In the middle of 80’s,starting his early career as Freelance in RAI Italian Public Tv ,Dante Spinotti (born in Tolmezzo, Udine, August 1943),flyed in to Carolina U.S. where the producer Dino De Laurentiis had the pleasure to present him to Michael Mann.
The Producer whom bought the rights about the Thomas Harris Book Red Dragon show his intention to produce a feature with the Italian DOP and the young Chicago native Director (born on Feb 1943).
After a short technical meeting where Dante Spinotti showed any of his works to Michael Mann obtained from the Director a safe “green light” and any week later the Manhunter’s preproduction started.
Michael Mann’s carefulness lay one of its roots in to a previous deep search into criminology world ,this kind of preparation is reflected very in to pre-production works and settings , works that required many weeks of tests and started from lightings to equipment choices.
Dante praising Michael’s discipline , know how and competence, put his choices over Eastman film stock, processed later by Technicolor labs using Zeiss camera Lenses 18mm,25mm,35mm,50mm,85mm,135mm T 1.4 (transmission factor),going with Super 35 to 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio , the first feature on Super 35 shot with Joe Dunton Camera BL III’s(modified Arriflex BLIII), and some of the cinematography seem inspired at the “Year of the Dragon’s” Look shot by Alex Thomson BSC , British cinematographer whom worked with Michael Mann on THE KEEP(1983).
Super 35 use spherical lenses, this kind of lenses have a better reaction in low lights levels, so are faster smaller and lighter if compared to anamorphic lenses, either Super 35 negative can be use for produce high quality release in any aspect ratio, as the final frame will be extracted and converted from the lager full frame negative, in this case Anamorphic format 2.35:1
The higher depth of field by night and the lighter weigh of spherical lenses permitted a better handling on Steadycam shoot and this was not a secondary factor to Manhunter’slook
Every aspect of Red Dragon isn’t casual ,every thing got a design that define a sense of noxious ,distorted and madness ,every colours from the romantic blue showed in to the real house of the artist Robert Rauschenberg(October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) ,from the violet light coming to sink and melting to the neutral white of the bricks take up with the symmetry of the bars in Lector’s cell passing by through Richard Meier ‘s High Museum of Atlanta used for Graham’s Panic scene; to the green ‘s madness of Dolarhide ;every camera’s angles and every locations are built for create a sense of terror , meanwhile everything is connected with the story and its dynamics ,included thoughts , interiors ,moments and emotions.
With these concepts ,been made many original solution takes as shot from car’s trunk for give a certain stylistic cut during a car chase . Michael Mann gave to the Production Designer Mel Bourne(multi nominated by Academy and Thief’s Production Designer) the hard task to make real his ideas .
This work been easy because Mel has the pleasure to work with a Director with a great sense aesthetic as good eye and eager to take his chances, factors that ,at the end ,make things better never addicted to banality and ever well congenial and exciting.
Under a congenial purple’s Sky at the first light of Dawn started the shoots for the final confrontation in Dolarhide’s house ,this build been inspired to a certain American’s Modernism of 40’s/50’s and was built close the Cape Fear river,where certain climactic condition (mist) create a unique atmosphere .This scene involved many cameras settings with different speeds,24 Fps,36 Fps,72 Fps,90 Fps, either involved hardly stunts and special effect crew but at the end in post production earned an amazing editing.
On A real Flight during a troupe’s transfer from Chicago to Captiva Florida , the crew grab cameras sound and lighting equipment on hand baggage and this situation allowed to made the shoot of the scene where Will Graham is sleeping ,dreaming about his wife while unwary he is leaving free to view some photos about the transformation in to artistic products ,cruel homicides by Tooth Fairy(Tom Noonan),upsetting a little girl sit close him, during all this mess the camera linger, contrasting the mad contents of the sequence, over a wonderful sky kissing the airplane’s wing. This scene were set while the steward served the dinner .
The continuous search of realism and details are also vivid on the scenes set in to Washington D.C.,on the background the Edgar Hoover Building and his Arcs(But Could be The Smithsonian American Art Museum) , Spinotti catch one of most beautiful sequence of the film; Michael Mann wanted real Swat Agent for the scene set into a Car Park named THE JOGGER, scene that had his real moments of tension and postponed on next night due a real gunfight happened between police and robbers one block next.
Stronghold of the contemporary Cinema that with is formula has influenced all the recent productions of genre, productions more and more convicted that our monsters our fear have human’s faces,one thing is certain Manhunter is the exception that confirm the rule that for obtain certain results the monstrosity (citing the authors) can have a meaning not nearly negative.