The Noirvember Files: Blade Runner
A visual feast of noir style, 1982’s Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott is a gem of the neo-noir genre. Set in a future Los Angeles with a landscape that has been influenced on a massive scale by Chinese immigrants, the environment is a beautiful, dark cityscape accented with brightly colored fluorescent lights. Someone once described noir film to me as the cinema of light. A genre of darkness, accented by bright moments of light. A street lamp, the light cutting through a set of venetian blinds.
Scott captures this tradition in a revolutionary way. His colorful fluorescent signs, light from passing blimps in the sky and, my favorite, umbrellas with lighted handles. Fun fact, those umbrellas were constructed out of fluorescent light bulbs, and they had cords to power them. The actors who carried them in the street shots were tethered to power outlets. So stunning was Scott’s vision of future LA that his style has been copied perhaps a thousand times over at this point.
The brooding and mysterious Deckard (Harrison Ford) is the quintessential noir hero. Constantly questioning his own judgement/sanity, displaying a weakness for doe-eyed women who wander into his life asking for help and an inevitable turning point where he goes “rogue” from the department. What makes Deckard so interesting is that his story is left so open ended that the audience is not sure what to make of him by the end of the film. The villain, Batty, isn’t so mysterious. From the very beginning of the film we know exactly what Batty is; an artificial intelligence fighting for his freedom. It is little twists like this that make an otherwise formulaic storyline completely new and engaging.
Visuals and an interesting story are reinforced with the performances. Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah and the rest of the cast provide subtlety when needed, but capture the over-the-top melodrama of the noir genre in scenes that take my breath away every time I watch them.
I bought a copy of Blade Runner on Blu-ray for an ex of mine the day it came out. You know, the fancy version that came in a suitcase? When I gave it to him he shrugged and said, “I never really liked Blade Runner.” He returned it the next day and bought himself A Very Long Engagement with the money, and some other even stupider movies I have no recollection of. In retrospect I should have ended it right then, as that relationship lead to nothing but the kind of pain and heartache only a noir film can dramatize. Moral of the story is this; watch Blade Runner, love it deeply, cut ties with those who return the collector’s edition of Blade Runner you buy them.