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Friday, December 21, 2007

Te Vad(y) Blade Runner

Stephen Metcalf commits heresy in the pages of Slate, denigrating one of the great films of all time, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The article is occasioned by the release of the new Blade Runner boxed set containing five (yes five) separate versions of the film. According to Metcalf, now that fans can no longer fall back on the mythical concept of a "pure" version, the sci-fi noir masterpiece will be impossible to defend.

Kid Various has been looking forward to this release for some time. Why? Because finally, now on DVD, you can get the theatrical release with the voice over narration:

Blade Runner's rehabilitation has been helped along by a second unusual twist. A folklore quickly grew up around the various versions of the film, few or none of which was said to be true to Ridley Scott's original vision. The single worst offender was the original U.S. theatrical release, with a tacked-on happy ending and an infamously hammy voice-over, added at the 11th hour after audiences exited the previews totally bewildered. Its intention was clear enough—to deepen our connection to Deckard, and to handhold us through an intentionally disorienting narrative—but the execution was disastrous.

Kid Various is out - loud and proud - swimming against the grain, because he maintains that the theatrical cut is the best one.

You heard him, the theatrical cut is the best version of Blade Runner - so big whoop, you wanna fight about it?

Kid Various has had this argument over and over for 20 years. Yes, the narration is ham handed and somewhat hokey - but the whole point of this film is that it is retro-future. It's a film noir set in 2019. And that narration acts as a touchstone to all of the great Noirs from the 40's and 50's - which had similar voice overs that weren't great works of prose either. And is the text any hokier than the actual dialogue from the film:

[BRYANT] This is Zhora. She's trained for an Off-world kick-murder squad. Talk about beauty and the beast... she's both.

Of course it sounds hokey - because people don't talk like that anymore. But if you're goal is to put together a Sam Spade tale set in 2019, using archaic language like that brings the point home. And the voice over also makes explicit things that are subtext in the film. Like this narration from Deckard:

[DECKARD V.O.] The report would be routine retirement of a replicant which didn't make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back. There it was again. Feeling, in myself. For her, for Rachael.

Now of course, Scott, who has disavowed the narration is of the feeling that you "show" in film, you don't "tell." But again, that's what the classic noirs did! They gave you an explicit insight into the mind of the protagonist (usually a conflicted anti-hero.) Here Deckard makes it explicit why he left the force. He felt that his own humanity was being destroyed by his job. And indeed, that's the point of the film. The replicants end up being more human than their inventors/pursuers. But without the narration, you're simply left to infer this. There is nothing wrong with making it explicit in the context of the neo-noir framework.

This is one of those very rare examples in film where the suits knew better than the director in terms of artistic merit.

Another advantage of the theatrical cut is that it does not have the fucking unicorn dream in it!

For over 20 years, people have been arguing that the unicorn dream sequence implies (there it is again - implication) that Deckard is in fact a replicant. Because at the end of the movie Gaff leaves an origami unicorn for Deckard - possibly signaling to him that he knows Deckard's dreams. He knows his thoughts. Just as Deckard knows Rachel's memories because they are not her own, Gaff is signaling that Deckard's thoughts are not his own either.

Repeat after Kid Various: Deckard is not a replicant!!!

Because if Deckard is a replicant, the whole movie doesn't make any sense! How would Deckard be a replicant? How could he have survived on the force all this time as a hunter of replicants? What motivation could there possibly be for Deckard being a replicant?

And if Deckard is a replicant, Roy's final act (saving Deckard) completely loses is dramatic impact. The whole point is in that moment Roy becomes fully human. He performs a human act of charity as his final, dying move. If Deckard is a replicant - this totally undermines the power of this moment.

Granted the upbeat ending is bullshit. In the Kid's "pure" version of Blade Runner, that would be dropped. But if he can get the voice over narration back and excise that stupid unicorn dream - then Kid Various will take it.

And he will... for $54.99.

Remember when we so freaking afraid of the Japanese?
What were we thinking???


At Friday, December 21, 2007 at 11:08:00 AM EST, Blogger MrSurly said...

Two trivia notes about Blade Runner. First, Ridley Scott has come out and explicitly stated Deckard is a replicant. Bad move for the reasons cited by the Kid. I think the interview can be found on youtube for anyone who's interested in viewing it. Second, the tacked on happy ending voice over is apparently played over leftover footage from the Shining which was culled from the aerial footage showing the approach to the Overlook Hotel at the beginning of the film.


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