Samir’s Selection 03/15/2015 (a.m.)

  • tags: BladeRunner filmreview culture scifi future 1980s humanity style dystopia imagination

    • In Blade Runner, as in all science-fiction, the “future” is a style. Here that style is part film noir and part Gary Numan. The 40s influence is everywhere: in Rachael’s Joan-Crawford shoulder pads, the striped shadows cast by Venetian blinds, the atmosphere of defeat. It’s not just noir, Ridley Scott also taps into 70s cop shows and movies that themselves tapped into nostalgic style, with their yearning jazz and their sad apartments; Deckard even visits a strip joint as all TV detectives must. The movie remains one of the most visually stunning in cinema history. It plots a planet of perpetual night, a landscape of shadows, rain and reflected neon (shone on windows or the eye) in a world not built to a human scale; there, the skyscrapers dwarf us like the pyramids. High above the Philip Marlowe world, hover cars swoop and dirigible billboards float by. More dated now than its hard-boiled lustre is the movie’s equal and opposite involvement in modish early 80s dreams; the soundtrack by Vangelis was up-to-the-minute, while the replicants dress like extras in a Billy Idol video, a post-punk, synth-pop costume party. However, it is noir romanticism that wins out, gifting the film with its forlorn Californian loneliness.
    • It is a starkly empty film, preoccupied as it is with the thought that people themselves might be hollow.
    • Though some still doubt, it seems clear that Deckard is indeed a replicant, his imaginings and memories downloaded from some database, his life as transitory as that of his victims. However, as we watch Blade Runner, Deckard doesn’t feel like a replicant; he is dour and unengaged, but lacks his victims’ detached innocence, their staccato puzzlement at their own untrained feelings. The antithesis of the scowling Ford, Hauer’s Roy is a sinister smiler, or someone whose face falls at the brush of an unassimilable emotion.
    • one of the good guesses Blade Runner made about the future is that it would not be governments, but corporations who would really run things.
    • Indebtedness to commercial power depersonalises the people in this film: more even than dispensable workers, the replicants are not makers of the product, they are the product; otherwise Deckard is a man scoured out by being a functionary on behalf of what he himself names “the business”.
    • Against this dehumanisation, first the replicants and then Deckard strive to create ways that will restore the personal to their lives. Leon attempts to do so by clinging to photographs; one of the key things that Ridley Scott brings to Philip K Dick’s story is an attention to film itself, and to how it makes meaning for us. Leon’s sentimental snapshots are lit like the paintings of Edward Hopper, though in them the human figures are almost absent, obscured by gloom, hidden in mirrors. Film would hold on to such fugitive moments, screening remembrance for us. Otherwise memories are lost, as Roy tell us, “like tears in rain”; but are his memories real or artificially implanted ones? Are the photographs that decorate Deckard’s piano authentic or fake?
    • For much of the film, Deckard refuses to identify himself with his prey; after all, that might make him no better than an organic machine. Yet throughout, the replicants are busy trying to make him feel as they feel, to share the unnerving experience of “living in fear”.
    • Roy’s life closes with an act of pity, one that raises him morally over the commercial institutions that would kill him. If Deckard cannot see himself in the other, Roy can. The white dove that implausibly flies up from Roy at the moment of his death perhaps stretches belief with its symbolism; but for me at least the movie has earned that moment, suggesting that in the replicant, as in the replicated technology of film itself, there remains a place for something human.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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