Gush - Fox Maxy
Credit: Courtesy of Sundance Institute
by Michael Sicinski Featured Film

Gush — Fox Maxy [Sundance ’23 Review]

January 27, 2023

Expanding on the layered, accelerated style first developed in her shorter films, Fox Maxy arrives at Sundance firing on all cylinders. Gush marks a clear progression in Maxy’s method, adopting an organizational logic more akin to music than any conventional narrative form. Maxy has stated that this is, in part, a film about mental health and healing, and while that may not be immediately apparent moment-to-moment, Gush’s cumulative effect is liberatory precisely because it avoids the usual cinematic language of trauma and victimization. Where too often film works tend to redouble the violence that they aim to condemn, Gush unfurls like a multi-faceted tapestry, one intent on showing that joy and pain, memory and future, hope and fear, are all inseparable and simultaneously present in the experiential stew of lived existence.

Drawing on a vast array of source material, some original and some appropriated, Maxy pushes images and sounds beyond mere representation. These elements take on a physical aspect, jolting the viewer as each new kind of texture clashes with the next. Clean, rounded digital animations collide with grainy, pixelated cellphone recordings. A shot of a landscape or a bedroom is suddenly flattened by the appearance of a digital image or video effect (for instance, a group of animated spiders crawling across the surface of the screen), provoking a moment of cognitive shock. That is, we think we are watching one type of image, but Maxy’s additions and distortions shatter that perception, reminding us that nothing onscreen is “there.” Every element is purposeful, like a note in a composition, producing chords of harmony and of dissonance.

Certain motifs recur in Gush, including clips of Naomi Campbell on The Tyra Banks Show describing how the modeling industry compromised her sense of self; documentation of a multimedia performance piece with live reading, lights, and projection; and numerous sequences of people in their cars, traveling, conversing, or just hanging out. But the overwhelming majority of Gush consists of Maxy’s subjects experiencing sustained moments of happiness. There’s dancing, joking around, people acting silly in front of the camera in complete comfort. To watch Gush is to hover on the periphery of a circle of absolute love and trust. We are invited for a little while to just honor this community, to bear witness to its vibrant, irrefutable existence. And while Maxy’s filmic language avoids the typical tricks and techniques for suturing the viewer into the world onscreen — this is not a film about flattering or seducing its spectator — it is also profoundly welcoming. Like its title, Gush is both exuberant and overwhelming, a rush of sounds and images that surges over us, at times even knocking us off our feet. But if we give ourselves over the current, we can float.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 4.