Friday, June 24, 2022

mad god

Visual effects extraordinaire and legend Phil Tippett conjures awe-inspiring work in his thirty-year-in-the-making Mad God. The movie is comprised of little dialogue (mostly squelches and screams and baby cries) and cyclical, fragile narratives of steam-punkish figures who travel down into a ravaged underworld. Startling, nihilist and darkly humorous, Mad God is mostly about the use of sound (headed by sound designer Richard Beggs) and sight--some truly eye-popping (literally, sometimes) stop-motion and art that are both squirm-inducing and astonishing. We see tiny, shadowy human-like figures treated as blithely and crushingly as insects. Bodies of water glow nuclear neon. Wonky, steely machines whirr and drill. As a human face from above peers down with a magnifying glass upon this chaos (or is it under rhythmic, obliterated-soul-controlled order?), one could wonder, where are we going on this journey? The answers seem as muddled as the grimy, grinding atmosphere--fittingly, a map is sometimes shown, disintegrating further and further in each shot. Dan Wool's excellent, eerie score completes the film's sonics with haunted, guitar-strummed and glockenspiel gentility. Tippett's meticulous work bleeds onscreen with what may have reaped both artistic exhilaration and exhaustion. This bold science fiction film can be especially grueling in its probing of the many inner fears of humankind (rampant tech, destruction, and alienation). ***

-Jeffery Berg 


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