Venice 2023: Michael Mann's Ferrari is not a powerful car, but a solid vehicle

Venice 2023: Michael Mann’s Ferrari is not a powerful car, but a solid vehicle

By retracing a decisive year in the life of Enzo Ferrari, the director of Heat repaints his romantic obsessions in the colors of a Mediterranean tragedy.

French festival-goers who attended yesterday, at the Venice Film Festival, one of the screenings of Ferrari, Michael Mann’s new feature film after an eight-year absence, have all measured how lucky they were to discover it on a cinema screen: most of their compatriots are in fact condemned to seeing it on Prime Video in a few months. Michael Mann deprived of theatrical release in France? Before the lights went out, we said to ourselves that, deep down, Mann himself is one of the main architects of this great blurring of the boundaries between cinema and television, he who has made the medium take a giant leap TV in the 80s with the spectacular debauchery of means of its series Two Cops in Miami

But no time to daydream about Sonny Crockett: Ferrari started ! And we immediately breathe with relief when we realize that we are not watching a TV movie… We were a little scared, to tell the truth. Because Mann is a “hindered” filmmaker, having more and more difficulty getting his projects financed, because he no longer works with the big studios which allowed him to pursue his visions to the end, because he dream of realizing Ferrari for three decades (with Hugh Jackman, with Christian Bale, but it failed each time), for all these reasons, we feared that the dream project only collapses at the finish line and resembles nothing more than a ghost of a film, as is often the case with the sea serpent projects of great aging filmmakers.

Michael Mann looks back on 30 years of Ferrari manufacturing

But Ferrari holds up. It’s certainly not a supersonic monster, but a solid construction. Comfortable and well-built. In a handful of introductory scenes, swift and elegant, Enzo Ferrari instantly joins the club of Mannian heroes: this caste of supermen living according to their own rules, very far from those of ordinary mortals. Romantics who hide their deadly impulses and their quest for the absolute behind a professional ethic of reinforced concrete.

Written by Troy Kennedy Martin (who died in 2009, and to whom the film is dedicated), Ferrari recounts a crucial year in the car manufacturer’s career: 1957, a year after the death of his young son Dino, when he faces the possible bankruptcy of his company, which he must save for his cars at all costs the Mille Miglia (a crazy race across Italy which threatens at every moment to turn into a massacre) and that his wife Laura (Penélope Cruz) is about to discover that he is hiding the existence of another son from her , which he had ten years ago with his mistress (Shailene Woodley).

Played by an Adam Driver increasingly comfortable in the roles of Italian dandies, after House of Gucci, Enzo Ferrari tries to mourn Dino’s death by sending other young men close to death in cars that look like metal coffins. The Italian press compares him to Saturn devouring his child. He will have to get out of these intimate and professional impasses to hope to see his name go down in history. Along the way, Mann draws parallels between this obsessive engineer who seeks to build ever more powerful and perfect cars, and the manic aesthete that he himself is. “When something works bettersaid Ferrari, in general she is more beautiful“.

But the director does not indulge in self-reference. On the contrary, he approaches a territory that is quite new to him: marital drama, bordering on melodrama, shot through with operatic arias and perfumed with vintage Mediterranean scents. The cars rumble in the distance (and some racing sequences are really striking) but the main focus is on the intimate sphere. A bit as if, in Heatthe tense moments of private life had ended up supplanting the detective intrigue for good.

And if Mann indulges his passion for speed, for racing cars, for this race against death which is like an existential quest, he is no longer guided by this postmodern intoxication and this temptation of abstraction which made his glory. He is not trying to pirate the period film, as in Public Enemies. But he also does not find – and this is undoubtedly the main weakness of the film – the epic grandeur ofAli ; this historical scale which would have allowed us to truly understand why what Enzo Ferrari accomplished here is so great. Close-ups of the accelerator pedals and gearboxes, metal rushing onto the asphalt, the imperial port of Adam Driver as Lord of Modena, the virile routine of the death-defying drivers filmed like fifties thugs preparing a heist. .. The new Mann is primarily fueled by retro pleasures.

Ferrariby Michael Mann, with Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley… In 2024 on Prime Video.

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