' ' Cinema Romantico: Alien Superstars

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Alien Superstars

Currently on display at the Norton Simon Museum

Michael Mann recently released a sequel to his second of four magnum opuses “Heat” (1995) in novel form. Among other storylines, “Heat 2” apparently details what transpired after Chris Shiherlis’s initial escape from authorities in the wake of his gang’s big bank robbery gone wrong as well as what led to his and Charlene’s marriage in the first place. And, I don’t know, reader, I just don’t know. The image of Charlene (Ashley Judd) from her balcony waving Chris (Val Kilmer) away, and that breath Judd breathlessly takes in the moment, like she’s taking in their whole existence one last time, isn’t that a perfect final image? Why do we need to expand on it? Never mind that they are Mann’s characters and he can do what he wants with them, I’m the “Before Sunrise” fan, one of the originals with his “Before Sunrise” VHS tape bought at Suncoast Motion Picture Company, who thought the 2004 “Before Sunset” sequel showing what Jesse and Celine were up to 9 years later was an atrocious idea, an insult, how dare they. Then I saw the movie in the theater and swooned so hard I went back to the theater a week later and saw it again. So, really, what do I know? I will probably read “Heat 2” and I will probably love it.

But I’m not here to talk about “Heat 2.” No, I’m here to talk about a Tweet from Michael Mann himself about “Heat 2” including an image from “Heat.” This Tweet.

That Tweet stopped me short. I was going through Twitter like the Joker of Tim Burton’s “Batman” going through Vicki Vale’s portfolio – “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap” – until he gets to the good stuff. I saw that photo of Judd and Kilmer as Charlene and Chris and I just looked at it like the time I looked at Monet’s Regatta at Argenteuil at the Musée d’Orsay and tried for, like, 15 minutes to walk away and just…couldn’t. I mean, look at it! I know part of this stems from the youth and beauty of Ashley and Val given the former’s severe injuries from falling in the Congo and the latter’s health issues, including losing his voice, so severe they seem to suggest his recent nigh wordless appearance in the “Top Gun” sequel was his movie swan song.

Let’s set aside youth, however, and just focus on beauty. I don’t mean to be shallow here but…they’re beautiful. They are the mystical Beautiful People. They’re the kind of couple you ogle as a couple yourself from across the way, saying things like, “Now that is a beautiful couple.” They’re like Beyoncé and Jay-Z that time at the NBA Finals where the second half had already started but America’s Royals got shepherded to their courtside seats anyway and for a minute there you couldn’t even pay attention to the best athletes in the world because these Beautiful People had just wandered on to your screen. They’re like the chorus of Beyoncé’s “Alien Superstar”...“too classy for this world.”  “Heat” deserves an NPA rating because of this image. No Puritans Allowed. Mann dresses them both in black, emphasizing their features which in the scene’s 35mm lighting seems to coat them in the patina of their beauty. Some people glow and Charlene and Chris glow.

But. But! Chris’s lips are ever so slightly apart, suggesting he is speaking, yet looking slightly past her, as if uninterested in her reaction to whatever he’s saying. But her reaction makes the frame. Her face is quizzical, her eyes in a squint that might be confusion or might be disbelief, giving the frame an unexpected tension. Her posture is relaxed, rhyming with the spaghetti strap of her era-appropriate dress tumbling off her shoulder, but the relaxation taken in tandem with the expression transforms it into something more akin to boredom, a bored dissatisfaction, whatever he’s saying an unwitting metaphor for everything that even their beauty cannot cover up. 

No comments: