Much more than a repli­cant...

It doesn’t make quite the same im­pact at home as on the cin­ema screen, but De­nis Vil­leneuve’s be­lated fol­low-up to Ri­d­ley Scott’s sem­i­nal Blade Run­ner re­mains a thing of mes­meris­ing beauty

Fortean Times - - REVIEWS / FILMS -

The world of the film feels not just fu­tur­is­tic but gen­uinely lived in

Blade Run­ner 2049 Dir De­nis Vil­leneuve, US 2017 Sony Pic­tures, £14.99 (Blu-ray)

Ri­d­ley Scott’s 1982 film Blade

Run­ner has con­tin­ued to in­trigue and en­gage au­di­ences since its re­lease; af­ter an ini­tially mixed re­cep­tion, the dystopian neo-noir is now con­sid­ered one of the most in­flu­en­tial films of all time. With the pass­ing years and re­lease of more alternative cuts, the film raised more ques­tions than it an­swered, mak­ing fans ea­ger for a se­quel; and al­most two decades af­ter it went into de­vel­op­ment,

Blade Run­ner 2049 fi­nally ar­rived last year. In the cur­rent cli­mate of re­boots and se­quels there was con­cerned spec­u­la­tion about which di­rec­tion the new film would take, but DenisVil­leneuve thank­fully put th­ese con­cerns to rest: Blade Run­ner 2049 was not only an im­pres­sive fol­low-up to

Blade Run­ner, it also one of the best se­quels ever made.

Now re­leased on Blu-ray, the film is an ab­so­lute feast for the eyes – although if you didn’t see it in the cin­ema you won’t get the full ben­e­fit of its im­pec­ca­ble vis­ual ef­fects and breath­tak­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy. As with Scott’s ground­break­ing orig­i­nal, the pro­duc­tion de­sign ofVil­leneuve’s film helps to be­liev­ably es­tab­lish the world of the film as not only fu­tur­is­tic, but also as a place that feels gen­uinely lived in. There are oc­ca­sional call­backs to the first Blade Run­ner in terms of sound ef­fects, mu­si­cal cues, fa­mil­iar items and graph­ics, as well as oddly clunky tech­nol­ogy, but th­ese con­nec­tions are so sub­tle that they do not in­ter­fere with the view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and in­stead feel like nat­u­ral parts of the film’s world. It is also through this thought­ful and mea­sured bal­anc­ing of old and new that Vil­leneuve man­ages to make

Blade Run­ner 2049 en­tirely his own film, even as he builds on the foun­da­tions laid by Scott 36 years ago and ex­tends that film’s philo­soph­i­cal and ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions into new ar­eas.

The film’s pac­ing might feel slow to some, but while it takes its time to dwell on de­tails, it never me­an­ders in terms of its nar­ra­tive. The story (I’ll avoid spoil­ers, just in case!) serves as a nat­u­ral, yet deeply in­trigu­ing, ex­ten­sion of the orig­i­nal; so, fans of the first film will prob­a­bly take to this one, while the unini­ti­ated may find this as me­an­der­ing, dull and in­con­clu­sive as many found Blade Run­ner when it was orig­i­nally re­leased.

While the film’s mar­ket­ing may have led some movie­go­ers to be­lieve that Har­ri­son Ford would be a sig­nif­i­cant screen pres­ence, Ford is merely a sup­port­ing char­ac­ter com­pared to Ryan Gosling’s K, who is the undis­puted main char­ac­ter. Util­is­ing his knack for ex­pertly por­tray­ing ex­ter­nally stoic but in­ter­nally chaotic char­ac­ters, as in 2011’s Drive, Gosling de­liv­ers a ca­reer-best per­for­mance as the young Blade Run­ner, por­tray­ing. K as a multi-faceted and deeply com­pelling char­ac­ter. The sup­port­ing cast also play their parts well; like Ford, Jared Leto doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but he still man­ages to be­come a men­ac­ing pres­ence, while the var­i­ous as­so­ciates of the main char­ac­ters are all clearly dis­tin­guish­able and all serve a spe­cific pur­pose. In con­clu­sion, Blade Run­ner

2049 is not on­lyVil­leneuve’s best work to date, it is also a cin­e­matic tri­umph that re­minds us not just how rich the science fic­tion genre is, but also of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the medium of film in gen­eral.

Blade Run­ner Dir Ri­d­ley Scott, US 1982 Warner, £34.99 (4K spe­cial edi­tion)

Fan­boys and fan­girls un­doubt­edly dream of spe­cial edi­tions like this: a four-disc pack­age on Blu­ray and 4K Ul­tra HD of Ri­d­ley Scott’s now sem­i­nal dystopian Sci-fi clas­sic Blade Run­ner in all of its con­tentious in­car­na­tions. Disc 1 con­tains Scott’s 2007 Fi­nal Cut. Disc 2 con­tains the Orig­i­nal The­atri­cal and In­ter­na­tional The­atri­cal Cut of 1982 and the Di­rec­tor’s Cut of 1992. Disc 3 is re­plete with a rare Workprint Fea­tureVer­sion, the lengthy doc­u­men­tary Dan­ger­ous Days as well as 12 fea­turettes and an HD still gallery con­tain­ing

the gory ac­tion skips the an­cient Egypt lo­cale. Now we’re in a strange time­less Lon­don with 1970s record play­ers, Love­craftian mo­tor cars and an asy­lum that’s straight out ofVic­to­rian Eng­land. The threat’s dif­fer­ent too. Shuf­fling dead blokes wrapped in bandages are re­placed by a mys­ti­cal an­cient force set to res­ur­rect a beau­ti­ful Egyp­tian queen. Sadly, this evil force spilled over into real life, in what’s known as Ham­mer’s ‘cursed’ pro­duc­tion. Peter Cush­ing left the set three days into film­ing, when his beloved wife died. Then, pre­cisely a month later, the di­rec­tor died of a heart at­tack (af­ter a week-long bout of hic­cups, which the crew all laughed at). A crew mem­ber even died in a mo­tor­bike crash dur­ing film­ing; even creepier when the film fea­tures a scene where a body is found trapped un­der a mo­tor­bike. Bad vibes aside though, the film it­self is re­ally quite a treat.

The bru­tal­ity con­tin­ues that same year with Demons

of the Mind, a bizarre, al­most art­house tale of in­cest, mur­der and the power of psychology (it’s a the­matic fore­run­ner to Cro­nen­berg’s The Brood). An hour into this, I barely had a clue what was go­ing on – but the plot so­lid­i­fies in the last 30 min­utes... in­clud­ing a win­cein­duc­ing throat stab­bing with a set of keys. Fi­nally, we have Fear in

the Night, from 1972, which is the only one in this batch you could play at your kid’s birth­day party this week­end. Opt­ing for mys­tery over gore, this boy’s-school shocker fol­lows a men­tally frag­ile young wife fac­ing Joan Collins and a one-armed at­tacker. Peter Cush­ing’s ap­pear­ance is brief but won­der­fully sin­is­ter, and rather sad too. Fans of Mo­tor­way Ser­vices (they do ex­ist) might get a kick out of a strangely lengthy scene set in Tod­ding­ton Ser­vices on the M1. Fans of vin­tage vinyl (they cer­tainly ex­ist) will also en­joy the twirling racks of bud­get Mar­ble Arch records too. over 1,000 archival images. Disc 4 is ded­i­cated to the 2007 Fi­nal Cut on 4K Ul­tra HD. A 100-page book­let ‘The Art of Blade Run­ner’ com­pletes the pack­age.

One thing to note about the 4K ver­sion is the stun­ning sound. Vangelis’s mes­meris­ing mu­sic has never been such a treat for the ears, its huge synth swathes and det­o­na­tions of ma­jes­tic elec­tronic brass in­dis­pen­si­ble in a film which for so much of its run­ning time plays like a si­lent movie with mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment. If you’ve got the kit, it will blow you away.

An­other de­tail to note is how grainy some of the orig­i­nal stock re­mains, al­most giv­ing the sense that Scott was at the time ac­tu­ally us­ing the lim­i­ta­tions of the medium for painterly ef­fect up on the screen; an in­ter­play be­tween dusty mote-filled light and shade that the ex­po­sure of 4K al­most strips away. Where it comes into its own is in the depth of field re­vealed within those vast, clogged Los An­ge­les streets, not only down and dirty at rain-soaked ground level, but es­pe­cially in the ver­tig­i­nous sky­scraper cli­max when Deckard tries to evade Roy’s re­lent­less pur­suit, and of course in that jaw-drop­ping open­ing where Scott un­furls the city’s dense fu­tur­is­tic night­mare be­fore us, lit up by mas­sive spumes of in­dus­trial flame. Nick Cirkovic

Wartime Chron­i­cles Dir Keith Barn­fa­ther, UK 1987 Reel­time Pic­tures, £14.99 (DVD)

Wartime was one of the un­of­fi­cial Doc­tor Who spin-off videos from Reel­time Pic­tures, along with Down­time, the Mindgame

Tril­ogy and Dae­mos Ris­ing. It’s dis­tinc­tive for ap­pear­ing while

Doc­tor Who was still on the air, in 1987; the oth­ers were all from the “wilder­ness years” fol­low­ing 1989.

War­rant Of­fi­cer (for­merly Sergeant) John Ben­ton (John Levene) is head­ing to UNIT head­quar­ters when his jeep breaks down, very near a gar­den and ruin where he used to play as a boy – and where his brother Chris had died fall­ing from the ruin. It was an ac­ci­dent, but Ben­ton al­ways felt guilt for his brother’s death. Wan­der­ing through the gar­den, Ben­ton

has flash­backs: play­ing with his brother, his brother’s death, and con­fronta­tions with his fa­ther (Michael Wisher), a rigid and un­car­ing mil­i­tary man who never had any time for him. Ben­ton faces his demons, and emerges stronger.

It’s a half-hour film, a one-idea piece, but emo­tion­ally quite pow­er­ful. Levene, who re­turned to the role hav­ing given up act­ing 10 years ear­lier, acquits him­self well.

The other of­fer­ings on the first DVD are a se­ries of mini-fea­tures, mostly with poor sound qual­ity, dis­cussing Doc­tor Who fan films be­fore Wartime Chron­i­cles – which, from the brief clips shown, ap­pear to have dis­played a lot more imag­i­na­tion and in­ge­nu­ity than some of the later more “pro­fes­sional” spin-offs. There’s also the obli­ga­tory “be­hind-thescenes” film, where some­one with a spare cam­era films the film­ing of the film; but there’s only so much re­hearsal, re­takes and ban­ter be­tween ac­tors and crew – of­ten out of fo­cus, with poor sound and from the wrong an­gle – that you can take be­fore it be­comes very repet­i­tive and very te­dious.

The sec­ond DVD has Re­UNITed, a his­tory of UNIT, and an over­long con­ven­tion panel of Jon Per­twee and the UNIT team. A pleas­an­te­nough cu­rios­ity, but prob­a­bly for long­time devo­tees only. David V Bar­rett

House Dir Nobuhiko Obayashi, Ja­pan 1977 Eu­reka En­ter­tain­ment, £16.99 (Blu-ray)

Blimey, where does one start with

House? Per­haps it’s best to be­gin by ex­plain­ing that – ti­tle and haunted house premise aside – it has noth­ing to do with the 1980s US com­edy-hor­ror fran­chise. Now, un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances I have a real prob­lem with com­e­dy­hor­ror films. They’re never funny enough, they’re never hor­ri­fy­ing enough, and un­less they get it ab­so­lutely spot on, each el­e­ment un­der­cuts the other. In the whole his­tory of cin­ema the only film I can think of that made me laugh out loud and fright­ened the wits out of me is John Lan­dis’s An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­don. Over 100 years of movies and only once has the hor­ror-com­edy been done right. That’s how hard it is. How­ever, House (orig­i­nally re­leased in Ja­pan un­der the ti­tle

Hausu) is most un­like any hor­ror film you’ve ever seen; in fact it’s also un­like any com­edy you’ve ever seen.

Seven school­girls (deep breath: An­gel, Melody, Fan­tasy, Kung-fu, Mac, Prof and Sweetie) de­cide to spend part of the sum­mer va­ca­tion with An­gel’s aun­tie at her iso­lated (of course) house in the coun­try­side. Amid all sorts of su­per­nat­u­ral weird­ness, the girls find them­selves un­able to leave and start dis­ap­pear­ing, one by one. Is the seem­ingly kind and gen­tle Aun­tie ac­tu­ally a killer? Or is the house it­self re­spon­si­ble?

It’s dif­fi­cult to con­vey just how strange this film is but, since it’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity as a re­viewer to try, and de­spite the fact that it re­ally does have to be seen to be be­lieved, I shall have a go. House is one of the most bizarre films I have seen: it’s not only the things that hap­pen but also the ar­ray of vis­ual tech­niques used to present them. There are mu­si­cal se­quences, an­i­ma­tion, shonky spe­cial ef­fects, very good spe­cial ef­fects, split screen, break­ing of the fourth wall and all man­ner of edit­ing tricks. The Ja­panese love of pop­u­lar cul­ture is re­flected in the im­agery and style, which en­com­passes at least four or five dif­fer­ent gen­res. The tone lurches from play­ful to sen­ti­men­tal to cyn­i­cal to bru­tal at the drop of a hat. All of which leaves the viewer daz­zled, con­fused, an­noyed and at times thor­oughly en­ter­tained. But its enor­mous verve and imag­i­na­tion is also its weak­ness; be­cause the film never set­tles down, it can get a lit­tle wear­ing. It’s a bit like watch­ing The Ba­nana Splits or The

Mon­kees, re­made by Takashi Mi­ike, for an hour and a half which, given that those shows only ran for 30 min­utes, is prob­a­bly ask­ing too much.

This Blu-ray re­lease, part of the ex­cel­lent Mas­ters of Cin­ema col­lec­tion by Eu­reka, presents a trans­fer which ren­ders the film look­ing bet­ter than it has done for years, which is cru­cial be­cause of its re­liance on vi­su­als – as op­posed to plot or dia­logue – to tell the story. There are plenty of ex­tras too, which help shed some light on the ge­n­e­sis of this ex­tra­or­di­nary, sin­gu­lar piece of cin­ema. Daniel King

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