By somewhat fortuitous circumstances I saw Mad Max Fury Road twice on its opening day, the first in 3D at the Event Cinema in George Street and then later that night at the Dendy in Newtown in 2D. A day later, after every effort had been made to derail (!) my intentions by State Rail closing down to the Bondi Junction line for the weekend, I got to Hoyts Broadway now badged as Lux venue, to see Anurag Kashyup's Bombay Velvet.
For a review that pretty much matches my opinion of George Miller's fourth Mad Max I would recommend you go here to Tony Scott's report in in the New York Times
I reckon his final para is worth repeating: It’s all great fun, and quite rousing as well — a large-scale genre movie that is at once unpretentious and unafraid to bring home a message. Way back in the “Thunderdome” days, Tina Turner sang, “We don’t need another hero.” That’s more true than ever, especially during summer movie season. And Mad Max: Fury Road, like its namesake both humble and indomitable, isn’t about heroism in the conventional, superpowered sense. It’s about revolution.
Everyone has picked up on the fact that Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa is really the centre of the movie, and its her story that drives the plot forward and then back, which is all that happens. She even takes a rifle off Max to shoot somebody when he keeps missing and is fast running out of bullets. Maybe this is a better attempt at a feminist re-working than it was in the last movie's attempts to put Tina Turner front and centre.
So let's start at the start. Nobody films a car driving at speed as well as George Miller. I'm sure it starts with the choice of his camera angles, low and from one side so that part of the screen, when he's simply filming a car going fast, is blocked out by about a third of the vehicle. The lowness, maybe a function of the extra daring, bravery and courage of his technicians simply generates more thrill. Its accompanied however by a rock steady camera, notwithstanding that it goes over bumps in the usually unmade or dirt road. David Stratton has picked up the insertion of one intriguing vehicle, a spiky thing that looks like a reffo from Peter Weir's The Cars that ate Paris. Max's only significant contribution to determining the events is his suggestion that instead of the fleeing party attempting a 160 day crossing of the salt lake (that's some mother of a big salt lake even at a single mile a day) he suggests they turn round and attack the undefended Citadel, a place that looks like an outdoor version of what might have been if the designer of Fritz lang's Metropolis had to do an above ground location. Then again, like all of George Miller's tropes, the equipment that does some mysterious drilling or grinding is rusty and mostly operated by hand. For an extended discussion about the filming of Mad Max Fury Road I would recommend Kristin Thompson's excellent report on her Observations on Film Art blog here http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2015/05/24/the-waning-thrills-of-cgi/ (you might need to cut and paste the address.
In the meantime Anurag Kashyup's film is a homage to Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties and to Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets. It’s even edited by Thelma Schoonmaker into a near saturation of noir and the studio settings, especially in the sequences where its raining are magnificent recreations of Warner Bros movies of long ago. It also contains a couple of brilliant new, I presume, songs performed by the female lead Anushka Sharma who plays a chanteuse who sings in a night club that in itself looks a bit like the place in Sternberg's The Shanghai Gesture. It’s close to 150 minutes long and tells a long and twisty tale of two friends who want to be big shots. Those are the exact words they use, taken from the ending of Walsh's film which they watch in awe early on. (There is also a poster of Walsh's White Heat pasted on a wall.) One of course is violent, impetuous, impatientof any restrictions but with a lot of street smarts. He began his criminal career as a child pickpocket. His pal never seems to do anything outright wrong but is always there to mop up his mate’s excesses. As they enter India’s criminal/political demi-monde of corruption and favours, both are generally treated with a degree of contempt by those using their services
I am not an expert in Hindi cinema. Kashyup caught my attention only when Nashen Moodley programmed his near to six hour gangster epic The Gangs of Wasseypur, an Indian Godfather, writ large with more bullets fired per minute than any film I can remember. Sadly Nashen's adventure into major commercial Hindi movie territory hasn't been repeated or maybe the Bollywood sector just hasn't made anything good enough since. Though I must say any festival ought to have been happy to screen Anurag’s next effort, the police procedural Ugly, made in 2014 and dedicated to picking apart police violence and corruption. I digress. Others will have seen all of Kashyup's earlier work and know better how this latest movie fits in. I hope they send some stuff to Film Alert 101 as soon as possible.
Bombay Velvet rambles through a story that starts just after India won its independence and goes on into the seventies. As per usual Kashyup is fascinated by the clash of morally principled crooks and corrupt cops but that's a sidelight. The real story is of the small time hood, duped and used by the corrupt political and business masters. They need his brawn and they exploit him ruthlessly. The only redemming features of his life are his loyalty to his childhood friend Gimman and his love for the conflicted chanteuse Rosie (Anushka Sharma, drop dead gorgeous). More to come.....
Mad Max is screening everywhere. Bombay Velvet screens at selected Hoyts Cinemas. At the Broadway venue ‘ it's on twice a day at the less than convenient times of 3.20 pm and 9.10 pm.