Manhunter

Manhunter ★★★★★

Was an 88, now a 100

Is there a more dangerous Hollywood film than Manhunter? Not necessarily on an ethical/moral level of what it’s showing, but *why* - it conveys, on an allegorical register, exactly why we all stumble into a dark auditorium with a crowd of strangers and share in fantasies, dreams, desires, even more so than Vertigo or Abel Ferrara’s Dangerous Game. The film gives us nothing less than a neon fairy-tale of a man who is employed to hunt other men who delight in watching and murdering human bodies. The key is the record – the saved document of the act. An object as coveted as the act itself. Rewinding, unspooling, and letting them linger in the space of the home. “Do you see?” is the perverted exaggeration of the home-media age, transferred onto tape for corporatized violence and increased sensitivity. The observation of both Will Graham and The Tooth-fairy is a physical one: two sides of the same coin, like McCauley and Hanna in Heat, unable to stay away from their prey, and eventually each other, because it’s all the same at the end of the day. Graham’s revelation is entirely because he watches private family-films duped onto VHS for his own studious pleasure and discovers that the killer only knows because of seeing, because of being an unknown, unwanted audience member desperate to walk through the screen and into the reality of their lives. Technology evades privacy, and so does a job-title, “FBI Agent” aligning with “Film Director”. And with that, Graham runs towards the giant-glass shield encasing Dolarhyde’s lair with the intent of breaking it – shattering the construction of a film without an audience beyond the killer. Everything must be seen. Degrees of spectatorship eventually come to haunt us; the terror we feel for Reba as she stumbles across a raging pop-Hell is the same terror that she feels, although we are safe and she is not. We do not need to worry about a Dolarhyde phantom reaching out and caressing our face during the film, but we do need to grapple with the excitement and fright that it brings us, as well as the heroism found in Graham, a voyeuristic psychopath on the right side of the law and a viewer of re-recorded experiences attempting to stop those who pick up a movie camera and try it for themselves. Mann’s fascination, and seduction, lies in the sensorial elements of being the hunter and the hunted, and how the experiences of others are dramas, tragedies, and horror films to peepers on the outside, observing from afar like a movie-goer with a bucket of popcorn. To remove the barrier between those who carry binoculars and those who are unaware is to expose both parties.

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