After chasing it forty years, with the first attempts dating back to the 1990s with Robert De Niro, and nearly a decade since the last feature film, 2015’s criminally underrated Blackhat (here the 4K Blu-Ray review of Blackhat), Michael Mann signs yet another masterpiece of his career with Ferrari: the second (anti)biopic after Ali (2001), the film offers in its absolute subjectivity a new variation on the main theme of the Chicago author’s hypertext, namely time, or rather its lack, its eternal fleeing, its constant missing.
Between the megalomania of Vincent Hanna and the rush of doing of Neil McCauley, the two protagonists of Heat who wanted it all in both their private and professional lives but who, in traversing the world, discovered to their cost that there is always a sacrifice to be made, but also how the Will Smith’s Muhammad Ali confronted with the tasks of the collision between the private and the public, Enzo Ferrari is yet another Mannian anti-hero defeated by time (where do you think the cinema of uberfan Christopher Nolan, director of Oppenheimer, come from?) and love.
As in all of Michael Mann’s movies it will be love the great defeat of the protagonist (played by a titanic Adam Driver and taken up by the director more as a religious idol, a symbol, than as an individual, because Mannian characters are always the synecdoche of something else larger, the isolated part of an unattainable whole), for whom the feeling, sacrificed on the altar of ambition and in the pursuit of perfection in the eyes of the world, it will come back to demand the bill.
As if, in Mannian cinema’s anthropocentric conception of the universe, a universe in which gods can only fall from their skies (Ali, Public Enemy) the reality of the heart and the bonds between individuals was always destined to prevail against the craving that moves the hungry protagonists, as if the will of men were destined to crash against the walls of reality (after all “two objects cannot occupy the same point in space at the same time” as Ferrari will say, almost a counterpoint to one of the pivotal themes of Blackhat, in which physical reality gave way to digital reality).
Ferrari never stops
In Ferrari everything goes fast, everything runs: how Al Pacino ran down the stairs in the final minutes of Heat, as Colin Farrell ran away from the love of his life Gong Li in the abrupt ending of Miami Vice, as Johnny Depp ran in listing the highlights of his criminal life to seduce Marion Cotillard in a few lines in the film Public Enemy, as Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei ran in the face of grief over the loss of Leehom Wang in Blackhat, so Ferrari runs relentlessly, never satisfied, in order to repair his private existence through success in the public sphere. A utopia, of course, a ‘terrible joy,’ an unattainable dream even if behind the wheel of the most bombastic bolide that the most precise and futuristic of engineering wizardry can conceive.
An illusion within which Mann transports us by renouncing any objectivity, any biopic trappings, to any of the many traps of the genre’s rules: the first-person view becomes not so much the reconstruction of the World and History as the perception of a World and History, that of a man with no more time. Of no use are the famous Mannian suspensions, the timbres with which the author always tries to slow the race of his protagonists toward crashing against their fate, from subtle, almost imperceptible slow motion to instinctive, furious close-ups, the musical pauses of infinite taste, stamps with which Ferrari is filled almost as if to balance the splashing of the race car odometer.
Because the one who goes faster than anyone in Ferrari is Ferrari himself, Ferrari the man, the faithless husband, the absentee lover, the grieving father, the visionary entrepreneur, the commendatore, the lonely dreamer, the funereal protagonist of the director’s funniest work. Ferrari dreaming of the dead as the dead dreamed of Vincent Hanna, Ferrari going through the mausoleum of his life and visiting a dead son while holding hands with a living son (two bodies in the same space). Ferrari the Mannian who, like all the characters in the author’s films, wishes he could see where he is going but is condemned to advance blindly. And destined to crash. And who still chooses never to stop.