Feb 6, 2016

Light Sleeper




It is oftentimes said that writers spend their entire lives writing the same book over and over again and of course the same has also been said of filmmakers, especially of the auteur oriented sort like Federico Fellini and Alexander Kluge, but also seemingly autistic Hollywood blockbuster whores like Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. Undoubtedly, if any American auteur provides great evidence to this theory, it is screenwriter turned filmmaker Paul Schrader (Cat People, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters), who first came to fame for penning Taxi Driver (1976) and would go on to direct a number of cinematic works that feel like reworkings of the screenplay for that film. Indeed, if Hardcore (1979) is a sort of ‘Calvinist Taxi Driver’ and Affliction (1997) is a ‘redneck Taxi Driver,’ Schrader’s Light Sleeper (1992) is a ‘bourgeois Taxi Driver,’ albeit with a tad bit of American Gigolo (1980) thrown in for good measure (additionally, The Walker (2007) would be Schrader's ‘dick-sucking Southern dandy American Gigolo’ and the Scorsese/Schrader collaboration Bringing Out the Dead (1999) is like ‘Taxi Driver as an EMT’). Of course, in the sense that it is about a reasonably intelligent ex-drug addict who is suffering a midlife crisis, one could argue that it is the most autobiographical of Schrader’s Bressonian ‘a man and his room’ films. In fact, as the auteur stated himself in the book Schrader on Schrader & Other Writings (1990) in regard to Light Sleeper and its relation to his other works, “Well, that form of the script is the same as the format of TAXI DRIVER, in that it uses pseudo-chapters rather than scene numbers, but the deeper connection comes from the fact that this is a character that I have felt comfortable with in the past and hadn’t written about in some time. As to the specific moments – well, you don’t want to be too self-referential, but if it works, it works, and if you’re ploughing the same row ten or fifteen years on, you’re going to end up with the same roots being dug up. The character of John LeTour is, in my mind, another installment of the characters of Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER and Julian Kay in AMERICIAN GIGOLO. These characters are really not so much people as souls, they drift around and things happen to them, they watch and they are acted upon. I don’t really see this group of films as a trilogy, I just think that as I get older my views about this character and these themes change. So that when the character and myself were in our twenties, he was very hostile and paranoid and felt oppressed by the world, and was a cab driver. When he was in his thirties he was very narcissistic and self-involved, and he was a gigolo. Now he’s forty and he’s anxious and uncertain, and he delivers drugs. He hasn’t made anything of his life, and he doesn’t know what will become of him.”  Needless to say, Light Sleeper does not feature a grungy porno-obsessed prole weirdo who becomes murderously obsessed with saving a hopelessly naive teenage prostitute from a white pimp like in Taxi Driver, but it does feature a devastating portrait of self-destructive inwardness that explodes into a poetic transcendental bloodbath.




 I might be a good decade shy of suffering a midlife crisis and I have never sold drugs as a career, but I certainly could somewhat empathize with the loner protagonist of Schrader’s film, even if I found him to be somewhat of a passive bitch in many respects. Indeed, I could identify with the titular insomniac in the sense that the protagonist feels like he is trapped in a sort of perpetual soul-draining personal pandemonium where he hates his job and life and feels like he has no other options and has run out of what he describes as “luck” (notably, the protagonist and his friends believe in New Age bullshit and love chatting about numerology, among other hopelessly banal esoteric things).  Undoubtedly, the increasingly mentally perturbed protagonist is like a forlorn phantom who passively drifts through life and does only the bare minimum to survive in his insufferably sterile and stagnant world of white collar dope dealing, though a seeming case of hypergraphia compels him to write in journals that he disposes of soon after he finishes filling them up with writing, as if he is ashamed of what he has written and considers it to be more or less a disposable waste that is the putrid result of his brain defecating.  A film about a man with no life who, due to his trade, is constantly wandering in and out of other people's lives, it is not surprisingly probably the only flick where a drug dealer is used as a midlife crisis metaphor.  While an extremely personal cinematic work, the protagonist is actually based on a real-life drug dealer that Schrader knew and naturally decided to reconnect with when he was assembling the project.  Interestingly, Schrader has also compared Light Sleeper to Taxi Driver in the sense that he wrote the script very fast as if he was being compelled by some unseen force, or as he stated himself, “It came to me pretty much as a piece; I saw it all, and I always knew what was going to come next. What happened was that I had a dream about this character sometime in September 1990, somebody I had know years before. I woke up at about four in the morning, and I knew from that moment that he wanted me to write about him. By six I also knew I was definitely going to do just that. I hadn’t written about this type of character in almost ten years. I’d been looking around for a personal, original piece to write and it hadn’t been coming, so I had given up, and then it just came. So I set off to track down this man I had known.”  It should also be noted that Schrader has himself described Light Sleeper as an ‘inverse Taxi Driver,’ as the autobiographical lead was transformed from an active man that symbolically drove the cab to a passive man that sits in the back (in fact, Willem Dafoe spends almost as much as time in a taxi as De Niro's did in the Scorsese flick).



 Not surprisingly, Schrader has described Light Sleep as his most personal film, with the prole ex-GI Travis Bickle being replaced with a character that the auteur could more relate to as a spiritually-oriented ex-drug addict who has suffered much personal failure, especially in relation to love and romance. During the film, the protagonist is reunited with his great love—a woman he has not seen in a longtime who he had a very toxic relationship with that involved lots of drugs and self-destruction—by happenstance and makes a predictable attempt to get back with her, only to lose her in the most violent and tragic of ways, thereupon leading him to take serious action for possibly the first time in his entire life.  An emotionally turbulent flick with a somewhat ironical ending about a man who is only able to get free from his personal purgatory by finally accepting he is imprisoned, Light Sleeper is a tale of personal redemption that most people will find totally inexplicable because the morose protagonist ultimately loses his personal freedom at the conclusion yet develops a hopeful and optimistic mindset as a result. In other words, Schrader’s film is a somewhat arcane cinematic work that probably can only been truly understood and/or appreciated by people that have experienced some form personal despair or alienation. Indeed, Light Sleeper might be about bourgeois coke peddlers and features some sex and nudity and a couple of violent deaths, but it is probably not going to appeal to someone that sees the guido gangsters of Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) as cool cats that are worthy of emulation.  In that sense, Schrader's film is one of only a handful of cinematic works that makes drug dealing seem about as glamorous as working as a technician at a Wal-Mart pharmacy.



 As seemingly perennially dejected dope dealing protagonist John LeTour (Willem Dafoe) narrates at the very beginning of the film while riding in the back of a taxi, “Labor Day weekend. Some time for a garbage strike. Everybody crazy to stock up. They want to score at the last minute and they want it now. Never fails. The faces look alike. You gotta use memory tricks: each has some peculiarity. It keeps your sharp. A D.D. told me, when a drug dealer starts writing a diary, it’s time to quit. I started writing after that. Not every night. Now and then. Fill up one book, throw it out, start another.”  Indeed, not unlike with the summer heat that makes the wops and negroes in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) become all the more irritable and destructive, the sight and stench of piles upon piles of trash that are crowding the streets of NYC as a result of the garbage strike seems to be only compounding LeTour’s unending personal misery, which reaches its peak in the film and is ultimately released in the form of murder. A reformed drug addict that has ironically spent over the last decade peddling cocaine to a rich and largely Wall Street connected clientele that is willing to pay a highly inflated price so they don’t have to endanger their lives by attempting to procure dubious product from dubious darkies on the literally and figuratively dark side of town, LeTour is a born loner-cum-loser that is forced to regularly socialize with various individuals that he seems to be quite apathetic towards as a result of his trade, including a ‘Theological Cokehead’ (David Spade) who states to the protagonist whilst sitting in his whitey tighties in between snorting a line of blow, “…so if there’s no God, then how can we conceive of him? I mean, the idea of God presupposes the existence of God. That is the Ontological Argument. That’s Anselm. That’s 1200 or 1400.” The protagonist works for a hot yet vulgar fire-crotched fag hag named Ann (Susan Sarandon) and her mustached best fag friend Robert (David Clennon), who looks like the typical AIDS-ridden homo agitator featured in Rosa von Praunheim’s aberrosexual agitprop docs Silence = Death (1990) and Positive (1990). As LeTour describes, Ann “made” him the d.d. bitch-boy he is today, as he found her glamorous and wanted to become a part of her supposedly exciting life, but a lot of things have changed since the 1970s and crack has destroyed the supposed glamour that was once associated with the black market drug trade. While Ann and Robert plan to get out of the criminal underground and go legit by starting a super chic cosmetics company, LeTour does not know what he wants to do, though he is thinking about getting into music recording. Of course, as his various past failed life plans demonstrate, LeTour is an aimless and seemingly weak-willed fellow who cannot seem to commit to anything, including Ann, who is clearly a longtime romantic interest of his.  While Ann incessantly flirts with him to the point where she jokes about giving him blowjobs, LeTour just cannot seem to initiate a love affair with her, even though he is in her company all the time. Luckily, fate will force the protagonist to get a little bit of testicular fortitude and compel him to take serious action, even though he does not want to. 




 As a result of a “yuppie murder” involving a “19-year-old Barnard co-ed bitch” whose corpse was found with a large amount of cocaine in the middle of a public park, the police have become interested in high-class drug dealers of LeTour’s ostensibly cultivated caliber. As a man that does not own a TV and does not read newspapers, LeTour learns about the homicide from a dopey ghetto wigger dope dealer named ‘Jealous’ (Sam Rockwell), who warns him to be on the lookout for pesky cops.  Jealous also complains that, “19 gram shit is a drag” in regard to the size of their dope transaction, but the protagonist is not about to get charged with dealing because he is carrying a couple extra grams of the rich man's candy (as LeTour explains regarding the law, “19 is carrying, 20 is dealing” when it comes to cocaine).  Not surprisingly, LeTour does not think much of his buyers or their drug-addled pseudo-philosophical rants as demonstrated by his remark, “Everybody wants to talk. It’s like a compulsion. My philosophy is: You got nothing to say? Don’t say it. They figure, you can tell a D.D. anything. Things they’d never tell anyone else. Of course they’re stoned to start.” Despite his antisocial attitude, LeTour cares enough about clients to not let them kill themselves with the drugs that he sells them. Indeed, when a fairly Jew-y junky Wall Street type of the exceedingly effeminate sort named Eddie (Paul Jabara)—a fellow whose drug addiction apparently ruined his marriage and a number of jobs—demands more drugs than the protagonist is willing to sell them, LeTour refuses to give in and later calls his client’s brother when he suffers a sort of violently deranged dope psychosis. Undoubtedly, LeTour’s most prestigious client is a suave yet slimy Swiss prick named Tis (Hebrew Victor Garber doing his best ‘evil Aryan aristocrat’ caricature) who has the protagonist deliver him some Valium (aka diazepam) at a hospital as a result of getting exceedingly stressed that he had to bring an underage teenage girl to the emergency room after she overdosed on coke. Although he has no clue at the beginning of the film, Tis will ultimately become LeTour’s arch nemesis. 




 While LeTour has nothing to live for at the beginning of the film, that somewhat changes during a dreary rainy night when he spots his ex-girlfriend Marianne Jost (Dana Delany) standing outside in the rain while riding in a taxi. LeTour has not seen or talked to Marianne in many years and she is not exactly happy to see him because they had a considerably corrosive drug-fueled relationship that concluded in a nasty fashion.  Apparently, LeTour has made numerous attempts to reconnect with his ex-flame, but she has routinely ignored him as she fears reigniting the passionate and exciting yet mutually destructive cocaine-driven romance that they once had. While Marianne reluctantly agrees to get in the taxi, she soon gets out after LeTour lies to her by telling her that he is completely straight and has quit dealing (somewhat humorously, LeTour's beeper gives him away immediately after he tells Marianne in a seemingly sincere fashion that his powder-peddling days are over). Luckily for the protagonist, he later bumps into Marianne and her much nicer sister Randi (Jane Adams) while delivering drugs to Tis at the hospital. The Jost sisters are at the hospital because their mother is dying of cancer, so it is a somewhat awkward time for LeTour to attempt to weasel his way back into Marianne's life. While her mother apparently loves him, Marianne refuses to allow LeTour to see her, though she agrees to follow him to the hospital cafeteria where she unloads her many justifiable grievances and complaints in regard to the seemingly nightmarish nature of their terribly failed romance.  Somewhat ridiculously, Marianne more or less blames LeTour for ruining her entire life. Indeed, when LeTour dares to happily state to her in regard to their past relationship, “We were happy,” she somewhat aggressively replies, “We were miserable. We were either scoring or coming down. Mostly coming down.” Naturally, when the protagonist states, “Out on the streets dancing with friends. . .We were magical,” Marianne begs to differ and replies, “You took off for 3 months without telling me and called once. That’s how magical we were. You were an encyclopedia of suicidal fantasies. I heard every one. I mean, nobody could clear a room like you, John. And the friends, you may have noticed, turned out to be mine, not yours. I envy you. A convenient memory is a gift from God. In rehab it’s called ‘Euphoric Recall.’ You only remember the highs, never the lows.” Of course, Marianne's unwavering negatively and hostility does not stop LeTour from attempting to get her back, as he then brags to her about being clean from drugs for two years and states, “If I could do that, I could do anything. We could do anything. We could start all over again.” Somewhat annoyed that he is attempting to drag her back into a relationship that she assumes will be catastrophic for her life, Marianne abruptly decides to leave, though the viewer suspects that she still loves the protagonist and that she is fighting as hard as she can to not give into her deep-seated emotional and lustful longings. That night, instead of thinking about Marianne when he gets home, LeTour writes in regard to his sassy fag hag boss, “I can always find another way to make a living. I never planned this in the first place. Not like Ann. She came up to sell, have parties, make contacts. She was glamorous. I just wanted to be around her. She’d sit up listening to coke stories. Now it’s me and Robert. The whole crowd was the same age then. Everybody’s younger now. She made me.” Of course, LeTour’s desire to reignite his romance with Marianne does not end there. 




 When he has a lunch ‘date’ with Ann the next day, LeTour asks his beauteous boss, “What are the odds of meeting someone that you haven’t seen in years twice in 2 days?” and she reveals her affinity for metaphysical mumbo jumbo by replying, “If it’s indicated in your house of relationships, it’s pretty high. You should have Robert do your chart.” Indeed, aside from playing films directed by Crowleyite auteur Kenneth Anger at her apartment (indeed, during a scene at the beginning of the film, Scorpio Rising (1964) can be seen playing on a TV in Ann's apartment), Ann is into numerology and Madame Blavatsky, among other things that demonstrate that she is a superstitious chick who lives life according to ‘emotions’ and ‘senses’ as opposed to reason. While LeTour and Ann both seem like they want to declare their romantic affection for one another, it seems like they have too many emotional and psychological hang-ups to say what they really mean. When Ann asks him if he will still keep in contact with her after they close their underground stardust operation, LeTour holds Ann’s hand and passionately declares in an unintentionally goofy fashion, “Ann, you want me, just call. Write a letter, tell a wino, I’ll be there.” Naturally, Ann is somewhat taken aback by LeTour’s response and does not know how to react. While LeTour’s conversation with Ann does not lead to anywhere romantic, he does finally rekindle his long awaited lurid love affair with his ex-flame Marianne later that night. Indeed, while she does accuse the protagonist of wasting a decade of her life, Marianne cannot help but kiss him in the hospital hallway and then take him back to her inordinately stylishly decorated apartment where they make passionate love. Notably, it is apparently the first time the two have fucked when they were both sober. While staring at LeTour’s purple-headed love truncheon, Marianne remarks while practically drooling, “That’s quite an erection!” and he replies, “I never had anything like it stoned.” In fact, Marianne is so hopelessly horny that she gleefully confesses to the protagonist in regard to her aroused main vein, “I’m dripping.” While the two have seemingly otherworldly sex and subsequently fall asleep while embracing one another in a loving fashion, LeTour later awakes to find Marianne getting dressed and preparing to sneak out of the apartment, thus underscoring the female character's annoyingly emotionally schizophrenic behavior.  When LeTour questions her about what she is doing, Marianne states in an exceedingly bitchy fashion, “This is the end. It was wonderful and I’m glad it happened this way. It will never happen again. You will not call me. You will not see me again. I’m happy for you. I wish you the best. I’m leaving. I shouldn’t have left the hospital, but I don’t regret it. Please get dressed and leave as soon as you can. I have a key. Bye.”  Needless to say, LeTour refuses to accept his ladylove's rather callous final farewell, though, as the film soon demonstrates, both he and she would have been better off if he had.




 On top of the fact that Marianne has dropped out of his life again and refuses to return his calls, LeTour finds himself being hassled by a short angry guido cop with the rather fitting name Bill Guidone (Robert Cicchini) who threatens to bust him if he does not give him any leads regarding the death of the rich 19-year-old “co-ed bitch” that was found with dope on her, stating in a stereotypically bombastic wop-ish fashion, “Tell me something I don’t already know. It’s either that, leave town, or get your ass busted day in, day out.” When LeTour discovers that Marianne’s mother has finally died, he makes the major mistake of randomly showing up at the funeral where he is predictably immediately verbally reamed by his morbidly depressed (ex)lover. Indeed, as soon as she sees the protagonist walk into the funeral home, Marianne causes a scene by smacking and pushing him while screaming in his face like a demented banshee bitch on crack, “Every time you come into my life something terrible happens. I thought I was rid of you. What are you . . . ? How did you . . . ? I don’t want you here! I don’t want you around! I don’t want you around my mother! Damn you! Just get out! Get the fuck out of my life! Get out! Get out of here!” As LeTour soon discovers, Marianne’s mother died when they were fucking, hence her hateful irrational hostility towards him, as if their lovemaking session resulted in her mommy's long overdue death. Later that night when LeTour goes to deliver some drugs to Swiss twit Tis at his luxury sky rise apartment, he is horrified to find Marianne there totally stoned out of her mind.  Needless to say, Marianne is quite embarrassed and refrains from saying anything to LeTour. When a visibly highly dejected LeTour exits the apartment building, he soon hears a woman scream and receives the heartbreaking shock of a lifetime when he sees Marianne’s corpse lying on the sidewalk pavement.  Naturally, LeTour refuses to believe that Marianne would commit suicide by jumping out of a building. While the police, media, and even her family conclude that Marianne committed self-slaughter since she was morbidly depressed as a result of both her's mother death and the fact that she had completely ruined her life and had nothing to live for, LeTour immediately realizes that Tis killed both the 19-year-old teen and his lady love and thus seeks to take revenge against the super smug Swiss neo-preppie prick. 




 After calling guido cop Guidone and telling him that Marianne was murdered and hinting that Tis was the killer, LeTour decides that he must protect himself and buys a handgun from a sleazy Latino and his sub-literate Afro-Hispanic homeboy. When Ann demands that the protagonist deliver some drugs to Tis, he attempts to refuse and complains, “I don’t want to go. I have a bad vibe.” Ultimately, LeTour eventually reluctantly agrees to deliver dope to Tis when Ann volunteers to accompany him, though he demands that they make a detour stop at his apartment so that he can grab his supposed “lucky sweater” (aka his gun). When the two cultivated coke dealers finally arrive at Tis’ place, they are shocked to see two armed bodyguards at the door. In fact, the bodyguards piss Ann off so much that she grabs one of their guns, tosses it onto the ground, and yells, “I told you greasy fucks, no guns! When I see a fucking gun, I walk! How fucking dare you?!” Of course, Ann does not stop there, as she goes up to the other body guard—a small and swarthy mestizo—and hits him in the testicles while screaming, “And I don’t know who you are, you little beaner, but kiss my fat ass!” When Tis finally comes out, he apologizes for the weapons and says they are merely for “emphasis.” While Ann somewhat calms down, she knows something is suspicious when Tis tells her to leave so that he can talk to LeTour about police matters. Undoubtedly a smart little bitch that does not take shit from anyone, Ann follows Tis' demand by exiting the apartment but then proceeds to start screaming “fire” while knocking on various apartment doors, thus assuring the police will soon be there. As soon as Ann begins screaming like a harpy, a somewhat anticlimatic gun fight breaks out that ends with Tis running to a back bedroom while LeTour shoots and kills his two bodyguards, though the protagonist is shot in both the arm and leg in the process. Clearly in great pain as a result of his wounds, LeTour wobbles into the back bedroom where he shoots LeTour in the middle of the forehead while he less than inconspicuously attempts to grab a gun that he has hidden inside a duffle bag. Naturally, LeTour is subsequently imprisoned for murdering Tis and the two body guards, though he is in inordinately high spirits for a man that will probably spend the next half of a decade locked inside a cage located inside a maximum security prison full of psychopathic negro rapists, Latino gang members, and goombah gangsters, among other forms of human rabble. In the final scene of the film, which is an obvious homage to Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959), Ann visits LeTour in jail and the two expression their desire begin a lurid love affair. Indeed, after describing how he will probably spend no more than 5-7 years in prison, LeTour reveals that he is in high hopes and tells Ann, “It hasn’t been so bad. It’s a relief in a way. So far. I’ve been writing. . .And reading.”  LeTour also decides to ask Ann, “Did we ever fuck?,” even though he already knows the answer.  In regard to their future plan to finally fuck, LeTour states to Anne, “It’s one of the things I think about. One of the things I look forward to. I’ve been looking forward,” to which she replies, “Me, too. Strange how things work.” In the end, LeTour kisses Ann’s hand as a sort of gesture of love and devotion to her, even if it is doubtful that any woman would wait so many years for a man, especially a man whose member she never even got to sample. 




 Undoubtedly, the great borderline infuriating irony of Light Sleeper is that the hapless protagonist only becomes ‘free’ when he is imprisoned, as if he was so perennially stubborn in his fatalistically forlorn mindset that it took becoming a murderous criminal to realize what was right in front of his face all along, especially in terms of love, but of course one should not expect anything less from a Schrader flick where the whole Bressonian redemption motif is taken to almost absurdist extremes that border on the (pseudo)Biblical. Another great irony of the film is that, although it is hopelessly late-1980s/early-1990s in terms of overall aesthetic and largely soulless characters and was made at a time where auteurist cinema was practically completely dead, it is more auteur oriented and non-commercial in its essence than the most personal and idiosyncratic works of the New Hollywood era.  Somewhat inexplicably, even the rather outmoded score by Michael Been (who incidentally played the apostle John in the Schrader penned Scorsese flick The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)) still manages to perfectly compliment the film (notably, Schrader originally planned to use some Bob Dylan songs, but luckily he decided otherwise). It should also be noted that the film was shot by American cinematographer Edward Lachman who got his start acting as an assistant director and cameraman on Werner Herzog’s masterpiece Stroszek (1977) and would go to shoot important cinematic works ranging from Larry Clark’s quasi-pornographic skater melodrama Ken Park (2002) to Ulrich Seidl’s no less pornographic anti-globalization drama Import/Export (2007) to Todd Solondz’s pedo piece Life During Wartime (2009). While it is quite obvious that Lachman at least partly modeled his cinematography after Taxi Driver, especially the many scenes where the protagonist is riding in a taxi, Schrader had the cinematographer watch a couple early Michelangelo Antonioni films to give him an idea of the look he wanted (notably, as the auteur once stated in regard to the film's look, “Antonioni is always good to look at because he loves to define situations by architecture”). Of course, the NYC architecture featured in the film is as dreary and emotionally oppressive as the protagonist’s forsaken soul, thus making it all the more fitting that it concludes in a brightly lit white prison after the protagonist has figuratively ‘seen the light.’ 


 While Light Sleeper is surely not my favorite Schrader flick, it is arguably the director's most immaculate cinematic work to date. Indeed, aside from the dubiousness of the somewhat abrupt murderous climax (personally, I could not imagine a passive pussy like the protagonist killing anyone, let alone three men in a couple minutes) and glaring recycling of the Bressonian ending of American Gigolo, there is not much to criticize (indeed, I even found Susan Sarandon, who I usually cannot stand, quite fuckable, even when I was hoping someone would shove their cock in her mouth so that she would shut up). In its depiction of swarthy Wall Street types high on dope and a scene where Sarandon repugnantly flirts with a young Hasidic Hebrew that she regularly does ‘business’ with, Schrader’s film also has a vague and wholly unintentional Der Stürmer-esque quality.  Considering the film's decidedly dispiriting tone and grim and gloomy aesthetic essence, I think it is only fitting that it features a Hasidic Jew, as they subscribe to a religion that worships death and they have a physical appearance that I personally find to be more insufferably grotesque than that of a semi-rotten bloated corpse, but I digress.  While Light Sleeper has what might be described as a happy ending, it is still a decided downer that sometimes makes Taxi Driver seem like a dark romantic-comedy by comparison, even if it is nowhere near as violent or sleazy (in fact, Schrader should be commended for his understated approach to such subversive material).  After all, there is not many films were a terribly troubled loner finds solace after killing three guys and being imprisoned, but such is the uniquely unhinged vision of a (once) suicidal lapsed Calvinist that was a member of a supposedly hip cocaine-fueled cocksucker party scene during the 1970s despite being heterosexual.  A bizarrely optimistic ‘feel-bad’ flick that concludes in an almost absurdly yet somehow fittingly utopian way, Light Sleeper is a film that demonstrates to the viewer in a sensitively nuanced fashion that, no matter how miserable and unendurable existence gets, there will always be another exciting chapter in your life, even if your great love is thrown out of a building by a rather dapper Swiss psychopath.  



-Ty E

Jan 29, 2016

Thief




Probably largely the result of the fact that I grew up regularly hearing firsthand crime stories that were more intriguing and disturbing than those featured in movies, I have never really given that big of a shit about noir-ish crime-thrillers, especially those regularly vomited out of Hollywood, so there is no doubt in my mind when I see one and come to the conclusion it is a masterpiece. To me, a good crime-thriller has nil ‘filler’ and puts just as much emphasis on every shot and scene as Bergman or Lynch would put into one of their films, albeit in a fashion that can be just as easily be digested by proles and philistines as pretentious art fags and cineastes. Although probably not completely immaculate, William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) is what I consider to be the ideal crime-thriller as a cinematic work that more or less completely reinvents the (sub)genre and which I would regard as a piece of carefully constructed cinematic art that defines both the philosophy and aesthetic ‘integrity’ (or lack thereof) of its particular zeitgeist. If there is any film from the same decade that is on the same level as Friedkin’s film, it is indubitably Michael Mann’s debut feature Thief (1981) aka Violent Streets aka The Cracker: Midnight Outlaw, which I recently re-watched and came to the conclusion that it was a near perfect piece of cinema, at least as far as its genre is concerned. Not surprisingly, like Friedkin, Mann was the son of working-class Jews from Chicago and, also like his kosher kinsman, he is a rare example of a truly masculine-minded Jewish filmmaker.  Additionally, Thief stars James Caan who, aside from also being from a Hebraic prole background (his father was a butcher), is arguably the most innately tough and manly Jewish actor of his generation and possibly in all of cinema history. Indeed, if there is any Jew that debunks Weininger’s theory that Jewishness and femininity are one and the same and would make for a great Zionist propaganda symbol as the Judaic Übermensch, it is Caan. Like Friedkin with his first big hit The French Connection (1971), Thief is a gritty yet carefully stylized cinematic work where the auteur opted to incorporate an inordinate and arguably borderline dangerous degree of realism, including hiring real cops and crooks as actors, as well as hiring real professional thieves as technical advisors. A quite cynical and nihilistic cinematic work, Mann’s film is also Friedkin-esque in its depiction of cops and cons as different sides of the same coin and absolute refusal to make any superficial moral judgements. Indeed, Mann hired real-life guido jewel thief John Santucci (who ironically portrays a sleazy police sergeant) to create real robbery tools and train lead Caan how to use them. In fact, the main heist featured in the film, which involves the use of a thermal lance (aka ‘oxy-lance’) to cut through a vault door, was modeled after a real robbery that Santucci carried out. Additionally, the film was loosely based on the novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by pseudonymous author Frank Hohimer (real name John Seybold), who was also a real-life jewel thief that was apparently serving a prison sentence at the time of the film’s production. 




 Of course, technical authenticity is only one of the many ingredients that make Mann’s film so positively potent from beginning to end. Indeed, aside from also featuring an absolutely imperative soundtrack by German electronic group Tangerine Dream and mostly aesthetically pleasuring nocturnal urban cinematography, Thief features one of the most unforgettable antiheroes of crime cinema history. Although he is not exactly a gay serial rapist and killer, the titular lead of the film is, at least philosophically speaking, like the Carl Panzram of movie thieves, as a sort of sociopathic criminal Übermensch who does not give a shit about anything and does not care about or listen to anyone. Like Panzram (who was gang raped by a group of hobos in a train car at the age of 14 after running away from home), the lead developed his uncompromising antisocial philosophy as a result of going through the life-changing ordeal of encountering humanity’s most craven and depraved individuals, or to use Friedrich Nietzsche’s overused quote to describe the tragic psychological state of the character, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” The closest thing I have ever seen to a Hollywood equivalent to the spirit of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s magnum opus Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) in terms of its gritty and totally unromantic yet at the same time strangely ‘humanistic’ view of crime and criminals, Thief is ultimately a sad yet stoic, ‘no bullshit’ reminder as to the sort of foredoomed and forlorn individuals that become ‘successful’ career criminals. Of course, like real-life master criminals, the antihero of Mann’s film might fulfill some of his rather ambitious dreams, but they are ultimately shattered and taken away from him in the end. Notably, what makes Mann’s film different from most of its genre persuasion is that the lead consciously decides to literally destroy his own version of the American dream as a means to preserve his Weltanschauung and keep his personal sovereignty. As a man that lost over a decade of his life in prison, the antihero is determined to quite literally contrive a full life in a very short period of time that includes a bourgeois family and home, but he ultimately gets himself entangled in a very precarious criminal web in the process and must choose between everything he has recently built for himself or maintaining his personal freedom. Additionally, the eponymous lead of the film might be a ‘thief,’ but he is a man’s man in the truest sense as an innately individualistic fellow who lives on his own terms and plays by his own rules, hence his truly epic and carefully calculated self-ordained downfall. 




 In a sort of ‘neon neo-noir’ opening scene full of beauteous shimmering city lights and almost celestial rainfall that does not feature one single line of dialogue, antihero Frank (James Caan) more or less effortlessly carries out a perfect diamond heist during a misty night in Chicago with his partner Barry (James Belushi in his first film role). After drilling throw a safe with a custom-made power-drill that an elderly friend created for him, Frank goes through the drawers of said safe and only bothers to steal envelops full of uncut diamonds, which is the only item he deals in because it is, relatively speaking, ‘clean’ and ‘low-risk’ compared to other stolen goods.  As a front for his criminal enterprise, Frank owns a used car dealership and a bar.  Frank’s ‘fence’ is a grotesquely fat and effeminate fellow of the overtly Judaic sort named Joe Gags (Hal Frank) who, unbeknownst to the antihero, has been stealing money from a local bigwig mob boss. When Gags is killed after being pushed out of a 12th-story window as punishment for skimming off the top of mob collection money, Frank discovers that the owner of a plating company, Mr. Attaglia (Tom Signorelli), was responsible for the killing. On top of killing his fence, Attaglia pocketed Frank’s $185,000 of the score money, which Gags had on him at the time of his death. Needless to say, Frank soon pays a visit to Attaglia under the false pretense of having a problem with a plating shipment and demands his money back. When Attaglia pretends to not know what he is talking about, Frank angrily remarks, “I come here to discuss a piece of business with you. And what are you gonna do? You gonna tell me fairy tales?,” thus angering the plating company owner to the point where he demands that he get out of his office. At this point, Frank whips out at handgun, points it at Attaglia's face, and fiercely states, “I am the last guy in the world. . .that you want to fuck with. You found my money on Gags. Let us pretend you don’t know whose money it is.” Ultimately, Frank sets up a meeting for Attaglia that night to get his $185,000 back, but instead of the plating company executive, the antihero encounters a fat old four-eyed polack named Leo (Robert Prosky), who is as charming as the devil despite his fairly repugnant appearance. Unbeknownst to Frank, Leo wants to make a Faustian pact that will ultimately lead to his downfall, or at least temporary downfall. 




 As Leo explains to Frank, he is a high-level fence and mafia boss who is charge out over half of the crime in Chicago and he has been admiring the antihero’s work from afar for some time.  Naturally, Frank is somewhat taken aback by Leo's disclosure, as if the lead was under the impression that he was a criminal phantom of sorts that no one was aware of.  Leo also makes it quite clear to Frank that if he had not stepped in, Attaglia would have retaliated against him.  While Frank attempts to immediately leave after he is handed the $185,000 and tells Leo he has no interest in working for him, stating, “I am self-employed. I am doin’ fine. I don’t deal with egos. I am Joe the boss of my own body, so what the fuck do I have to work for you for?,” the rather rotund mob boss will not take no for an answer and begins making the antihero an offer he cannot refuse, even bragging to him like a virtual carny huckster, “I’ll make you a millionaire in four months.” According to Leo, he can give Frank all the resources he needs to carryout the perfect big score, including the best locations and whatever equipment and phony documents that he would require to get the job done.  While Frank agrees to give Leo a call about a possible temporary ‘no strings attached’ partnership for two or three heists, the lead does not seem too interested in the offer, at least until fate steps in and makes it seem like the antihero has the perfect opportunity to catch up on the time that he lost in prison.  After all, Frank could be set for life if he does a couple heists with Leo, thus giving him the opportunity to soon completely retire from crime and devote his life to being a bourgeois family man, or so he thinks. Indeed, after his talk with Leo, Frank goes to a local club to meet up with his love interest Jessie (Tuesday Weld)—a woman that he intends to marry, even though he barely knows her and has yet to have sex with her—but when he gets there she immediately begins berating him for being two hours later, stating in a brazenly bitchy fashion, “What the hell are you doing here? […] I do not need to be humiliated.” Determined to prove he had a valid reason for being late and that he has a serious interest in beginning a “big romance” with her, Frank more or less physically drags Jessie out of the club against her will and then shoves her inside his car.  Although Frank owns a used car dealership and a bar as ‘legitimate’ front for his criminal operation, during the car ride he decides to reveal to Jessie his true background, stating to her like a painfully honest low-class braggart, “I wear $150 slacks! I wear silk shirts! I wear $800 suits! I wear a gold watch! I wear a perfect D flawless, three-carat ring! I change cars like other guys change their fuckin’ shoes! I’m a thief. I’ve been in prison.” While Jessie continues to yell and bitch at Frank, she begins to settle down when they arrive at a diner and have a more intimate talk.  It is at the diner that Frank reveals to Jessie his most unflattering vulnerabilities and his virtual blueprint for his life, which he wants to make her an imperative part of.




 As she describes to Frank during a long and intimate conversation in the diner, Jessie used to have a cocaine dealer boyfriend who got himself killed under dubious circumstances in South America, thus leaving her to fend for herself on the streets of Bogotá, Colombia (while she does not say it outright, the viewer assumes she did a little third world style pussy-peddling to survive). As a result of her less than glamorous experiences, Jessie is wholly content with her current banal job as a lowly restaurant cashier and makes it quite clear to Frank that she does not want to get her sucked back into the uncertainty of the criminal lifestyle again.  Not surprisingly, Frank mocks her attitude while, at the same time, assuring her that he eventually plans to quit thieving and is only doing it now to make up for lost time. At this point, Frank describes to her his general nihilistic worldview and how he became the impenetrable hyper-individualistic criminal that he is today. After being imprisoned at the age of 20 for stealing a mere $40, Frank ultimately found himself spending eleven years in jail as a result of receiving a “manslaughter beef” after brutally beating some bad guys that, as he describes, “tried to turn me out.” Indeed, after brutally beating up a group of prison guards and criminals with a pipe that attempted to gang rape him, Frank was subsequently severely beaten and hospitalized himself, though he managed to beat the leader of the group, a certain 300-pound slob named ‘Captain Morphis,’ so badly that he died two years later as a result of his injuries. Of course, the entire experience left Frank with an extremely tough mindset and considerably nihilistic worldview where he learned to not care about anything, most notably himself. As Frank tells Jessie, “…I don’t mean nothin’ to myself. I don’t care about me. I don’t care about… nothin’, you know? And then I know from that day that I survive…because I achieved that mental attitude.” At this point, Frank whips out a somewhat childish collage that he made in prison that he describes as “my life,” which features images of children, a beautiful woman, and his criminal mentor/paternal figure ‘Okla’ aka David (Willie Nelson).  Okla is the only man that Frank seems to truly respect and he was the one that convinced the antihero to be upfront about his criminal background (as the viewer discovers during a conversation between Frank and Okla, the lead's previous wife divorced him after discovering he was lying to her).  Frank points at the woman in his ‘life collage’ and tells Jessie that it is her. Of course, Frank wants Jessie to be his wife and he promises that he will go ‘straight’ and quit thieving after obtaining enough money to ‘catch up’ for the eleven years of life that he lost in prison, stating to her, “Look, I have run out of time. I have lost it all. And so I can’t work fast enough to catch up…and I can’t run fast enough to catch up…and the only thing that catches me up…is doin’ my magic act. But it ends, you know? It will end.” While Jessie seems to find Frank’s plan to be somewhat questionable, especially since she is infertile and cannot give him the children he wants, he reassures her by telling her that they can adopt a child.  Needless to say, the prospect of a large home, wealth, a husband, and a child seems quite enticing to the infertile spinster, so Jessie demonstrates that she has accepted Frank's somewhat strange, almost business-like proposal by holding his hand in what is probably the only truly tender moment in the entire film.




 As a result of becoming excited that Jessie has agreed on his somewhat unconventional offer to be his wife and part of his big life plan, Frank decides to call Leo to let him known that he is interested in their partnership, even though it is something he would probably not do under normal circumstances as a lone-wolf that has a hard time running with a pack. Meanwhile, Frank pays a repulsively shady Jewish lawyer $10,000 to bribe a corrupt judge to get his mentor Okla out of prison. Okla has angina and heart disease and made it quite clear to Frank that he did not want to die in prison. While Frank manages to get his friend out of prison, Okla crooks soon after.  Notably, after a negro doctor informs him of Okla's death, Frank petrifies the physician by maintaining a creepy dead stare and saying literally nothing, thus underscoring the antihero's incapacity to deal with emotions.  In tribute to Okla, Frank decides to name his adopted son after him. Indeed, as a result of the fact that he is turned down by an adoption agency due to his criminal record, Frank manages to procure a baby boy on the black market via Leo, who only went to the effort of getting the child as a means to lure the antihero into his operation. While Leo stylizes himself as a sort of benign paternal figure that does whatever he can to make his underlings happy, he is actually a ruthless megalomaniac that wants to make Frank his virtual slave. Of course, Frank immediately demonstrates that he will be a hard man to control because, unlike Leo and the other mob leaders, he refuses to pay off the local corrupt cops and, as a result, is brutally beaten by about half a dozen cops and has both his house and car bugged.  Luckily for Frank, he is far more intelligent than the corrupt cops that are trying to bust him.



 With the help of his jolly and somewhat buffoonish partner Barry and a couple crew members, Frank is completely successful at executing a large-scale San Diego diamond heist that Leo has organized for him. While Leo compliments Frank on the score and calls him “Dr. Wizard,” he fails to give the antihero the amount of cash he had agree upon. Although Frank was promised $830,000 of the $4 million that were made from wholesale of the unmounted stones that he stole during the heist, Leo has the gall to hand him a folder that contains no more than $90,000 and then attempts to play off his shady business tactics in what is surely a Harvey Weinstein-esque moment. When Frank asks him where the rest of the money is, Leo states that it is just the “cash part” and that he supposedly invested the rest of the money, stating like a true bullshitting swindler, “That’s because I put you into the Jacksonville, Fort Worth. . .and Davenport shopping centers with the rest. I take care of my people. You can ask these guys. Papers are at your house. It’s set up as a limited partnership. The general partner is a subchapter S corporation. You’ve got equity with me in that.” Needless to say, when Leo brings up a “major score in Palm Beach” that he boldly assumes the antihero will execute for him in six weeks, Frank becomes extremely agitated and tells him, “This is payday. It is over.” When Leo remarks, “I give you houses. I give you a car. You’re family. I thought you’d come around. What the hell is this? What – Where is gratitude? You can’t see day for night,” Frank reveals he is carrying a gun and then threatens the crime boss, stating in a quite ballsy fashion, “My money in 24 hours, or you will wear your ass for a hat.” Of course, a rich and powerful crime boss like Leo refuses to tolerate a threat from such an ostensible small fry like Frank.  Unfortunately for Leo and his associates, they ultimately underestimate Frank's uncompromising ruthlessness and seemingly psychopathic will power.




 When Frank goes by his car dealership and cannot find Barry, he soon finds himself ambushed by Leo’s goons. As a result of attempting to warn Frank that it is a trap, Barry is gunned down by Leo’s boys while he has hands tied behind his back. When Frank wakes up, he finds himself lying next to his buddy Barry’s corpse while Leo is standing over him in an intimidating fashion. While lying on the floor with a completely blank stare on his face like a virtual vegetable, Frank quietly stares at Leo as he states to him in a great speech where he reveals his true devilish self, “Look what happened to your friend ‘cause you gotta go against the way things go down. You treat what I tried to do for you like shit. You don’t want to work for me. What’s wrong with you? And then you carry a piece in my house. You one of those burned-out, demolished wackos in the joint? You’re scary, because you don’t give a fuck. But don’t come on to me now with your jailhouse bullshit. . .because you are not that guy. Don’t you get it, you prick? You got a home, car, businesses, family. . .and I own the paper on your whole fuckin’ life. I’ll put your cunt wife on the street to be fucked in the ass by niggers and Puerto Ricans. Your kid’s mine because I bought it. You got him on loan. He is leased. You are renting him. I’ll whack out your whole family. People’ll be eating ‘em for lunch tomorrow in their Wimpy burgers and not know it. You get paid what I say. You do what I say. I run you. There is no discussion. I want, you work. Until you are burned out. . .you are busted, or you’re dead. You get it? You got responsibilities. Tighten up and do it […] Back to work, Frank.”  As anyone that has been carefully watching the film up until this point rightly assumes, there is no way that an impenetrable lone wolf like Frank would not only tolerate his best friend's coldblooded murder, but also such an intricate threat against both himself and his family.  At this point, Frank must think quick and act lest he be a perennial bitch-boy to a soft four-eyed prick who looks like a public transit bus driver.




 As a man that values self-ownership above all us, Frank naturally refuses to be Leo’s permanent groveling diamond heist bitch and comes to the conclusion that he is willing to sacrifice literally everything he values, including his wife and son, to remain a free and sovereign individual. Indeed, during the middle of the night while she is sleeping, Frank abruptly wakes up Jessie and coldly and firmly informs her that it is “over” and he is throwing her out, which she naturally has a hard time understanding. While Frank hands her $410,000.00 and tells her that he will have an associate take care of her and the baby, Jessie loves him, cannot understand why he is acting in such a callous fashion, and refuses to leave, complaining, “Wait. We just – We just disassemble it and put it back in a box. . .like an Erector set you just send back to a store? I love you. I’m not going anywhere […] I’m your woman. You’re my man. Frank, Frank. I made a commitment.” With a completely cold and glacial stare, Frank replies to Jessie by stating, “To hell with me, with you. . .with everything. I’m throwing you out. Get out” and then hatefully yells to her to get out of his house. In a sort of both literal and symbolic annihilation of his entire life, Frank then proceeds to not only blow up his home, but also his car dealership and bar, thus proving he is not the sort of fellow that does things halfway.  Indeed, by blowing up everything in his life, Frank not only wipes away his entire identity, but also makes sure that he can have no second thoughts in terms of going back to his previous life.  Of course, Frank then proceeds to pay Leo a surprise visit where he knocks Attaglia out cold in the kitchen and then hunts the mob boss in his own home in a scenario where the powerful crime boss comes off looking like the physically weak and soft coward that he is. After shooting Leo dead upon finding him hiding behind a piece of furniture like a scared animal in one of the rooms in his house, Frank murders the mob boss’ henchman Carl and Attaglia after exiting the house, though he is shot a couple of times in the process (luckily, Frank had enough common sense to wear a bulletproof vest and thus comes out of the shootout fairly unscathed). In the end, Frank walks into the night by himself, as if taking the first steps of his new life journey, which will indubitably be alone.  Indeed, at this point, Frank has probably accepted that he is doomed to be alone forever and will never be able to be the bourgeois family man that he originally dreamed of.




 After my recent re-watching of Thief, I know realize that it and Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978) were Nicolas Winding Refn’s two main models for Drive (2011). In fact, after watching Mann’s film, I have to admit that I have a lot less respect for Refn, as he now reminds me of a sort of European Tarantino, albeit with better taste cinema and a more covert and less self-congratulatory approach to paying ‘homage’ to his crucial influences.  Out of all these three films, Thief is the only one where I found myself entranced by the sight of misty rain drops, flying sparks, and slow-motion explosions, as if Mann was inspired by Stan Brakhage’s sort of organic lyricism. Of course, the film owes a good portion of its hypnotic power to its Tangerine Dream score (notably, Mann originally considered using degenerate jazz for the film, but luckily he made the right decision in the end). While I enjoy Mann’s subsequent Nazi horror-fantasy The Keep (1983), which also features a Tangerine Dream score, for largely novelty reason, it is the complete opposite of Thief in that it feels so glaringly contrived and phony, as if the Jewish auteur wanted to make the most one-dimensional anti-Nazi film ever assembled in what is ultimately a moronically morally dichotomous neo-fairytale where virtually all Germans are depicted as pure evil despite the fact a group of krauts provided the music for the film (to Mann’s credit, Paramount Pictures totally butchered the film and more or less cut it in half, though Mann intended to shoot a ‘Aryan holocaust’ scene at the end where every single German soldier is brutally murdered by a virtual golem). Indeed, despite being meticulously stylized, Thief has a certain unwavering authenticity to it in terms of its depiction of a psychosis-ridden career criminal that has learned to become internally dead as a means to cope with the traumas he has endured. Of course, like many talented individuals, the antihero of the film at least partly owes his Übermensch qualities to his mental defects. Notably, actor James Caan has described Thief as his second favorite of his own films, with the long diner monologue being the scene he is most proud of in all of his entire acting career. As demonstrated by his roles in Mann’s film, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), and The Gambler (1974), as well as tendency to do crazy things in real-life like pulling guns on negro rappers and befriending and publicly supporting real-life mafia bosses, Caan certainly seems to at least partially personally embody the erratic quasi-psychopathic characters that he is best known for playing, but of course only the toughest people from working-class backgrounds make it to the top, so that should be no surprise.  After all, no one would know who Caan, Mann, or Friedkin was today if they were meek pussies who did not grab life by the balls and make something of themselves by any means possible.  Of course, this is also what makes these three men different from most of the Hebrews in Hollywood, who oftentimes owe their celebrity to nepotism and ethnic networking and not genuine talent.


 While I respect the fact his third feature Manhunter (1986) is easily the most underrated Hannibal Lecter film and that he was actually able to get an intriguing performance out of Tom Cruise as a psychopathic killer in Collateral (2004), I do not think I could ever call myself even a softcore Michael Mann fan. After all, no real serious auteur could have directed films as lame and phony as The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Ali (2001).  Indeed, the only Mann flick that I like in its entirety is Thief, which I consider to be the filmmaker’s closest thing to a true auteur piece, thus making it all the more of a shame that it is probably his least appreciated and most overlooked work.  Like Friedkin, I think the real Mann is someone that could have just as easily become a Jewish gangster had his life taken a slightly different course and I believe his debut demonstrates this in its genuine obsession with the criminal mind and lifestyle. Even with his big budget Johnny Depp vehicle Public Enemies (2009), Mann would demonstrate a preternatural obsession with criminal authenticity in terms of historical accuracy in depicting the infamous life and times of German-American gangster John Dillinger and his gang.  Of course, what separates Thief from most of Mann's other films and crime-thrillers in general is that it is the real dirty deal and features none of the sort of frivolous tough guy posturing that appeals to the sort of borderline retarded illiterate thugs, dime-bag-peddling ghetto negroes, and spiritually castrated wiggers that masturbate to Scarface (1983) and Carlito's Way (1993) and would probably suck Robert De Niro's cock in a desperate attempt to try in vain to live vicariously through the man that starred in Goodfellas (1990) and some many other ginney-dago-wop-fests.  While his stoicism and will power is admirable, there is nothing genuinely romantic about the absurdly asocial antihero of Mann's debut, hence why aspiring rappers, crack dealers, and other crime-fetishizing degenerates would probably have a hard time embracing the film (of course, the Tangerine Dream score would also deter any of these preposterously pathetic peons, but I digress).  In short, Thief is a portrait of progressive criminal madness in a quasi-poetic form that deserves to be compared to the more intriguingly morally dubious cinematic works of Fritz Lang.  In terms of its uniquely unflattering depiction of Chicago as a sort of post-industrial hellhole where criminals run both the streets and courts,  Mann's film probably features the most unforgettable aesthetic assault against the spiritual core of an American city since David Lynch's quasi-Expressionistic depiction of Philadelphia in Eraserhead (1977), albeit in an exceedingly less esoteric fashion.  Arguably most interestingly, it is not often that one gets to see a film where a man is pushed completely to the edge and decides to literally blow up his entire life in a blaze of nihilistic glory. It also not often one gets to see a film that is almost orgasmically metallurgical in its essence, as if some of the ideas of Oswald Spengler's Man and Technology: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life (1931) were used by Mann as a sort of aesthetic theory for Thief, which finds almost perverse pulchritude in post-industrial decay and the synthesis of man and machine.  After all, if there is a sort of quasi-realist equivalent to the titular cyborg assassin of The Terminator (1984), it is the eponymous antihero of Mann's film.



-Ty E