Callaghan and the prism of Luc Besson.

Being with Callaghan has taught me to see things in new ways. Like action flicks. If not for him, I’d never think to ask myself: “How bad is this movie on a Luc Besson scale of 1-10?”

As a French person, he’s sensitive to Luc Besson. Or, should I say, he’s not sensitive so much as he’s annoyed by Luc Besson.

I listen for his comments when we’re watching action movies. If he starts grumbling about Luc Besson, I know that he’s annoyed. That’s because Luc Besson is the yardstick Callaghan uses to measure his opinion of the movie’s worth, even if Luc Besson had nothing to do with the movie.

This morning, I asked him to summarize his feelings about Luc Besson. I actually recorded his answer. Verbatim:

“Hmm. Luc Besson. Alors. His movies are too easy. I mean, the stories. The resolution of the problems. It’s always, like, ‘Oh! Everything’s fine now. She turned into an intergalactic f*cking cloud of black matter, so everything’s fine’.”

Some comments I’ve heard from him while watching action flicks, or while talking about them:

10). “Putain, the person who did this movie was influenced by Luc Besson.”

9). “This could’ve been a great movie, but Luc Besson.”

8). “The CGI is cheesy. It’s Luc Besson.”

7). “Luc Besson outdid himself with Valerian!! I had to stop after a half-hour. It was bad, it was SO BAD, it was the quintessential Luc Besson movie.” (Yes, Callaghan knows the word “quintessential.” No, I wasn’t with him when he watched Valerian. He shared this opinion with me afterward.)

6). “Ugh, this movie has that Luc Besson vibe.”

5). “Taxi was ridiculous, and Luc Besson made three of that!!”

4). “You can tell Luc Besson was involved in this.”

3). “Dobermann was good because it wasn’t Luc Besson. If it was Luc Besson doing the same movie, it would be ridiculous.”

2). “The Family. That was a stupid movie. Luc Besson.”

And his #1 general comment, applicable to any action flick that annoys him:

“ET VOILA. LUC BESSON.”

Sidenote: This post is rather a tribute to Luc Besson. Love him or not, he’s an iconic filmmaker. Two of his films are on my list of all-time favorites: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and La Femme Nikita (1990). Callaghan likes those movies, too, as well as The Fifth Element.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road – (SPOILER ALERT!!)

(NOTE: So I started writing up my May Favorites for Tuesday. Mad Max: Fury Road was Number One on the list, and when my little blurb about it got too long, I decided to give it its own post. I’m publishing it now, off-schedule, because Tuesday will still feature my May Favorites. Carry on, if you will!)

 

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When we sat down in the theatre to watch Mad Max: Fury Road the day before Callaghan left for France last weekend, I had no expectations. It was Mad Max, right? I’d read nothing about the film since its release. I settled in for what I hoped would be an action flick so action-packed it’d numb my mind for a couple of hours. That was what I wanted… a mind-numbing movie, a big, loud, dumb action movie, preferably with lots of explosions and car chases.

I wasn’t planning to employ my brain. I was there to shut my brain off, not to turn it on… but something in the story tickled my neurons at the beginning. At first, I couldn’t figure out what. It started with the improbable spectacle of Max being restrained and forced into use as a “Blood-bag” to keep a sickly child alive, a development that followed the opening sequence of events in which Max is chased down, abducted, attempts to escape, and gets re-captured.

That’s right. After Max – Max – was hauled back into hell, he was put to use as a talking, breathing blood supply. “Blood-bag,” in fact, even became his name… it was what his parasite (the bratty war-child) called him. And that sort of lit something up in the back of my brain, but things were happening quickly, and I wanted to keep up with the events, you know, as you do when you’re blasted into action flick oblivion on a convoy fronted by a demonic wraith of a dude playing a fire-shooting electrical guitar.

But at some point after Max was rescued by Furiosa, the female war-truck driver on a personal mission to free the Biggest Bad Guy’s imprisoned harem of wives, the tickle in my brain started crackling like a live wire with the realization that this parasite (that’s how I think of him… does he even have a name? …the war-child) was literally connected to Max-the-Blood-bag via I.V. line.

The first image that embedded itself in my brain like a song on repeat was of Max tied to the outside of the vehicle with his blood feeding into the child inside.

The second image? Max struggling mightily to free himself from the child, and, giving up, simply slinging him over his shoulders, still connected by the I.V., as he trudged over to Furiosa.

And I realized that Max wanted, among other things, an abortion. It was like he’d been beaten, raped and forced to keep the resulting baby. When he finally got free, it was at the hands of a woman. It had been the men in power who’d forced him to nourish the war-child with his own blood against his will. The I.V. line of “Blood-bag” (no longer referred to as a human being, Max had been reduced to a thing) was an umbilical cord.

What was unfolding before my astonished eyes was a role reversal played out on a massive scale in a spectacular, mainstream action movie, and it barreled on relentlessly until the end. It did not stop to care. How much did it cost to make this movie? Let me look it up… okay, about $150 million, let’s say, if Google is correct. This movie is an estimated $150 million dollar middle finger stuck in the face of all the standard action flick conventions.

Max played Robin to Furiosa’s Batman, and it was something to behold.

Many more things happened along the way, many other things I’d never seen before in a high-octane action flick (which, by the way, was practically ALL explosions and car chases).

Like a gang of weather-beaten, much older women on motorcycles lending aid to Furiosa’s group. WHAT.

And Furiosa making the tough decisions (like leaving the pregnant girl behind because going back for her would have put them all at risk).

And Furiosa being the one with the superior shooting skills (Max wisely and respectfully hands her the weapon when they’re down to their last round, and she nails their target).

Furiosa does most of the driving, and none of the sleeping. Furiosa dispatches of the Biggest Bad Guy. Furiosa is unequivocally the toughest no-bullshit badass female hero I’ve ever seen in an action movie. She has nothing to prove. Charlize Theron hammered her home.

 

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Max joins Furiosa’s group of women and instantly has in common with them the fact that they’d all been used for their bodies. When war-child connects with that one girl (sorry, I’m terrible with names in movies, and I’m too lazy to look it up), their bond gives war-child the sense of humanity we assume he’d been lacking. We see nothing sexual happen between the two – I also find it refreshing that there’s nothing sexual in this movie at all – and the power of his emotional bond with her (love) proves to be more profound than his former physical bond to his “Blood-bag.” That old reliance disappears, and he’s able to recognize the humanity in Max and defect to the other side, even switching their roles and assisting Max.

When Furiosa lingers near death toward the end, Max finally reveals his name to her. “Max,” he says. “My name is Max.” There’s something about the way he says it, like the words are more meaningful to him than they would be to her. Max has emerged from the experience with a restored sense of himself, of his own humanity. Once again, he has a name and an identity. He’s no longer “Blood-bag.” He’s no longer an object, reduced to his body and used according to how it could benefit others.

I absolutely loved this movie, and Callaghan did, too. Everything about it impressed us. We pretty much left the theatre with our minds thoroughly blown. We just looked at each other and didn’t even know what to say except HOLY SHIT!! We have to see it again!!!

I went in wanting to zone out before a mindless spectacle, and ended up mentally stimulated while simultaneously holding my breath with the pace of the action. If I’d had expectations, they would’ve been obliterated… and I couldn’t have asked for a better soundtrack for such utter destruction, either.