Is Mad Max: Fury Road even better in black and white?

Last year’s flame-throwing guitar montage Mad Max: Fury Road grossed $378m and won six Oscars, but was that enough to satisfy director George Miller? No it was not. “The best version of this movie is black and white,” he lamented before an audience of critics at a QA last May, “but people reserve that for art movies now.” Yes: were it not for studio intervention, Miller would’ve seen to it that the fourth entry in Australia’s premiere post-apocalyptic film franchise shared a colour palette with such latter-day monochrome romps as Farsi vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and Polish nun travelogue Ida.

Today, Miller’s dream can be a reality, as iTunes users everywhere are given a choice between the theatrical version of Mad Max: Fury Road and its desaturated cousin, the Black Chrome Edition. An experience previously available only to those with a copy of the film on DVD and access to their TV’s colour settings, the latter transforms Miller’s opus into something more grand, grainy and self-consciously baroque, by stripping the film of its signature oranges and blues. As he notes in an introductory video, “some scenes in particular play a lot better, and some, there’s information we got from the colour that’s missing,” making this less a superior version of the film, and more an illuminating counterpoint to the one we saw in cinemas.

Hardcore cinephiles still bemoan the rise of home viewing, but DVD, Blu-ray and streaming have long provided space for cinematic oddities like this one that might otherwise have languished in studio store cupboards. Earlier this year, Brian De Palma took the unprecedented step of endorsing an online fan edit of his poorly received 1992 film Raising Cain as his preferred director’s cut, even convincing distributor Scream Factory to include it on the official Blu-ray. Having never been happy with the version of the film that made it to cinemas, he joined Miller in seeking satisfaction on home video.

Also eager to explore an assortment of cinematic what-ifs is the absurdly active “retired” director Steven Soderbergh, whose personal website Extension 765 has become something of a Big Yellow storage centre for his re-edits of such hallowed classics as Psycho, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The latter was recently removed from the site after a claim by the Kubrick estate, but inevitably lives on among fans. The genie of cinematic miscellany won’t go so easily back in the bottle.

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