What is it about this film, Blade Runner, that casts such a particular shadow? It has impacted so many things in our popular culture, from movies, to style, to predictions of the future. While visually complex and layered, (a hallmark of its director, Ridley Scott) the questions it asks are just as layered. It is hard to believe, looking back 25 years ago, that the movie was met with a generally negative response from the public and film critics alike. Time and a society that has been moving in the direction that the movie foresaw has tempered those opinions. It is generally regarded now as a masterwork, and incredibly prescient in its view of life, save for the flying cars of course.
I remember all too well when I first saw it. It was the end of my first year at SUNY Buffalo, I was down for the summer, back home in the Bronx, and as usual, picking up some EMS work to make enough money. I was going to be moving off campus the for the following year, so I needed to stash away as much money as possible. This is back when movies were still a cheap night out.
I saw the movie in Manhattan, if I recall, at the Lowe's on 86th and Lexington. Big movies need big screens. I came out of the theater dazed, stunned by what I had just witnessed, not completely understanding it all, but knowing that I had been impacted by something significant. Part of the problem was trying to process all the visual imagery that was assaulting my brain. Like his earlier epic, "Alien," Scott's view was not a pristine, Star Trek-like antiseptic environment. It was dirty, dangerous, and evil. While Scott did not pioneer the "used future" concept, he elevated to a new level.
Stepping out into the dank Manhattan night, I very clearly remember thinking that the future is not some time from now, but is now. NYC during the 80's, and through much of the first part of the 90's was not Fun City. While it would be a few years yet before crack would take hold of the city by the throat, and another decade before the Disneyfication of Times Square, the city was still on a downward spiral that was very, very evident. Los Angeles 2019 was right here, minus replicants, flying cars, and vid-phones.
What got to me more than anything else were the questions Blade Runner was asking: What does it mean to be human? How much time do I have? Where is the dividing line between good and evil?
I went back to see the movie again, and found myself even more confused, but in awe still of this piece of film noir. A few years later, when I was working the streets of Brooklyn, the hot summer nights would invariably turn a good part of the borough into something akin to Baghdad today, and the imagery of Blade Runner would become even more alive. It took some multiple viewings, a worn out VHS tape, and a maturing of my life before all of this snapped into place.
Now, lest you think that this blog is only going to be about the movie and it's impact on me, take heart, that is not the case. It is however, a place to start.
To be continued...........
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