Following its worldwide success and critical acclaim, George Miller will receive a new award for his latest film "Mad Max: Fury Road", at the upcoming San Sebastián Film Festival. The Australian filmmaker will collect the FIPRESCI Grand Prix 2015, attributed by film critics from all over the world, during the opening ceremony of the 63rd edition of the Spanish festival, on the 18th of September. "You could have knocked me over with a feather! It's lovely to have this great cohort of critics acknowledge our collective labours in this way," he replied to the announcement.
In an open poll, 493 members of the International Federation of Film Critics, FIPRESCI, first nominated any feature-length work premièred since July 2014, and then chose among four finalists: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The Assassin" (Nie yin niang), László Nemes's "Son of Saul" (Saul fia), Jafar Panahi's "Taxi" and Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road".
The latest film in the Mad Max saga, which premiered in Cannes last May, will be screened as a special event during the San Sebastián Film Festival, where the FIPRESCI Grand Prix has been presented since its creation in 1999, to filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Haneke, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jafar Panahi, Pedro Almodóvar, Nuri Bilge Ceylan or Richard Linklater.
Blow-Up: The Long and Winding FURY ROAD
By Adrian Martin
"Mad Max: Fury Road" has been in the works for a long time. George Miller announced it was "going into production" thirteen years ago; moreover, he related at the time that its central premise had "come to him while crossing a road" in 1987, and subsequently fleshed out in a "hypnagogic state” (David Lynch style!) during a 1996 plane flight. When my book "The Mad Max Movies" appeared in 2003, almost every person from the Australian film industry with whom I crossed paths excitedly whispered to me about their pre-production work on Fury Road.
Then came the delays and revisions—most dramatically, Mel Gibson's announcement that he wouldn't be involved (because it would have to be retitled "Fat Max"), and his replacement by Tom Hardy. The world's ever-changing geo-political situation wreaked havoc with location-shooting plans. And, with each passing year, the digital technology which, in Miller's mind, finally made this fourth installment possible became more sophisticated — yet he also took the counter — intuitive but entirely inspired decision to integrate as much "old fashioned," physical effects work as possible.
But there is another factor in the long gestation of "Fury Road" which is easy to overlook: 2003 was, after all, only two years after the attack on the Twin Towers. Many filmmakers — Jim Jarmusch among them — were plunged into deep doubt about the prospect of making films based on violence in the wake of this social trauma. 2003 may have been far too soon to unveil an "escapist fantasy" of bloodthirsty road carnage and tribal warfare—even one couched in Miller's preferred mode of "modern medievalism."That extended passage of time from initial idea to completion has been extremely kind to Miller: Fury Road is a masterpiece. Why does it work so well? How does it manage to abstract itself away from all the tricky real-world turbulence of our times?
In the mid 1970s, Cahiers du cinéma's Pascal Kané proposed a model of classical narrative cinema which, when I first read it, struck me as rather odd. Kané asserted that Hollywood films tend to offer an interplay of three central characters: a hero who is "passive, impotent, castrated," positioned between an all-powerful villain (who is also the director's alter ego), and another, positive figure who represents the "law or super-ego." The source of his model was, primarily, Fritz Lang's German and American movies.
This model is definitely applicable to one thing today: the cinema of George Miller. Max Rockatansky, like Babe the "pig in the city" or Mumble in "Happy Feet", is not a conventional hero. Borrowing the words of Jean-Loup Bourget (speaking of another Australian-born icon, Errol Flynn), he can be seen as "a rebel in spite of himself. Driven into apparent rebellion by his deeper loyalty to the order of things, his aim is 'revolutionary' in the etymological sense—to restore the natural, and hence just, order of things."
So here is Max — completely passive, tied up, drained for his blood, and at the mercy of every flying object during the first "movement" of Fury Road—caught between Immortan Joe (Miller's glee at re-casting his villainous alter ego, Hugh Keays-Bryne from the original "Mad Max", is palpable), and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the political conscience (super-ego) and main-mover of the plot.
Of course, Max's position changes, but not really very much — he gives some crucial advice, offers his blood, utters his name and (in a bold move on Miller's part) disappears off into a fog for a while to perform some unseen action-heroics. But essentially he remains, at the end, the blank slate he has been in every "Mad Max" film — a slate we can expect Miller will want to write on again, with another, fresh, inventive "re-imagining.
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"Mad Max: Fury Road"
By Diego Lerer
Thirty years after its last episode, the Mad Max saga returned this year, recharged, to the big screen and it reminded us how great action movies can be.
If there's one director who's capable of making the most of the ways in which Hollywood action movies have changed over the last decades, that's George Miller, a filmmaker who always knew how to handle speed, power and constant forward motion. In certain ways, a movie like "Fury Road" puts him in the same league as other "speedy old men" such as Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann. All of them are capable of playing the industry game in terms of narrative rhythm (they're fast and furious) but, at the same time, they are able to take their films one step beyond the norm, where speed becomes audiovisual experimentation and even sensory abstraction.
Compared to the other two, Miller works here in the more traditional world of mega-budget, big tentpole movies. But maybe because his "saga" is more of a cult item than some of its contemporaries such as "Star Wars", "Alien" or "Indiana Jones" – and may not mean as much as those to younger audiences – he dares to pull out all the stops to bring it back to life, creating a frenzy of speed and constant motion that puts to shame all of his competitors in that field.
In its apocalyptic but also sparse vision of the future, "Fury Road" takes most of its inspiration from the second movie of the previous "Mad Max" trilogy: after a brief recap of the events of "seasons past" we are thrown straight into the action, where our anti-hero is being chased by all kinds of tribes of survivors, his mental faculties almost disintegrating into catatonia. He's captured by the army of the despotic Immortan Joe and imprisoned in Joe's Citadel, but he's back into the action when he's forced to join in the chase of a woman (the impressive Imperator Furiosa) who escapes town with an armored truck and the secret plan to free the five wives of the tyrannical leader.
From then on, "Fury Road" is almost a constant chase with a few stops to catch your breath and wipe your sweat off. It's a movie of perpetual motion, capable of creating complex characters and a clear narrative with no stopping for exposition. The chase, the fights and the dialogue follow the same system: they are all delivered at maximum speed but they are never confusing. Max ends up joining Furiosa in her fight and, once both characters are together, "Fury Road" belongs more to the intense Charlize Theron than to the impressive but almost silent Tom Hardy. Midway through the movie, Furiosa and her merry band of women become the real protagonists of the story.
Compared to most of what passes for action/adventure films today, "Mad Max: Fury Road" is impressive for the ways it is able to move constantly without ever being confusing or messy. The spatial logic of the action scenes is perfectly calibrated and the special effects integrate seamlessly and don't call attention to themselves creating a sort of realistic version of a completely unrealistic world: a gritty, tough but at the same time wild and crazy universe. Most importantly, the audience feels they are in the middle of the action, swept by the camera and sound work but also by the characters and their struggles.
Miller comes from a time in cinema history where heroes and villains had recognizable problems and human dimensions (you won't find Infinity Stones here or alternate universes), and even when the stakes are huge their struggles are always related to things and themes you can connect with: the possible extinction of humankind caused by the loss of drinking water, the exploitation of the workforce and the abuse of women. And every bizarre stunt and every weird and gruesome death carries a recognizable dramatic weight. The greatest thing about "Fury Road" may be that it is a big, fun, noisy movie that can go beyond what's expected of such products, and become a statement not only about action cinema and the Hollywood industry but also about the injustices of the world we live in.