Category Archives: Film Review

Mad Max review – Feminism, patriarchy, grinding metal and explosions

Mad Max

Mad Max Review

Mad Max Review

Feminism, climate change, eugenics, and the fight against patriarchy are not subjects discussed in your usual summer blockbuster fare, but Philip Kurthausen finds liberal messages and inspiring depictions of strong female characters in the latest Max Max movie, Fury Road.
I want to talk about feminism, well, feminism, huge explosions, grinding metal, battles for scarce resources (blood, wombs, water, bullets), tumours with names (Larry and Barry since you ask) and thrilling chases to the death in the Wasteland (actually the Nambian desert). All the above and more, so much more are present in George Miller’s glorious, leather and iron clad, gasoline stinking fist in your face, return to the Mad Max series in Mad Max: Fury Road.

For those fans for whom the term Mad Max conjures up scratchy precious VHS copies of Mel Gibson’s havoc-wreaking revenge-driven quests in the Australian outback from the 70’s and 80’s, you can breathe easy; George has pulled it off and you will love this movie. You will love the visceral action scenes with the use of stuntman where CGI would have offered an easier but less ‘oh my God how did no one die making this movie?’ thrill; you will love the dystopian setting; the aurelent billowing dust clouds; the steampunk Western stylings; the carnage-inducing chase scenes; the nods to the old movies and importantly you will forget that Tom Hardy is your new Max. He is good in the dialogue-light role of Max, the ex-Police Interceptor who has lost everything and conveys, well the sense that he represents a civilization that has passed, the solidity of law and order. Mel who?

But even better is Charlize Theron and her character Imperator Furiosa, and there is a good argument that the movie is her’s alone. The plot centres on her personal mission to rescue five concubines, the ’breeders’ and possessions of Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays who played the villain, Toecutter in the original Mad Max) who has impregnated them in the hope of producing healthy progeny that can be his heir to the diseased and polluted world he rules.

Immortan Joe is the high priest of a quasi-religious cult that offers salvation to his band of followers whilst living in as much luxury as the male dominated society he has created will offer. He and his band of fanatics, the Warboys (Nicholas Hoult from About a Boy is exceptionally good as the devoted warboy Nux and is the namer of the aforementioned ‘Larry’ and ’Barry’) set off in pursuit of Imperator with Max as their prisoner after she escapes with Immortan’s concubines.

Charlize Theron’s Imperator is the adrenaline-soaked, rapidly beating heart of the movie and in her charge into hell to assert the women’s ownership of their bodies and right to decide what happens to their foetuses (sometimes in the most literal of ways) Miller has given us a a strong female action character with genuine depth, emotion and the ability to kick some serious ass.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the most intelligent and engaging action blockbuster since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and as much a parable for our times as that film. And for those who write off the action genre as bubblegum cinema with nothing to say about contemporary society, did I mention the feminism, the riffs on climate change, eugenics, the fight against the patriarchy represented by Immortan Joe and his Boko Harem style thugs, the liberal message about personal freedom, liberty and the need to escape the crushing dead hand of fundamental male dominated religion?

This is a movie packed with ideas, politics, action and violence delivered in a super charged, tense, chase to the death with the most stylised and beautiful rendering of a post-apocalyptic world since, well since Mad Max 2.

Go see.

Mad Max: Fury Road is currently showing in 2D and 3D at FACT.

The Birth of Cool

 

 

 

Why it’s cool to have Jean Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) in your top five favourite movie list.

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Talking about your top five movies gets you through a lot. They get you through awkward first dates, they help find you friends in smoky rooms at college, they make days at work pass by more pleasantly and they introduce you to films you otherwise may never have seen. A bout de soufflé (‘Breathless’ in English) is a film that like another currently showing at FACT, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, is one of those movies that routinely makes it onto those lists.

There’s a reason it appears in those lists year after year. It’s cool. Drop this film in your Top five list and you can but hope that some of the Gallic gangster swagger of its lead actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo, rubs off on you as talk about the French New Wave, Goddard, Truffaut and how this film changed cinema.

And it did. On one level you get a B-movie gangster plot, imitating as does Belmondo’s character Michel Poiccard, the movies of Bogart. But then the jazz, the jump cuts, the tearing down of the fourth wall and the sheer fuck you attitude of the thing, combined with the technical kick in the nuts to the established way of film making that had gone before takes you on a wild nihilistic trip through Paris that leaves you…well, you get the picture.

Goddard was 28 when he made this movie, a rejection of the stylistic conventions of what he and Truffaut saw had become of French cinema and which he had routinely trashed in his role as a film critic for the magazine Les Cahiers du Cinema. It was shot in four weeks, in locations personal to Goddard (like the long bedroom scene in Hotel Suede where Goddard stayed upon his return from South America), in natural light and although there was a screenplay, much of the dialogue was improvised or written on the spot by Goddard scribbling away in his notepad whilst filming. The youthful arrogance behind such film making on the fly, editing it with the now legendary use of jump cuts, comes through like a strong espresso and a hit of a Gitanes in every scene, and like the jazz that accompanies it means the film still feels fresh and dances to its own tune.

Goddard said that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun and 55 years later (FACT is showing the 50th anniversary edition released in 2010) Breathless still makes me want to grab a gun (and let’s be clear guns are not cool unless wielded by Belmondo whilst wearing a hat), go find the girl (and what a girl Jean Seberg is, selling the New York Tribune in Paris with her cutesy pie American accent and yet just as cool and detached and ultimately more ruthless than Michel) and jump in an open top car to blast through police barricades and head to Paris.

And as for Breathless making your top five? These lists change week by week, year by year and dependent on time and place. But it’s April, and Paris is always the place to be in April.

Breathless is showing on Sunday 12 April, 6pm. Get your tickets here.