[Postponed!] Milestones: Miami Vice
Thu 25 Nov 2021, 20:30
Cinema Galeries, Brussels
PART OF Sabzian: Milestones
  • With an introduction by Gerard-Jan Claes
  • A collaboration between Sabzian and Cinema Galeries

Due to technical issues related to force majeure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we regret to inform that the Milestones: Miami Vice screening of tonight has been postponed to a date yet to be determined. Ticketholders can ask for a refund by sending an e-mail to Cinema Galeries.

Miami Vice (2006) is the ninth film by American filmmaker Michael Mann, also known for Thief (1981), Manhunter (1986), Heat (1995), Ali (2001) and Public Enemies (2009). Mann has always occupied a special position in the Hollywood of the past thirty years. He is one of the few filmmakers who managed to build up a singular oeuvre within an industrial logic, formally explicit and with a preference for experimentation. “It is amazing to find such a great stylist in contemporary American cinema,” Olivier Assayas wrote admiringly in 2002. Mann was also one of the first filmmakers to embrace the digital as a material with its own pleasures and aesthetic value, against any nostalgia for 20th-century celluloid-only cinema. 

Miami Vice is an update of the 1980s television series of the same name, of which Mann was executive producer. In 2006, the world of police officers James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs looks very different. Rico (Jamie Foxx) and Sonny (Colin Farell) work undercover in the grim world of international drug crime. The deeper they descend, the blurrier the line between their real and fabricated identities. After earlier experiments with high-definition digital video in Collateral and Ali, Mann resolutely opts for the digital format in Miami Vice. The result is an action movie that is not only driven by plot and spectacle, but is just as much a plastic work, characterized by the grainy texture and colours of the first HD cameras and a mise-en-scène that can be read as a choreography in which the physical relationship between the characters plays a crucial role. At first glance, Mann seems to be one of those filmmakers whose “stylistic virtuosity compensates for the lightness of the subject, the formal intensity masking the incoherence of the plot or the imprecision of thought” (Cyril Neyrat). But Mann’s Miami Vice is more than a style exercise; the aesthetic possibilities of the digital are brought into play to describe a new globalized and connected world, defined by overvisibility, surveillance and intangibility. Oscillating between “hyperrealism and impressionism” (Jean-Baptiste Thoret) and starting from the rules of the genre film, Miami Vice seems to be driven by both a fascination and a distaste for late capitalism, with Mann using a new cinematic technique to make the spectator a witness to the process of a contemporary world and its forms.

Milestones is a series of stand-alone screenings, hosted by Sabzian, of film-history milestones, reference works or landmarks, films that focus on aesthetic or political issues and stimulate debate and reflection. In earlier instalments, Sabzian presented Andy Warhol’s Sleep (1964), Jean-Luc Godard’s monumental video work Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998), Robert Kramer’s Milestones (1974), Méditerranée (1963) and L’ordre (1973), two films by Jean-Daniel Pollet and recently Shadi Abdel Salam’s Al-mummia (1969), Georges Rouquier’s Farrebique ou les quatres saisons (1946), Al Dhakira al Khasba [Fertile Memory] (Michel Khleifi, 1980), Harun Farocki’s Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges (1989) and Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1983). For each screening, Sabzian publishes texts that contextualize the film.

Miami Vice

This adaptation from the iconic TV series focuses on vice detectives Crockett and Tubbs as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined.


“The reason I love Mann’s movies, and Miami Vice in particular, is I could feel the place. When I watch that film, I don’t even pay attention to what they’re saying or the storyline. I love the colors, I love the texture.”

Harmony Korine


“It’s miraculous to find such a great stylist in contemporary American cinema.”

Olivier Assayas


« Je considère Michael Mann comme plastiquement le cinéaste en activité le plus talentueux. Heat est un film qui m’impressionne. Cela m’impressionne qu’on puisse faire un tel film dans le contexte du cinéma américain. C’est un film dont le sujet est la forme, et c’est peut-être mon goût pour l’abstraction et les arts plastiques qui s’exprime. Je trouve qu'il y a une transposition moderne, contemporaine, de cette pureté stylistique, qui est quelque chose que je recherche toujours dans le cinéma. La pureté du style résonne énormément et compte dans ma réception d’un film. C’est assez miraculeux de trouver un aussi grand styliste dans le cinéma américain contemporain. »

Olivier Assayas


« La puissance de Miami Vice provient de ce mélange d'élégance formelle et de brutalité, de sylisation extrême et d'hyperréalisme. Toujours les deux à la fois, conformément au grand théorème mannien : devenir l'autre pour le combattre au rique, comme le flic interprété par Colin Farrell, ed perdre pied dans une zone imprécise où plus rien ne permet de distinguer la rélité des faux-semblants. Très vite, l'assise toujours rassurante du genre, avec ses archétypes, ses codes, ses valeurs et son dénouement, s'effondre. Le récit progresse alors pas à-coups, écrase la plupart des pics d’action (le braquage des mafieux haïtiens réglé en quelques palns) et multiplie les faux départs, à l'image de l'ouverture du film, raccord trompeur avec la séquance de la boîte de nuit de Collateral, qui se concnetre sur l'arrestation d'un proxénète (Neptune) puis, en une fraction de sconde, change de direction après le coup de fil paniqué d'Alonzo à Sonny. La violence fait irruption dans le plan, précédée d’aucun rituel, éclate dans prevenir, et l'on entre dans le film (pas de séquence d'exposition, pas de titre) comme un reporter de guerre projeté en plein milieu d'un conflit en cours. Sans début ni fin. Juste 132 minutes à bout de souffle prélevées sur un flux ininterrompu d'images et d’évènements. »

Jean-Baptiste Thoret1


« A première vue, Miami Vice ne ferait que confirmer l’opinion critique la plus répandue sur Michael Mann : un artiste surdoué, chez qui la virtuosité stylistique compense la légèreté du propos, l’intensité de la forme ayant tendance à masquer l’incohérence de l’intrigue ou l’imprécision de la pensée. Mais son dernier film fait partie de ceux qu’il faudrait voir deux fois. La première pour faire la liste des attente décues et des faiblesses du film, la seconde pour s’attacher à ce qu’il fait : exploiter les possibilités esthétiques de la haute définition et en tirer toutes les conséquences en termes de narration. Les faiblesses se convertissent alors en hypothèses, sans doutes fragiles mais à coup sûr innovants, d’un nouveau régime du visible, générant une nouvelle forme du film d’action. »

Cyril Neyrat2


“[Miami] Vice marks an important shift for Hollywood in the digital era for the way it actively engaged with the implications of a technological change most had simply taken for granted, and it does so by both whollyembracing its mode of production and reflecting the consequences of doing so. High- definition digital photography had, by the time Vice arrived, firmly established itself as a viable artistic and commercial alternate to shooting on traditional 35mm film, but the practice was regarded by nearly everybody as a kind of cost-saving technical shortcut desirable only insofar as the results could be passed off as a close approximation of an ordinary film—the prospect of engineering a project to exploit digital photography’s specific technical or aesthetic qualities was highly unlikely even after several years of employing the technology itself to less conspicuous ends. But Vice proved that the digital image could be made beautiful not as a replication of something else but simply on its own terms, in a way unique to the format. In terms of texture and color, the film is sumptuous: from the moment of its opening salvo, a jarring cut from black to a nightclub interior timed to the first beat of the Jay-Z/Linkin Park mash-up “Numb/Encore,” Vice plunges us deep within an aesthetic all its own, its world of gangland subterfuge and drug- running intrigue painted in streaks of cobalt and grey.”

Calum Marsh3

  • 1. Jean-Baptiste Thoret, Michael Mann: Mirages du contemporain (Flammarion : Paris, 2021).
  • 2. Cyril Neyrat, « Miami Vice de Michael Mann. Très haute définition, » Cahiers du Cinéma 615, 2006.
  • 3. Calum Marsh, “Blown Out,” Reverse Shot, 17 April 2013.