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REVIEW – Manhunter (1986)

May 29, 2012

THE ZONE has my review of Michael Mann’s recently re-issued psychological thriller Manhunter.

To put it simply, I adore this film. I adore the moody electronic score, I adore Dante Spinotti’s ridiculously colourful cinematography and I adore the way that Michael Mann lines up his shots. However, what I particularly love about this film is the way that it treats the character of Hannibal Lecter as a painstakingly-repressed dark side rather than a scenery-chewing panto dame:

 When Graham visits Lecktor in the hospital, we are told it is because he is hoping to rekindle the creative fires that allow him to project himself into the mind of a killer. However, rather than simply visiting Lecktor in the hospital, Graham reaches out to the disgraced psychiatrist in the hope that his superior understanding of human nature might shed some new light on the case. This act of deference to Lecktor’s superior expertise is deeply troubling when considered alongside Mann’s cinematic blurring of the line between psychologist and psychopath. Indeed, by having Graham turn to Lecktor as part of his own creative process, Mann seems to be suggesting the existence of a symbiotic relationship between the two men. In fact, one could interpret the scene as a sort of vision quest in which the creatively frustrated Graham turns to his painstakingly repressed dark side in order to unblock the empathic powers that will allow him to solve the case.

Mann’s take on Lecter is particularly fascinating as this film was adapted from Thomas Harris’s novel Red Dragon (1981) before Harris even wrote The Silence of the Lambs. In other words, this is a vision of Red Dragon that is completely untainted by the decision to reinvent Lecter as some kind of brain-eating antihero. Released on an absolutely flawless Bluray that makes it look like a brand new film, this re-issue offers an excellent opportunity to rediscover one of the best and most under-rated psychological thrillers of all time.

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