the film, when, having reached Dollarhyde’s house, he sees him about to kill Reba. Here’s Mann’s original script:

GRAHAM (whispers in radio) It’s happening again, Jack . . .

CUT TO:

INT. DOLLARHYDE’S KITCHEN – DOLLARHYDE + REBA – NIGHT

On the right we see Dollarhyde’s right arm with the aluminum shafts . . . Beyond them, THROUGH THE WINDOW we see Graham has stepped out from the tree line. He stands on the grass. He looks helpless. His gun hangs idly at his side.

CLOSE: GRAHAM

It’s his worst nightmare. About what he’s seeing:

GRAHAM(low) … stop it.

INT. DOLLARHME’S KITCHEN – DOLLARHYDE + BEYOND HIM 007 THE WINDOW: GRAHAM

We and Graham see Dollarhyde’s arm arc back for an uppercutting thrust into Reba. Dollarhyde’s left hand clutching her dress, raises her two feet up the wall. And now Graham starts running forward. And his face is distorted and he’s shouting:

GRAHAM (roars) STOP IT!!!

Dollarhyde turns to the window in time to see:

128.

WINDOW + GRAHAM

— his arms across his face and his body angled sideways

— CRASHES through the glass.

We see Graham with his arms hanging, helpless, in the open countryside, watching it “happen again” through the window of a rather Modernist house. Somehow, he musters the will to shout “Stop it,” run forward, and then crash through the window that separates him from Dollarhyde and Reba.

At this point, I have to stop and go back to what I mentioned in a note earlier about the “controversy” over the music in the film. As Constant Readers will intuit, I just love the music, which is implicitly White, and those who profess to hate it are, to the extent that they have real opinions and are not just mouthing received wisdom, objectively anti-White.

Anyway, a few minutes ago in the film, as Dollarhyde begins to stalk the blind Reba in his house, the music changed abruptly; like Mia in Pulp Fiction, Dollarhyde has punched a button on his ultra-modern sound system and cued up a golden oldie: Iron Butterfly’s “In-na-gadda-da-Vida.” Even most critics of the soundtrack will admit that choreographing the final showdown to that song is a crowning moment of awesome.

Now, several subtle things are going on here. Up till now, the music has been “diagetic” as the professors say; it relates not to the world on screen but to the character’s inner worlds, and suggests to the viewers the feelings they themselves should have.[18] (In the same way, the much maligned “unnatural” Miami Vice palette throughout gives subtle cues to the viewer.[19]). And being White people of the ’80s, that music is White ’80s music.

Blue good, Green bad

220px-Manhunter-coloursThus, the music is telling us that we are not just in Dollarhyde’s house, which exists in our world, but in his head, as it were. Just as Dollarhyde is a creature of the past, what “They” have made of him, constantly reliving the past, so his mental space is revealed to us by the way he, like some demonic Boomer, is still listening to the music of the past.[20]

Jack Crawford: You feel sorry for him.

Will Graham: This started from an abused kid, a battered infant . . . My heart bleeds for him, as a child. Someone took a kid and manufactured a monster. At the same time, as an adult, he’s irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks. Does that sound like a contradiction to you, Jack? Does this kind of thinking make you uncomfortable?

Of course, the music is shortened a bit, but more than that, it’s been extensively “remixed” as the kids say. Even at full length, it makes no sense in narrative time — Graham couldn’t possibly have flown from Atlanta to St. Louis, and driven out to Dollarhyde’s house, within one LP side, unless Dollarhyde had it on a loop, and just chased Reba around for the sadistic fun of it.

dollarhydeIn addition to the time-distortions in the music, Mann filmed the climax with several cameras running at various speeds, “giving the final scene . . . an “off tempo,” “staccato” feel.”[21] Not only are Dollarhyde’s motions choreographed to the music,[22] but the herky-jerky motions, particularly at his death scene, suggest exactly the totally-determined, puppet on a string.

The roles are reversed; now it is Dollarhyde whose weapon hangs from his limp arm.[23]

Just as post-Traditional Western music has depended almost entirely on the simple use of modulation to build tension and then release it with the return to the home key, so George A. Martin (not, presumably, the Beatle’s producer) created a version of the Iron Butterfly jam which “build[s] tension towards the long-delayed return of the tonic bass riff, the exact moment when Graham literally bursts through the glass wall . . . into the red dragon’s metadiegetic realm.”[24]

Graham, in other words, is outside Dollarhyde’s world of repetition; he can crash through the glass wall, like the Gnostic’s Alien God, and stop it. Dollarhyde, however, has become hopelessly entrapped in it; even Reba can‘t help.

Presumably, Graham’s agonizing glimpses into Lecktor’s mind, coupled with Lecktor’s knife attack, has acted as a kind of initiation, which, as in the Traditional doctrine, is the only real way to “change” oneself — precisely by transcending this world and obtaining a new character, a new will — a new Will, a New Man.[25]

Manhunter uses a somewhat clunky metaphor for Will’s supervening instinct to protect rather than destroy — before leaving his family, he builds a wire enclosure to protect newborn turtles; when he re-unites with them, he checks on the turtles, finds them doing fine, and mutters “most of them made it.” When Thomas Harris came to write the sequel, of course, he seems to have decided that lambs would make for a more snuggly symbol. But Groundhog Day finds a more amusing way to subvert the image. Phil seems to conflate the eponymous groundhog with both the Tooth Fairy and the cycle of repetition he, and Phil, are trapped in, and as he becomes “better” he tries to save the town — and himself — from the demonic groundhog:

Phil: This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. (raising his voice) What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. (turns to the crowd) You’re hypocrites, all of you!

A few cycles later, using Will’s exact words . . .

Phil: Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this . . . (silly voice) tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . . (serious) There is no way . . . that this winter . . . is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s gotta be stopped. (beat) And I have to stop him.

Will kills Dollarhyde to stop him, and save the families/turtles/lambs; Phil tries to kill the symbolic animal itself to end the cycle.

Lecktor has been thwarted, his gospel of defeatism defeated[26] by a man of True Will, like the Green Lantern.[27] Or has he? The Gods of Repetition have a little surprise for us at the very end of Groundhog Day. TV’s Phil would be nothing without his . . . cameraman.

People just don’t understand what is involved in this. This is an art form. You know, I think most people just think that I hold the camera and point it at stuff. There is a lot more to it than just that. Would you be at all interested in seeing the inside of the van?

ManhunterHe seems familiar. Where have we heard that unctuous tone?

Lecktor: Would you like to leave me your home phone number?

Wait a second — that’s Chris Elliot. Say, wasn’t he in . . . Manhunter?

There’s no real reason for me to be in that movie other than the fact that it was, like, the height of my appearances on Letterman. . . . I was cast through a casting agent who’d seen some article on me, and had told Michael Mann, “Oh yeah, it would be cool to have him in this movie,” I guess. So I knew right from the start, “Oh, I really shouldn’t be in this.” In Manhunter, I was supposed to be an FBI forensic investigator. And I don’t know, I was 23 or 24 at the time, with a giant beard and long, stringy blonde hair—I just didn’t look the part.

I remember when the movie premièred, I appear in the scene where everybody’s putting together the final information that leads to this killer, and the camera panned the table and cut to me, and there was this big blast of laughter from the audience that broke the whole tension of that scene. I can only imagine that Michael Mann was not happy about that.[28]

Forensic investigator, giant beard, long stringy blonde hair, camera man, van. . . . Perhaps he was the one who wrote the FBI’s phony personal ad from Lecktor to the Tooth Fairy:

Inherit my mantle and surpass my achievements.

Notes

1. See Mysteries of the Grail, pp. 9-10.

2. See our “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1,” here.

3. Hollywood legend has it that producer Dino De Laurentis demanded the name change since he was superstitious about ‘dragons’ after the failure of Michael Cimino’s Year of the Dragon. The failure of the latter was due less to its title than to the critical backlash against Cimino for his studio-killing mega-bomb Heaven’s Gate, as well as the race-realism of the movie itself, which was of course denounced as “Asian stereotyping.” Heaven’s Gate, on the other hand, is an absurd Leftist fantasy of noble Slavic immigrants to Wyoming (?) being mass-murdered by evil cattle barons (White, ’natch) that bears no resemble to any part of Earth’s known history; see Steve Sailer’s discussion here.

4. Thus, an instance of the trope known as You Have 48 Hours: “Since the Tooth Fairy “operates on a lunar cycle,” the FBI has until the next full moon to catch him before he kills again. They start out with two weeks, but end up taking it right down to the last minute before the killer claims another victim.” Of course, this parallels Phil’s repetition day.

5. Ironically, Mann himself seems to be of Judaic extraction, with a pronounced negrophilic streak, leading him to produce vehicles for the likes of Jamie Foxx and Will Smith, including a Muhammad Ali bio-pic, the cockroach-superhero and miscegenation epic Hancock, NFL-worshiping Nike commercials, and even an ethnic-OK update of his own Miami Vice. It is speculated online that loyal tribesman Mann changed the spelling of “Lechter” and “Dolarhyde” because they were “too Jewish”; if so, that would make the Red Dragon re-make, by restoring both, more “ethnically insensitive.”

6. The online controversy over Manhunter vs. Silence of the Lambs, or more recently the Red Dragon re-make, has two particularly stupid aspects. First, Cox vs. Hopkins. I’ll discuss Cox in a bit, but comparing the two is pointless because each takes place in very different films, and are played accordingly; you couldn’t switch them out without producing a jarring discontinuity. Manhunter is essentially a police procedural, a film noir version of Miami Vice. (In the same year, Mann, who was still executive producer of MV, produced an episode, “Shadow in the Dark,” that actually seems like a dry run for the film, with Don Johnson replacing William Peterson as Will Graham and Edward James Olmos replacing Dennis Farina as Crawford. So if Manhunter is Silence as a Miami Vice episode, “Shadow” is that Miami Vice episode squared; I haven’t tried a detailed comparison for fear of falling into a black hole.) The Hopkins films are grand opera or grand guignol, harkening back to Phantom of the Opera or Dracula. Thus, in reference to our discussion just now, Cox is in white prison uniform, in a white cell in a white prison/hospital (presumably Baltimore, but, in keeping with the New South theme actually filmed in some soulless postmodern art museum in Atlanta); Hopkins, by contrast, sits in a dank, subterranean cell, wearing grey against a palette of black and blood red.

The second stupid controversy is the music; “It’s so outdated; it’s so ’80s!” Even Brian Cox can’t resist putting the boot in: “The only thing I’m not mad about, when I look at it — though I saw it recently and I was a little bit more forgiving — but I was never a fan of ’80s music. So that always dates the film, for me, the score. Visually, I think the film’s a hundred per cent. Musically I think it’s 50 per cent.” We’ll look at the music in a bit, but really, since the film takes place in the ’80s, what music should it have — Grunge? Electo-pop? Tin Pan Alley? By contrast, Scarface’s disco soundtrack is arguably anachronistic, and the idea of replacing it with the kind of rap inspired by the film itself would be clever, if the actual “music” wasn’t so vile.

7. According to the book, he would also have an NBA-worthy full body tattoo, the eponymous Red Dragon, but Mann wisely decided it “cheapened” his menacing look; the remake brings it back, with comical effect on the scrawny Brit Ralph Fiennes.

8. A great example of Hollywood screenwriter bullshit: fricatives are sibilants, and Dollarhyde just delivered a line full of them.

9. On the other hand, the actor will reappear as “Willie the Orderly” in the next three films, thus becoming the only actor to appear in all four Lecktor/Lechter films, although in two different roles.

10. As with the music, we’ll see that Mann’s much abused “Miami Vice” color scheme is rigidly appropriate, with splashes of acid green in Lektor’s cell and Dollarhyde’s home to connect them with Lucifer’s emerald; see Evola, op. cit.

11. Thus Lecktor resembles such false Männerbünde leaders as Melville’s Gnostic Ahab, as well as De Palma’s Al Capone, as we’ve seen in my review of The Untouchables (here and in The Homo and the Negro). Capone, played there by Robert De Niro, was known as “Scarface” which links him to Dolarhyde; Scarface was in turn another gangster film directed by De Palma, starring Al Pacino, who would later make Mann’s Heat with De Niro.

12. The pride with which the cop offers to transfer the home movies to “three quarter inch video tape” is almost as charmingly nostalgic as Graham’s gigantic “mobile phone.”

13. If it’s still hard to see “funny” Murray as Dollarhyde, consider “funny” Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, where he is a lonely photo shop technician (again, technological nostalgia!) who develops (!) an unhealthy and ultimately violent obsession with a suburban family.

14. “The Empty Room”

15. As Gob and others would say on Arrested Development, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Noonan’s performance seems as if it were a homage to the sometimes suppressed final shot of Psycho, where a skull seems to be superimposed on Anthony Perkins’ face; Norman of course has his own problems with spying on people and making things — birds, mothers — say put..

16. One odd bit that the existence of Serial Killer Phil would explain is Phil winning an ice sculpture contest by executing a bust of Rita — with a chainsaw. “I know your face so well, I could have done it with my eyes closed.”

17. Those who have felt that this, or my previous, film work have been a tad too obsessive are welcome to go to the “Can Analyze” blog and feast on his 99-part analysis of the “hidden plot” of Manhunter. Hint: Lechtor is Hermes Trismegistus, and he is ultimately trying to get Will to murder his own family! Actually, it is rather odd that Will falls asleep on the plane while looking at photos of the slaughtered families — and dreams of his own.

18. Wikipedia: “Manhunter‘s soundtrack ‘dominates the film,’ with music that is ‘explicitly diegetic the entire way.’ Steve Rybin has commented that the music is not intended to correlate with the intensity of the action portrayed alongside it, but rather to signify when the viewer should react with a ‘degree of aesthetic distance’ from the film, or be ‘suture[d] into the diegetic world’ more closely.” John Muir (!) suggests that this helps identify the character of Graham with the ‘goodness’ of the natural world, and Dollarhyde with the city, ‘where sickness thrives.’ This strongly stylized approach drew criticism from reviewers at first, but has since been seen as a hallmark of the film and viewed more positively.”

19. Wikipedia: “Cinematographer Dante Spinotti made strong use of colour tints in the film, using a cool ‘romantic blue’ tone to denote the scenes featuring Will Graham and his wife, and a more subversive green hue, with elements of purple or magenta, as a cue for the unsettling scenes in the film, mostly involving Dollarhyde. Petersen has stated that Mann wanted to create a visual aura to bring the audience into the film, so that the story would work on an interior and emotional level… ‘There is nothing in Manhunter … which is just a nice shot,’ says Spinotti. ‘[It] is all focused into conveying that particular atmosphere; whether it’s happiness, or delusion, or disillusion.’ This ‘manipulation of focus and editing’ has become a visual hallmark of the film.

20. We saw this with the Boomers of The Big Chill: “Don’t you have any music from this century?” “There is no other music, not in this house.”

21. Wikipeida, “Manhunter,” quoting cinematographer Dante Spinotti.

22. “The music belongs only to the killer’s space, and its representation of his subjectivity is increased by the gradually ever more dance like quality of his actions, responding to the rhythm and line of the music.” http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Soundtrack-Representing-Music-Cinema/dp/0520250702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382536085&sr=8-1&keywords=Beyond+the+Soundtrack%3A+Representing+Music+in+Cinema.#reader_0520250702

23. “Can Analyze” seems to have been reading my previous discussion of the puppet meme:

[UPDATE 4/21/13: Since the time of the last update to this post, various discoveries have been made while analyzing some of the other Lecter movies, as well as while analyzing A Space Odyssey, which suggest an alternate interpretation of Dollarhyde’s jerking motions to that given above [i.e., magic]: Dollarhyde’s motions are like those of a marionette, i.e., of a puppet operated from above by strings.

24. Loc. cit.

25. This ties in with Graham’s flight from Atlanta, which much have been a shamanic act, explaining the collapse of time that allows him to reach St. Louis within the time of an LP side; he arrives a Superior Man, able to shift time and crash through the glass wall — an inverted “glass ceiling” actually between the Upper and Lower Realms?

26. Unfortunately, in true Hollywood style, he’ll be back, three more times, each one less necessary than the previous, even remaking this very film. Repetition seems to be the very essence of the Lecter saga.

27. See my “Green Nazis in Space!” here. In this film, however, green is associated with Dollarhyde’s scenes.

28. “Random Roles” by Tasha Robinson in The Onion AV Club, December 5, 2007, here.

 

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