THE ENGINE – MAD MAX
“ …She’s the last of the V8’s. She sucks nitro, phase 4 head..”
There are many wonderful ‘shots’ in MadMax, which still stands as one of the most beautifully lensed, edited and composed Australian films of all time. I’ll let other people articulate what those are in more florid words than me, but my own personal favourite is the unveiling of ‘the Engine’: “..she’s the last of the V8’s, she sucks nitro, phase 4 head..’ Now the obvious Freudian/Delleuzian/post-modern/lazy etc..etc..etc response, is that ‘the engine’ – and visually so in this case – is the unconscious representation of the phallus. But this is what is so cool about this shot, it's not what it's 'supposed' to be, on the contrary. The camera zooms in slowly to this dark....slot, Max gently tweaks it for more power…it purrs, he’s seduced, in awe, dumbstruck, and suffers a Petit-Mort all in one shot!
Goose declares: ‘He’s in a coma man, he loves it!’
For a country that invented such wonderful philosophical concepts as ‘ the female eunuch’,a concept it seems would define sexuality in the Australian cinema for way, way too long, here we have a proud one-finger salute in this single shot. Max has just been (mind) blown!
But in this same moment a Faustian pact has been unconsciously made. Max would discover further down the narrative, that ‘the Engine’ would become his new love interest, signalling Mad Max as the first truly ‘Ballardian’ movie. He will be cruelly denied the flesh; this brief mating ritual with this crude, high-powered lube-loving machine will soon define his fate.
I remember vividly the experience of seeing MadMax2 in a packed-out Rosebud Cinema down in the Mornington-Peninsula in the early 80s (I was too young to see the shocking, ‘transgressive’ R-rated MadMax, and had to see it later on video) It blew my mind, the first truly transcendent Australian cinematic experience. The theatre was packed with mix of locals and migrant-Australians who loved their cars more than their mothers (or maybe not). The hyped murmurings after the movie were in regards to Max’s tricked out super-powered ‘Charger’. It was the engine that means the most - ‘what the fuck was than reh?’, ‘Nitro, man’, would be the reply, ‘my cousins, bothers, mate does them mods’..It was a warm communal afterglow that we all must of felt, after being unceremoniously blown by the purring, screaming force of ‘the engine’.