Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

1982/2007, US, directed by Ridley Scott

Blade Runner begins with a stunning shot of an imagined Los Angeles future, echoed, 25 years later, by the evocation of San Francisco past that opens David Fincher’s Zodiac. This first evocation of the dark city, with ominous plumes of flame bursting from massive factory structures, is filled with a sense of foreboding – where do these flames come from, and what do they imply about the city that lies beneath? Ridley Scott’s aerial cityscapes are wonderfully suggestive, part of a richly-textured future that seems fully alive. That his version of the city is unlikely, at least in its weather patterns, to match the future of the real Los Angeles in 2019 is beside the point, though it is occasionally distracting to note that companies like Pan-Am and TWA have survived as future artifacts through the advertising-scape of the film.

The film has a stately pacing that seems like a historical artifact of another kind; many of the scenes unspool quite deliberately (for example in the often humorous sequence during which Brion James’s character is questioned; that scene’s explosive conclusion is all the more powerful as a consequence). Later in the film, particularly near the climactic scenes, the action sometimes seems to miss a beat, almost as if to compensate for the earlier stateliness, the characters – particularly Rutger Hauer’s replicant - popping up with jack-in-the-box swiftness. There are eye-catchingly atmospheric moments throughout the film, whether a shot in which bicycles sweep by unannounced, or in the extraordinary family of grotesques that inhabits the “old dark house” where the action comes to a head.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States