Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rush (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Our modern day Frank Capra, the prolific Ron Howard, hits again with another solid epic in "Rush" about the cutthroat world of ego in Formula One racing.

This real-life story focuses on the rivalry between British racer James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. There is a hint of Shakespeare here and perhaps a zest of the Absurdist Albert Camus, since it is hard to pinpoint exactly how or why the rivalry evolved. In the film, Lauda sarcastically dismisses the misfortune of a Hunt teammate, as well as delivering acidic jabs to Hunt's libido.

Needless to say, they are fighting words, and as time goes on, the men go increasingly mad, governed by The Bard's much-inked emotions, that of power and ambition.

While Chris Hemsworth of "Thor" fame delivers a fine performance as a Byronic James Hunt---all sensual pleasure, pistons, bravado, and blonde hair---it is Daniel Brühl who is near definitive and transcendent as the hermetic, un-handsome and socially uncomfortable genius. There is something Lon Chaney-ish in his transformation, disquieting yet delicate.

We witness each racer's origin. Hunt was spoiled and babied. His parents were wealthy stockbrokers. Hunt's world is one of velvet, burgundy and champagne. He wanted for nothing.

Lauda was also born wealthy but in contrast to Hunt, Lauda's father strongly chastised his motor pursuits; he had to crawl his way up. Lauda goes from firm to firm and takes out a personal loan. He grows hunched and pale---a fledgling driver with a Kafka condition over his head.

Lauda must win to survive.

Meanwhile, James Hunt is the Jim Morrison of roar, swaggering, posing and winning all the way, sheathed in red and black leather, a Valentine cherub of Va-voom.

As much as Hunt emulates Lord Byron and Wilde, Lauda shells himself in and retreats, reflecting a kind of Einstein and Spinoza in the creation of his own machine. Lauda is often compared to a rat. Lauda responds without a beat and points to his head: "No one likes a rat, but he is intelligent."

To Lauda, Hunt is sure to get soft in his voluptual debauchery.

"Rush" is a film sure to get your adrenaline going. The engines and workings within are characters in their own right, with all the valves, hoses and plugs that churn, roll, roil and thrum and create symphonies of aggression and anxiety. But more importantly, these fetishistic rubber and chrome cacophonies are symbols of male power, sex, and the ego of a reproductive machine.

Roaring overwhelms all.

In accelerated vignette after vignette, each jab by Lauda and each near blow escalates with a masterful tension. We observe very telling and distinctive details about  these two people who are both driven to near madness in competition.

The vividness in Rush comes from the direction of Ron Howard in capturing the Gothic potentials that indeed existed in a cash-driven Formula One age which is both disturbing and poignant. Here are two characters who try well to destroy each other in occupation.  Yet in intention and spirit, they stand as mirrored creations of their own automotive Id.

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