A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

I had forgotten that Blade Runner, with its flying cars, ads for Atari and Pan Am, and rainy Los Angeles, was set in the year 2019, which unless things change radically in the next four years puts it on a par with 1984 (Michael Anderson, 1956) and 2001 (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) for missed prognostications. Yet despite this, and even more despite the great advances in special effects technology, this 33-year-old movie hardly feels dated. That's because it isn't over-infatuated with the technological whiz-bang of so many sci-fi films, especially since the advances in CGI. Its effects, supervised by the great Douglas Trumbull, have the solidity and tactility so often missing in CGI work, because they're very much  in service of the vision of production designer Laurence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder, and especially "visual futurist" Syd Mead. But more especially because they're in service of the humanity whose very questionable nature is the point of Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples's adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It also helps that the film has a terrific cast. Harrison Ford can't help bringing a bit of Han Solo and Indiana Jones to every movie, but it's entirely appropriate here -- one time when a star image doesn't fight the script. Rutger Hauer's death scene is memorable, and even Sean Young, a problematic actress at best, comes off well. (I think it's because when we first see her, she's dressed and coiffed like a drag-queen Joan Crawford, so that when she literally lets her hair down she takes on a softness we're not accustomed to from her.) And then there's the enigmatic origamist Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, and especially Joanna Cassidy, who manages to achieve poignancy even wearing a transparent plastic raincoat. I only wish that HBO would scrap its print of the "voice-over" version of the film, with Ford's sporadic narrative and the happy ending demanded by Warner Bros., and show director Scott's 2007 "Final Cut" version instead.

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