We have to stop meeting like this…
My first encounter with the Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner (1982) was not too long after the theatrical release — around 1984, I think. I was completely mesmerized. As a young, confused figure half way between a Jim Carroll character and Buck-motherfucking-Rogers in the 25th century it played to my, ahem, “urbane” sensibilities. After all the maudlin space opera of childhood, the neo-noir grittyness of Blade Runner was a perfect complement to the distopias I was encountering in Lovecraft, Burroughs, Dick, Gibson, Sterling, Cadigan, et. al. When I heard the surely somewhat apocryphal fact that William Gibson completely freaked out and had to leave the theater while watching the film because it so closely paralleled his vision in Neuromancer (1984), I could sympathize.
So it was with enthusiasm that I had my latest run-in with the film, a clean new 35mm copy released as Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). I’d last seen the piece on the “big screen” in the early 90s, a period I remember as a high point in the alternative film scene in Montreal. Despite the high-level production values, it’s underlying “art house” qualities made it a good fit. Somehow with the director’s cut, the film got better.
This Final Cut (should have called it the Final Cu(l)t…) is the culmination of the project — a point slightly over the apex. The swan song, if you will. But regardless of its iconic status (some consider it one of 100 best films of all time), it continues to play well. Like an old Dutch master (for there are richly Baroque elements in Scott’s vision…) it seems full of life in its still life.
As most know, it’s adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and carries a vintage c-punk patina. There are tech-culture conspiracies spiraling off this film like curious quantum particles ejected from an accelerator. It’s the original article — the “myopic” (“I only do eyes…”) model for the early 21st century. Sure, parts of it are dated in our eye-candy-coated world, but the totality stands up, like a solidly built corporate arcology. Coca-Cola is still around, isn’t it?
Certainly not a must see for those who aren’t fans, but if you ever liked this film, it bears one more encounter in the current incarnation. The Los Angeles of 2019 looks sharper and meaner, becoming more of a character than ever — only refining the noir quality. The change is subtle, but the dull glow and beautiful juxtaposition persists. As does the allure.