Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

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Jules: Sequel, prequel, reboot, or mashup? Or just the logical conclusion of director George Miller’s deconstruction of genre, gender, and guzzlene?

David: We bookend our survey of 1979’s Mad Max 1 with our overview of the latest 2015 instalment. On Fury Road there’s lot to recognise from our own time. Much of the human degradation in it’s murdered world seems to be with us now, already.

Note this is a post-viewing discussion not a synched commentary.

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Mad Max (1979)

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David: As Mad Max returns to cinemas after 30 years in the wasteland we look back even further to Mad Max’s origins, as well as contexts like seventies oil shocks, road death tolls, bikie gang terror in the media and a director moonlighting as a doctor in an emergency ward.

Jules: The most financially successful low budget genre film (until 1999’s Blair Witch Project) or something more? What does director George Miller deconstruct as he assembles his mythos?

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Sunshine (2007)

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David: Science fiction has been crowded from our movie screens by a plethora of comic strip adaptation. Sunshine raised the flag for serious sci-fi cinema in a very lean decade. It recalls Kubrick’s 2001 in positing space as a spiritual destination, with the sun, the source and nurturer of life, not unlike a god to its hapless progeny, who are on a precarious mission to keep its dying light alive. In the end one of Sunshine’s revealled truths is that a film cannot transcend its script. Much vision and beauty unravels as the story switches genres and loses its way in the third act. But for all that it stands tall, because it dared to dream.

Jules: Saving the world is often an extremely external affair: places, (often generic) people, and objects relating in a way that either guarantees or negates an apocalypse. Here, an internal story is attempted, where beliefs, perceptions, and personalities are the focus.
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The Night Porter (1974)

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Jules: Is there such a thing as essential human nature, or can we turn ourselves into whatever we think we ought to be, whenever and wherever it suits us? And if we can, are we still human?

David: Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling must decide whether or not they are each literally to die for. Meanwhile a technical anomaly causes the Overlooked team to narrate the film with the second and third acts switched out of order. Hilarity doesn’t quite ensue but perhaps an enhanced perspective is enabled on the movie’s themes of crime, passion, pragmatics and lots of baggage.

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Performance (1970)

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David: An art movie, a drug movie, Nicolas Roeg’s directing debut, a Mick Jagger acting debut,  a late, post-swinging 60′s bohemian manifesto, but underpinning all that one of the best British gangster flicks around. It features a foulmouthed, thuggish, head kicking turn by the erstwhile toffee nosed James Fox as bovver-boy Chas. Finding himself on the run, Chas comes in for some heavy deconstruction when he chooses the dark cave of a retired rock-star recluse to lay low in. Not an atom of machismo survives. Add mushrooms and flip genre. Tasty.

Jules: The reality-distortion of fame, and its possible relation to the shamanic undercurrents of consensus reality, seem to intersect in this glimpse inside British counterculture. Cammell and Roeg expertly oversee the somehow-mythic triumvirate of Fox, Jagger, and Pallenberg in this postmodern Greek tragedy where normalised sociopathy substitutes for humanistic virtue.

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Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (1958)

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Jules: Louis Malle pre-empts Jean-Luc Godard’s advice about girls, guns, and movies, but also adds a stuck elevator, a forgotten grapnel, a shopgirl, a streetpunk, and a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz to the mix. We join Jeanne Moreau on her existential walk of shame as she waits for news from her special forces lover and his perfect plan to murder her wealthy husband. The ready-to-hand surroundings of late-Fifties Paris intersect in a kind of metaphysical perfection with the desolation of Miles Davis’ score (which, judging by the album liner photos, was recorded in one session, with Moreau in attendance). In eighty eight perfect minutes, Malle essays desire, ennui, jealousy, and dread, before a final disintegration of all emotion.

David: Once again the plan for a perfect crime falls into the hands of very imperfect criminals, in the form of not one but two pairs of star-crossed lovers. Though tightly plotted, Malle’s jazz-toned noir closely preceded  and presaged films like Breathless, The 400 Blows and other first works by seminal French new wave auteurs.

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Le Mans (1971)

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David: Steve McQueen departs the sixties at high speed, driving for team Porsche. The Le Mans car race pushes the limits of endurance over a non-stop 24 hours as McQueen pushes the envelope of stone-face cool, shifting his schtick into the autistic spectrum uttering barely a word of dialogue for the first half hour and not much thereafter either. A racing manifesto and vérité documentary infused with the barest hint of plot somehow feels curiously innovative. Death hovers over the proceedings and the film deals creatively with the edge where speed flips into sudden violence.

Jules: In retrospect, it sometimes seems like race car drivers could have accrued the occupational reputation of, say, naval divers, or firemen, or test pilots. But, for whatever reason, we shower the fastest drivers in the world with money, fame, and fandom. Why are we attracted to the words and actions of these particular technical experts, rather than others? This film calmly and methodically lays out some of the (artistically embellished) facts for our consideration. If Freud’s ‘death drive’ is true, perhaps it intersects the world of motor-sport, industry, and media, and provides something by way of explanation.

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