Mad Max: Fury Road - New Hope for Craft, Truth and Substance
Mad Max: Fury Road has been in my head for days, not so much for the story but for what it may mean for us as an awakening in terms of standards, of how art can be used, how it should be used.
For me it is a long-overdue reminder of how profoundly an understanding of filmic language, visual language, semiotics, personal integrity and a learned understanding of the mechanisms of human feeling can create an *experience* that *transports*. Something that circumvents dispassionate analysis in the moment and becomes an overwhelming tide of feeling because in so many fundamental ways the artist shows how well they understand you. In that moment the feeling is not dissimilar to being looked at with love by a parent, or even glanced at by God.
It's also a lot like watching Michael Bay being held down and punched repeatedly in the balls and neck.
For me it was a demonstration that the best art is created not by students aping their inspirations but by students of life finding inspiration almost anywhere but art.
All of this could be dismissed as hyperbole, especially given that the example is a two-hour chase-splosion, but that'd be lazy and reductive. It's not about the fiction, it's about the mechanism and the art with which that mechanism had been crafted. The thought exercise should be: "what if this level of lifelong study and application were applied to other, better films?" And books? And performance? And games? And music?
This is art created with pride and vigilance and self-belief. It's art created by someone who knows what it is to feel, and who used the reactor in his chest to fuel a glorious machine. For me the movie wasn't so much about the story specifically, so much as it was a showcase of possibilities.
One of the truest things I know is that some of the most affecting art has aspired in some way to the condition of music. High-signal/low-noise emotional and experiential telepathy.
For the first ten minutes I wondered if what I was seeing could live up to the reports I'd been reading for days. Within fifteen I was watching a master craftsman paint with sound and movement and emotion, summoning kicks-in-the-chest and watery eyes by a combination of elements as unexpected as pairing a subtle musical reprise with the sound of a truck gasping.
It is possessed of a tumbling emotional and physical momentum that seamlessly transitions between the mechanics of Judo and ballet. When it pauses to breathe the characters occasionally illuminate under the power of a single well-crafted line.
And everything pays off. It is a lean, honed master-class in how to use the medium. I hope audiences come away expecting better from those who craft our art.
Also: what's not to like about a movie with a villain named 'Rictus Erectus'?