Friday, December 21, 2007

Blade Runner, Final Cut



Still More Human Than Human, 25 Years Later

I saw a beautiful 35mm print of Blade Runner - The Final Cut on its final night at the Senator Theatre last night. What's left to be said about Ridley Scott's masterpiece - my favorite film of all time - that hasn't already been said (most recently in the documentaries and commentary tracks of the just released 4- and 5-disc Collector's Edition DVD box sets)?. 25 years and countless versions later, it's still the same old story: a tale of love and gory, an ontological case of do or die. It's a film that asks the questions we all ask at some point: "Who are we? Where are we going? How long have we got?" A film in which the only distinction between humans and artificial Replicants is the ability to feel emotional empathy (a line blurred these days by the diagnosis - and prevalence - of Asberger's Syndrome). A film about what makes life precious and death and loss so painful. It's a film that still makes me cry every time I experience it.

I first saw Blade Runner with my sister in 1982 at the old Timonium Theater. We loved it, sitting there in awe after the end credits rolled. These were the days before video (that pre-DVD format we Baby Boomers embraced in the mid-'80s), so there was no video (much less DVD), Internet download or On Demand option to see it again. This was the "buy your ticket, enjoy the show," one-and-done era of real-time entertainment. So we sat there and watched it again. And were still talking about it after seeing it the second time.

Everything in this movie (with the lone exception of the studio tacked-on "happy" ending in the original theatrical version) is perfect. The future noir look, the Vangelis music, the clothes, the special effects, the dialogue, the acting, the sets, the design, the architecture, the final denouement in LA'S Bradbury building (which also provided the setting for a memorable Outer Limits episode, "Demon with a Glass Hand"). But the Godhead of this film was in the details. The iconic owl, the Mayan temple-looking Tyrell Corporation building and Deckard's apartment (both based on Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis-Brown House), the square glasses Deckard quaffes his whiskey from - even his multi-colored, multi-patterned shirt. I remember my sister found me a similar "Blade Runner" shirt (very dated now!) at Macy's and gave it to me that Christmas. (I wore that thing until it was threadbare!)

You could argue (and I certainly do) that all the actors involved did their best career work in Blade Runner. Though he didn't care for the film and purposedly tried to sabotage his voiceover narration in the theatrical release, Harrison Ford is asked to act in this one, and does so admirably, presenting a confused, conflicted, vulnerable - and not very attractive - character.


When Doves Cry: Rutger Laments This Mortal Coil

Though ostensibly the Bad Guy, Rutger Hauer is the true hero of this movie as the fallen angel Replicant Roy Batty who wants "more life father/fucker!" Hauer never equaled this performance; this was his Hamlet, and he apparently added much to the role, suggesting the dove-in-hand scene and much of his dialogue (e.g., the "Like tears in rain" soliloquy). Gotta love the William Blake quotes, too. But his greatest contribution is the way Hauer expresses the anger that Roy feels faced with his and his loved ones' imminent demise. Seeing Priss die, he becomes Everyman, as he/we feel cheated by our Creator for the brevity of our alloted time in a rat race in which the stopwatch can't be reset. By the final reel Roy's anger passes into an appreciation for the preciousness of life despite its brevity (he lets Deckard live), an appreciation that is decidedly human, suggesting that perhaps these replicants are not so different from flesh-and-blood mortals after all (maybe they are, as Tyrell describes them, "more human than human").

Sean Young is presented here in pre-psycho mode and while I also thought she was good in No Way Out, she never topped this role - no, not even as cross-dressing Lt. Lois Einhorn in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!


The inevitability of the expiration of our mortal coil in the film's grand finale ("Time to die") again made me think of my sister, who passed away last year, and of one small "movie magic" moment we shared at the Timonium Theater. At this time of year, when families gather for the holidays, thoughts inevitably turn to those loved ones we have lost. Roy pines for Priss. Leon for Zhora and his precious photographs. Families for their depleted ranks. All we're left with are our memories - real or imagined. My memories of Blade Runner remain and they're good ones, 25 years on.

My words can't do justice to Blade Runner. But I do recommend the Blade Runner 4-Disc Collector's Edition review by the always excellent Glen Erickson of DVD Savant and Paul Sammon's definitive book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.

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