05 March 2009

John Dillinger will die for you

One of the film releases this summer that gets me all tingling with good-movie-vibe excitement is Public Enemies, a tale about the FBI taking on John Dillinger and his crime-wave lot in the early 1930s, based on this book. With a cast like Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as FBI agent Purvis, and director Michael Mann behind the camera, how could I not approach filmdom Nirvana? The trailer and the poster are awesomeness enough for me.

Michael Mann is the second greatest director named “Mann” in the history of cinema. (The first is Anthony Mann, but since his death he hasn’t put out much new product.) I haven’t loved everything he’s done recently, but he has passion for cinema and a painstaking approach to period, so I think he’ll work magic with the 1930s.

And the 1930s is another reason to anticipate this film. I love films set during this decade. Everything in the 1930s looks cool. Stuff that isn’t supposed to look cool, looks cool. The fashions were stunning, the popular music astonishing, and pulp magazines were on sale at every newsstand. Fascinating era.

Finally, there’s John Dillinger. I have a personal connection to the legend of John Dillinger through my paternal grandmother, Dorothy, who died in 1995. She was a teenager during Dillinger’s reign of bank-robbery superstardom, and she loved telling me how ardently she followed his exploits and worshipped him. She said she would run home every day from school to snap on the radio to hear what Dillinger had done next. She told me it depressed her when the FBI gunned him down—and did she ever loathe that “Lady in Red” for betraying her hero. I guess that in a era like the Great Depression, following the adventures of a free-living, stylish bank robber was a special kind of escapist fantasy. Listening to my grandmother talk about Dillinger gave me a perspective on why the man continues to fascinate people, and results in events such as this one. And, of course, this movie. I know if my grandmother were still alive, she’d be one of the first in line to see this film. And she wold “boo” Christian Bale’s FBI character and shout down the Lady in Red.

Have I mentioned that my gradmother was a bartender for thirty years? Pretty cool lady.

Public Enemies premieres in July. Not on July 22, however—the date of Dillinger’s death. That would’ve been great, but the date falls on a Wednesday this year, not when new movies are released. (But they bent the rules for that awful remake of The Omen in 2006…)

Behold the trailer:

I’m not sure of the music here. (It's “Ten Million Slaves” by banjoist Otis Taylor, by the way.) If I were to select music, I would use some of the darker bluegrass of the period, or some Chicago jazz. If I used more recent rock music, I would pick the Led Zeppelin version of “When the Levee Breaks,” mainly the parts mentioning Chicago. (“Don't it make you feel bad / When you're tryin' to find your way home, / You don't know which way to go? / If you're goin' down South / They got no work to do, / If you don't know about Chicago.”) Of course, the original Memphis Minnie version would work awesome as well.