It’s been a movie kind of fortnight culminating in seeing Bladerunner (original not 2049) at the Moncrieff with Thought Terrain partner in crime (AW).
We’d both seen in previously. One of us on its release in 1982 or so (that wasn’t me) and one of us at various points during our academic career (and I use the word “career” with some hesitation but whatever).
So of course I thought I remembered it and I had. And then I hadn’t. So for a film that is partly about memories this was ironic in a sort of Alanis Morrisette kind of way. Or maybe it was actually ironic. Who really understands irony? A topic for another blog post.
To poorly reference another scifi film from the same era “This was not the Bladerunner I had seen before”. Never mind though because it was superb! (And I use the word “superb” with no hesitation whatsoever).
Why superb I hear you wonder as you shake your head in confusion, perhaps remembering Bladerunner as a dark film with lots of rain and not much dialogue?
Well let me tell ya.
The vast world of Los Angeles in 2019 needs to be seen on the big screen. Don’t watch it on your telly or another smaller device. You need to see the monstrous ziggurat of the Tyrell corporation in all its glory. You need to see the giant coke advertisements and the Japanese woman hovering over the city. You need to see the noir-ish interiors of Tyrell’s open plan, Egyptian-decor office with his replicant owl and replicant Rachael. You need to feel claustrophobic in Deckard’s apartment as leans mournfully on the piano and looks at printed photographs wondering about the past, while tracking down the four escaped replicants. You need to see the Rutger Hauer’s penetrating eyes and blonde hair on a huge scale as he reaches out to save Deckard from tumbling from the top of the building and then says his heart-breaking final words about his all too short life while the rain drizzles down.
The expansiveness of Vangelis’ soundtrack would also seem stupidly constrained on a smaller scale. But here, on the film screen it was a thing of beauty (if we choose to ignore the slight misstep of the obligatory 80s saxophone denoting romance). I know. It’s synthesisers but it was perfect. It soared through the city-scape, whether it was adding to the tension and bustle of the street scenes, the violence of the replicant retirements executed by Deckard and Rachael, or the flying cars seeking the orangey light that peeped from behind the brooding signs of capitalism (afore-mentioned Tyrell corporation, high-rises, advertising, gigantic neon signage for our favourite 80s brands – Atari, TDK etc).
There is plenty more to enjoy about Bladerunner as we revisit it in 2017. It’s vision of the future is believable even though we sat in the movie theatre with our iPhones in our bags. The printed photographs, the antique video telephone call, the dystopian vision of Asian capitalism, the bio-engineering, the off-world colonies and of course the FLYING CARS. Where is my flying car? Perhaps we are getting our own version soon with self-driving cars. The rain. It rains all the time.
Here’s what else I enjoyed about the film.
I didn’t look at my phone once to check the time.
This is the ultimate test of a film for me. Last week when I watched four films as part of the Travelling Film Festival I was totally bored in 1 to the point of considering leaving (Czech dark comedy – don’t go there), mildly entertained in one (checked phone twice – “groundbreaking Muslim Australian romantic comedy – not that funny, not that romantic, “gently paced”), engaged mostly in one (checked phone maybe once – biopic of Maude Lewis) and enjoyed one (the documentary on US writer James Baldwin – telling much?). Watching Bladerunner, which alternated between glacial narrative pacing interspersed with moments of action and violence, I was glued to the screen. I didn’t care about the time. I wasn’t restless. It wasn’t a test of endurance. Because it was beautiful to look at as well as fascinating to think about. Humanity anyone? What other theme is there really? Once we start thinking about what it is to be human we’re into the big issues.
Of course there was that moment that I didn’t remember when Deckard dreamed about a unicorn gallivanting through a forest. What the heck? But in the end it didn’t matter. It was part of the world of the film. I had to take it with the rest of it or reject the whole thing. And I’m sure others do that. Hate it. Think it’s pretentious or boring. There was also the moment that I remembered where Deckard and Rachael escape into the countryside. This was not in the version that was shown last night but perhaps in the original cinematic release. Interesting fact: Wikipedia told me that some of that scenery was filmed by Stanley Kubrick for The Shining and not used. What? Save that up for a trivia night. You’re welcome. Thankfully, this was the version without the awkward voiceovers, which I also forgot and then remembered halfway through. I was glad they weren’t there.
Thank you Ridley Scott.