It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response

I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet what an incredible thing it is to see Ridley Scott’s “Final Cut” of Blade Runner in the way it was intended to be experienced: up on the glorious big screen, wreathed in a sound design so exacting you hear everything from the delicate ticking of a bicycle frame to the subsonic rumble of the cloacal megacity itself. Truly, if this showing comes to a theater within a hundred miles of you, you owe it to yourself to go experience something I have no problem calling a “masterpiece,” in all its considerable majesty.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Blade Runner in a theater, mind you: I did get to see the “Director’s Cut” at the good ol’ Castro in, what, ’92, and that was pretty neat in its own right. But if I’m recalling properly, it replaced the opening definitional crawl with mawkish laser-slash credits, certain parts of the atmospheric Vangelis score were missing, and it just wasn’t the same. By contrast, the scope of the visual restoration, audio redesign and continuity repair undertaken in this version is breathtaking. Unlike George Lucas’s hamfisted and essentially dishonest digital reversioning, here the result is nothing less than the film the way it was always meant to be seen. And, yes, you’ll walk away knowing whether or not Deckard is himself a replicant.

Of course, Nurri practically had to clamp a hand over my mouth to keep me from blurting out the lines. Such a BR geek am I, too, that I’m pretty sure I spotted all of the emendations. For those of you that care about such things:

    – For the first time, Bryant describes Leon’s offworld job, nuclear loader.

    – The embarrassingly visible cables “assisting” the police spinner’s vertical take-off have been erased.

    – Gaff and Deckard’s visit to Leon’s apartment is longer by just a second or two – just enough time to make out the (barely) luminescent panels in the grim hallway outside, and to hear the super mutter “Kowalski.”

    – There’s a few nice moments of goalie-masked strippers dancing in a transparent bubble suspended outside Taffy Lewis’s (Fourth Sector, Chinatown).

    – It looks like Scott managed to convince Joanna Cassidy to refilm (!) the scenes of Zhora’s brutal retirement. No more ultra-awkward cut to what I’ve always assumed was a stuntman in lingerie.

    – For some reason, Roy Batty’s chillingly flat “I want more life…fucker” retains the Director’s Cut’s edit to “…father.” I’ve always preferred “fucker” because Hauer’s delivery – properly, but unlike every other time that word has been uttered on Planet Earth – manages to include and convey the sense of “father.” By contrast, “father” on its own feels like weak sauce.

    – Roy’s murder of Tyrell is much more graphic – fountains of blood, me boyos. By contrast, his almost tender delivery on the additional lines “I’m sorry, Sebastian…come, come” as he backs poor doomed J.F. toward the elevator make the inevitable slaughter that follows that much more poignant.

    – This takes me all the way back to reading about the film in the Philadelphia Inquirer, before seeing it for the first time on Cinemax. (Heh.) The very first edit I ever read about? Pris hauling Deckard around by his nostrils, apparently by Harrison Ford’s explicit request. Here restored.

    – When Roy, at the end of his strength, releases the pigeon, it flies not up into a suddenly and comically clear sky, but into a dark one filled with appropriately looming megastructure.

Long-time fans should note that the new print is so mind-blowingly generous in scale that you’ll easily spot details (of architecture, fashion, signage, advertising, vehicle and interface design) that have eluded you no matter how many times you’ve seen the film before. For one thing, you can add TWA to the list of firms done in by the infamous “curse.” I also spotted one continuity error that’s escaped me through every previous viewing (and there must have been, oh, twenty):

    – The newspaper lining Leon’s hotel-room drawer, under a pile of sweaters presumably a few weeks old at the very least, bears the same front page as the one Deckard is reading right before he takes a seat at the noodle bar. The lede is something about farming the Moon.

At any rate: whether truly “Final” or not, this cut of Blade Runner is a solid ingot of high-purity Yes, and you’ll be doing yourself a significant favor by adding it to your list of things to do and see. And Ridley? You’ve done a man’s job, sir.

8 responses to “It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response”

  1. gen says :

    > Such a BR geek am I

    You and me both.

    Thank you for the lovingly detailed review. I have no idea if BR will come to a screen in Japan but if it does, I’ll be there!

  2. gen says :

    I just checked Amazon and the Final Cut will be released on Dec. 18th.

  3. speedbird says :

    …which is the day we’ll be buying it. : . )

    It’s something crazy like a five-disc edition, right?

  4. igj says :

    Multiple permutations of packaging, IIRC. 2, 3 and 5 disc versions. Timed thoughtfully for geeklove gift giving.

  5. Vidiot says :

    Saw this at the Ziegfeld and it snapped my head back, it was so good. The picture was great — but the sound! Oh, the sound!

    (Have you heard the “2035” bootleg soundtrack? It’s just snatches of score plus SFX and incidental stuff. Brilliantly captures the ambiance.)

  6. Vidiot says :

    (whoops, make that “2019.” But still.)

  7. Jamie says :

    Seeing the film at NYC’s Ziegfeld was indeed mind-blowing. Maybe this is in part because the theater itself is a splendid, rare, surviving example of the New York movie palace, and therefore practically holy ground to (a) certain generation(s) of that city’s film fans. Almost any movie-going experience at that theater is transformative — or, uh, differently transformative than Cinemax was.

    One wonders about the extent to which the film is and isn’t even the “same” work of art over time, given the many various viewing conditions and life stages under which it’s devotees view it, and the changes to the movie itself, including what I’ve seen called the “infamous Zhora reshoot.” It’s like the Paradox of Theseus’s Ship, that Plutarch, Kripke & others wrote about. Or maybe the movie just gets one thinking about themes of identity, originality, replication and reproduction.

    Speaking of which, for fans of the movie’s visual feel: A couple of the Edward Hopper paintings that Scott quoted/ reproduced can be seen in their original form in the great Hopper retrospective at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, through January 2008. The works include “New York Movie” (1939) — a painting set in a vintage NYC movie palace that it was dizzying to see recreated in a movie playing on the screen of a vintage NYC movie palace.

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