Skip to main content

ROAD MADDER: THE NEW MAD MAX REVIEWED AT EYEWEAR

CHARLIZE THERON IS THE NEW ICON
[SPOILER ALERT] The new Mad Max: Fury Road film has had a fascinating gestation and now a narrative of striving against another kick-ass franchise, Pitch Perfect, itself a vehicle for amazing women. Well, that's the media hyped story, and let's leave it there.  I saw Mad Max 4 (as it were) on Friday in 3D in London; at the end, reactions from the audience were mixed.  If you wanted to sum it up you might say Marmite - it did create a love-hate tension in the packed theatre.

I loved it.  I loved the insane Cirque du Soleil mania, the battery acid propulsion, the high-octane raciness; I loved the Trigger Warning vision of it.  The eco-warrior-feminist subtext; the redemption; the ugliness; the beauty; the sheer Wild West poetry of the cinema it extends and amplifies in its very motion.

I would argue that, at 70, director George Miller, in tandem with a hugely talented team - a crew of hundreds - has choreographed one of the most beautifully fluid and breath-taking action spectacles cinema has ever seen - or felt.  At times, it has the grandeur, sweep and power of The Searchers, Zulu, Ran, Star Wars, Indiana Jones 1, T:2, Lawrence of Arabia, Jackson's LOTR, and indeed Road Warrior.

Tempered by a very Australian sense of humour, and starring the two best-looking actors now working in movies (Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy), the melange of body horror, body paint, and body modification, presents us with the longest there and back again I've seen - 120 pure minutes of pure cinema. Vertigo and Rambo are almost as silent and thrilling - but it's hard to recall as wordless a world of pure visual sensationalism, put to the ends of a story with a heart at its bloody and horrific core.

Much has been made of the feminist element of the story, which I am unsure is really there (it may be a mirage) - surely the word matriarchal is more apt. Just because a film has active women in it doesn't mean the form or content is feminist - though this does pass the Bechtel test handily, and does terminate with a new hope, based on an idea of female fecundity and natural justice (essentialism?) returning to take control from a de-natured and evil cock-rock emperor of eye-scream. As well, the mostly-passive and doe-eyed stick-insect sex slaves are presented with a Vogue glamour that is almost preposterous (it must be said we assume intentionally). More clearly, as in the forerunners in the tetralogy, an ecological and pacifist ethos beats a taut drum in the background, even as caveman violence and vehicular manslaughter, as much as anything, save the day.

Modern cinema is in search of a zipless fuck, or, really, a guilt-free way of shooting Injuns. Zombies, Nazis, and robots are also fair game - a shoot-em-up is what we crave, and this is what this is.  It boils down to Ma and Pa Kettle on a rushing stagecoach, fending off the natives, in this case grossly-cancerous and cankered War Boys and Warlords. The ending, which is essentially a classic restoration theme of the good sheriff reclaiming the town, despite its biblical milk and honey theme, is an uplifting commencement for a debacle yet to be enacted - the Imperator (Theron) who will or will not hold back the male gaze and evil inherent in the bleak system established at the start.

Max does little but suffer, a Christ/Shane figure, and act as shotgun backup - until his decisive final reel Brando interdiction - rebelling against whatever the world's got. It's hard to see as feminist any story that requires a man, however silent, to speak for the women; or invent the daring final plan (which is of course the return to the castle/ death star/ throne of blood). Meanwhile, the one-armed Theron outdoes Linda Hamilton, Sigourney Weaver or Jennifer Lawrence, as a boy's fantasy of what a perfectly sculpted beach-ready kick-ass action woman could be.

Regardless of how connected to or deracinated from theory and geo-politics, the film is relevant precisely in its propulsion - its contemporaneity is in its kinetic ferocity; it is as well-made, as exciting, and dynamically unstoppable as any film ever before made. This may prove a false prediction, but possibly only the new Star Wars, and the new Bond, will make more money this year at the Box Office.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…