With just about zero fanfare, one of the most magnificent of movies ever made has appeared in the past 24 hours on Amazon in a previously unreleased version that is astonishing. The black & white (aka “black & chrome”) incarnation of Mad Max: Fury Road—which director George Miller considers the “best version”—is already streaming on Amazon as you read this. The theatrical release isn’t until Nov. 1 and the Blu-ray box will come after that, so this is quite a surprise.
You must see it. It takes the already masterful film to places that make it a fresh and thrilling viewing experience, elevating the film in ways that actually surpass the color version. Like mono versions of records that sound more present than their stereo counterparts, MM:FR has an in-your-faceness that is searing in its detail and dimension. The geometry of space in MM:FR is a hyper-real b&w dream world that recalls Cocteau, Fritz Lang and Bergman. Can a black and white movie be psychedelic? Absolutely!
When I first reviewed Mad Max: Fury Road in May of 2015 I described it as…
“... a surreal universe as beautifully imagined as those of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’s concepts for their ill-fated Dune project. And there’s more than a little of Terry Gilliam’s dreamy machinery in the mix. There’s not a frame in the movie that isn’t ravishing and filled with intricate and startling details. Every widescreen landscape is alien and yet familiar. As if David Lean’s T.E. Lawrence had wandered into some post-apocalyptic Arabia.
MM:FR doesn’t achieve its epic grandeur and high powered velocity with bigger and better toys or special effects (though it does have that), it does it through sheer cinematic brilliance. This is a movie that doesn’t feel like it was composed in a computer and it doesn’t look like a series of video game cut scenes. MM:FR feels alive, palpably real, organic, crafted. It draws you in in ways that today’s special effects films generally don’t. The distancing effect of CGI is minimal. The scale of the movie is both epic and intimate. Astonishingly magical and deeply human. The poetry is in the motion. This is a moving picture in every sense of the word.
So a film I loved when I first saw it (in both the 2D and 3D versions) is now a movie I rank among the greatest black and white films of all time. If you love the b&w gorgeousness of Jean Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull then you’ll swoon over this new take on Mad Max: Fury Road.
I agree with George Miller when he says “something about black and white, the way it distills it, makes it a little bit more abstract. Something about losing some of the information of color makes it somehow more iconic.” Black and white is not how we see the real world. It is automatically otherworldly. It is a subtraction that can heighten the way an image is perceived. There is something essential about black and white - shapes and geometry are pushed to the foreground and beyond that is shadow. Imagine seeing Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” in color. Would it be as haunting? Would it be as vivid? I think not.
More after the jump…