Sunday, September 30, 2007

NYFF: Blade Runner, Scrubbed and Polished

From the 45th Annual New York Film Festival (Sept 28th through Oct 14th)

My eye has seen the glory of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Technically my eyes saw it... but I am thinking about just one of them since the film's opening shot is so dependent on that reflective eyeball. I'd forgotten that, so entranced have I been for decades by its widescreen cityscape with fiery explosions. But the macro eye closeup is a perfect statement for Blade Runner's opening, human but abstract... unconnected to a face.

When you finally get a chance to see this film in its clean and pristine form (i.e. not some grubby VHS print or DVD from ancient negatives) it's difficult to imagine how you lived with previous versions.

I've seen Blade Runner in theaters before (most memorably in the early 90s rerelease) but this experience was divine. My earlier fears about the rejiggering (click the label below for more Blade Runner fanaticism) proved mostly foolish, though I did catch a glimpse of what I believe was a new Joanna Cassidy shot. Otherwise it just felt entirely new through being completely refreshed. God bless chemicals or digital technology or Ridley Scott... or whatever / whomever is responsible.

Though I loved Blade Runner from the start I've always been a little surprised (pleasantly so I should add) that it's developed such a rabid fan base. For, narratively speaking, it's really unsatisfying as typical movie thrills go. The hero is decidedly unheroic. You are not eager to see the villains get theirs. The action sequences end quickly. The big finish is quiet rather than explosive. This 1982 classic is almost anti dramatic yet it's completely absorbing, hypnotic and resonant.

In 2007 it's a time travelling mindf*** to see a movie so clearly and heavenly 80s looking like it just came from the lab. Blade Runner is that rare thing, a piece of art that has definitely aged but is none the worse for having done so. It's not "aged" in the typical derogatory sense of the word. It's only older.

I'm miffed that many of you won't be able to see this in theaters where the über influential imagery and lush immersive soundscapes really make it an experience rather than just a movie. It will have a very limited rerelease before it hits stores. The upcoming DVD release will include all previous versions of the film and will cost a measly $78. That's OK. Starving artists like myself don't need earthly --or in this case offworldly-- possessions (sniffle).


adam k. said...

It definitely doesn't cost $78... not on amazon. There are good options of it for less than that. I myself am debating whether or not to go for the mere $45ish "deluxe" edition, with 4 discs, or the $60ish "ultimate" edition, complete with collectible Bladerunner briefcase. I mean, I want the best one, but... a briefcase??? What am I supposed to do with it? I don't want a Bladerunner briefcase. Any briefcase I ever needed for official things would probably have to not be cyber-metallic and say "Bladerunner" on it. It's not exactly office-friendly.

Anyway. I was surprised you didn't give it an A+. I was sure it would be one of those. But whatevs.


what's an A+?

Glenn Dunks said...

I really hope they have a screening of it down here sometime. I'd love to see it on the big screen and there's one cinema in particular (ACMI) that is the kind to screen it. If not... oh well. Dems the breaks for being born in 1985.

I love how it's as if the future is going through another 1980s. It's amazing.

Kurtis O said...

this fan base you speak of goes way beyond your average audience member or sci-fi buff. i'm in my last semester as a film major, and I think i've watched this movie four different times in four seperate classes. I'm really excited about the new version on DVD because mine is actually scratched, worn out, or both. There's one thing that doesn't stand the test of time in Blade Runner: Atari. There are ads for Coca-Cola, which will be around until the cockroaches alongside this movie. But when the Atari logo flashes on the same massive screen, you feel this movie's birthate. But then again, who cares? This mopvie's the reason why Ridley Scott is one of my faves. Great article, Nathaniel.

lylee said...

While this is one of my favorite movies of all time, I was a little skeptical that after the 1992 "director's cut" it needed a no-really-this-is-it-"final" director's cut" Your endorsement is convincing me that I will, indeed, need to see it during its limited theatrical run. Luckily I live in Los Angeles!

Slightly O/T: I've always been interested in seeing, for comparison purposes, the original, usually-reviled 1982 theatrical release version (yes, the one with the voice-over and the happy ending) but it doesn't seem to be available anywhere on DVD - I've heard, though, that it may be included in the new DVD of the final cut - can anyone confirm this?



the super deluxe edition of this "final cut" has all of the previous versions on it.


kurtis11 --the funny thing about Atari though is that it's Atari and not Blade Runner that screwed up there! They were such a big hit with video games and now the video game market is billions of dollars and they lost their chokehold on the market.

so Blade Runner was still prophetic about that industry ;)

adam k. said...

I thought an A+ was what you gave to films like Manhattan, West Side Story, Far From Heaven, Thelma & Louise, and The Piano.

Your "favorites of the decade" in blue on your favorite films list? Helllloooooooooooooo

Anyway, I think there is room at the top for something BETTER than "A". And I distinctly remember you once making a comment on Glenn's blog about how in a perfect world, Manhattan would be an A+, not an "A".

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen an A+ on this site.

Anonymous said...

Presumably an A+ would be the sign of a perfect film, and no film is perfect. Not even a person's favorite film.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen Blade runner on the big screen. Only on video and now I own the DVD. I really hope they screen this polished version here somwhere in Sydney.

It's intersting that 25yrs down the track it fits with the present view of good and evil that is prevailing in film amd television at the moment. That there is no real cut and dried goodies or baddies. Flawed heroes and philosophical villians are so now.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the mega dvd collection, there's going to be a new version of the soundtrack.

It features two CDs of previously unreleased music by Vangelis, including a full CD of tracks from the movie and another CD of new compositions by Vangelis.

Here's a link to the details:

Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack

I wish they'd have a screening in the midwest!