2015’s best film (so far) was practically an art film. It’s director, George Miller, agrees.
Watching Mad Max: Fury Road it’s hardly recognizable in today’s action-movie-sphere; it’s thoughtful and artful and a master showcase in staging/geography. But it was also hardly recognizable in today’s post-apocalyptic films, practically bursting with existential optimism and incredibly vibrant colours – no bland desaturation to be found here. Yet thanks to the guys over at /Film, we now know George Miller’s preferred version of Fury Road removes those bright colourization all together in favor of a classic black and white version which will be available on the films blu-ray.
Here’s what Miller had to say:
We spent a lot of time in DI (digital intermediate), and we had a very fine colorist, Eric Whipp. One thing I’ve noticed is that the default position for everyone is to de-saturate post-apocalyptic movies. There’s only two ways to go, make them black and white — the best version of this movie is black and white, but people reserve that for art movies now. The other version is to really go all-out on the color. The usual teal and orange thing? That’s all the colors we had to work with. The desert’s orange and the sky is teal, and we either could de-saturate it, or crank it up, to differentiate the movie. Plus, it can get really tiring watching this dull, de-saturated color, unless you go all the way out and make it black and white.
Until Miller mentioned it, I hadn’t really imagined Fury Road in black and white as the film’s colours really, really pop, and contribute so much to the layers he’s beautifully orchestrating, but as he talks about it more I start to see what he’s getting at.
The best version of Road Warrior was… they used to do a “slash dupe” in music. To make a really cheap print, they’d make a black and white version for the composer. They used to put lines [across it], if you see old documentary footage of composers in the past, you’d see them looking at the screen and conducting, that was a slash dupe, and it was black and white. And you’d mix the sound that way [too]. And every time I saw the black and white I thought “oh, my god!” It just reduces it to this really gutsy high-con black and white, very, very powerful.
I love this idea a lot, but yes, “gutsy” indeed. There was no way Warner Bros. would’ve released a $150 million black and white action blockbuster but I get how the simplistic nature of high-contrast black and white might put more focus on all the intricate textures and movements Miller layered Fury Road with (it worked well in that opening to Casino Royale), really taking advantage of the classic cinematic language he uses that harkens back to old-school silent movie days, doing most of his storytelling/characterizations through physical action – some of the comedic beats even reminded me of Buster Keaton.
He went on to say that this black and white version (alongside an isolated score) will be available on the blu-ray and I love this a lot – it’ll be like seeing a modern blockbuster in a really pure, old-school way. Whether it’ll be the best version is impossible to say until the blu-ray but someone has already put together a trailer of the film to maybe give us an idea what it might look like:
Obviously the actual version will be professionally toyed with to get it just right, making sure the shadows, contrast etc is just perfect, but even just slapped on it black and white looks good on Miller’s spectacular compositions. Can’t wait to see this version of the film.
What do you guys make of this?