"Off the Map: Freedom, Control, and the Future in Michael Mann's PUBLIC ENEMIES" Now Available

Nine years ago I wrote a voluminous Facebook post after seeing Michael Mann's Public Enemies. The motives behind it are a little tricky to get into, but let's just say it was a very dark time and, well, there was just nothing else for me to do. That post, formatted into a 50-page single-spaced Word document, got into the hands of Minnesota radio legend T.D. Mischke, who interviewed me on his City Pages podcast, and afterwards asked me to be his on-air film critic on his WCCO Nite Show, which aired from 2010-2013, a period also responsible for keeping me buoyed as I posted crap on a blogspot site (The Niles Film Files, rife with embarrassments, even more than here) and eventually got some notice from respectable publications.

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A little more than two years ago, Elijah Davidson and Kutter Calloway of Reel Spirituality (a program of the Brehm Arts Center in Fuller Seminary), asked if I would update that old blog for a monograph book publication. I'm pleased to announce that book is now a "thing," which you can read though I'd be happy if you just bought it, so I can get some royalties. Off the Map is a little purply here and there, and there are a handful of typos of which I'm aware (I'm working to see if I can change a "moral" to "mortal," a "not" to "now," and erase a few commas), but overall I think it's good stuff that will irradiate an occasional reader.


Here is the product description:

"A motion picture chronicling the last adventures of bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Public Enemies was met with much bafflement upon its 2009 release. Director Michael Mann’s terse storytelling and unorthodox use of high-definition digital cameras challenged viewers’ familiarity with Hollywood’s historical gangland elegance while highlighting Public Enemies’ own place in a medium—and culture—undergoing sweeping technological change. In Off the Map, Niles Schwartz immerses us in Mann’s representation of Dillinger, a subject increasingly aware of his own role as a romanticized frontier folk hero, in flight from an enveloping bureaucratic system. The cultural issues of Dillinger’s 1930s anticipate the 21st century watershed moment for the moving image, as our relationship with the pictures surrounding us increasingly affects our own sense of identity, historical truth, and means of relating to each other. Mann’s follow-up, the hacker thriller Blackhat (2015), reflects a world where Public Enemies’ abstract surveillance state has since colonized the firmament of our everyday lives. Yet in this virtual labyrinth of surplus images, cinema may inwardly illuminate a transformative path for us. Off the Map places Mann’s late works in deep focus, exploring our present relationship to cinema on a backdrop that swings from the blockbuster spectacle of Avatar to the curious intimacy of Moonrise Kingdom, ultimately suggesting the mysterious space between the viewer and the screen may yet become a sanctuary of deep spiritual reflection."

You can purchase Off the Map on Amazon here.