Friday, June 23, 2006

The Name of the Rose

For some reason, I have always been fascinated with films and literature that turn a critical eye towards the darker side of organized religion. Maybe it was the eight years I spent in Catholic school. Who knows. Regardless, The Name of the Rose is an intellectually stimulating commentary on the beliefs of the Catholic Church during the Inquisition.

Sean Connery portrays William or Baskerville, a Franciscan friar with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Along with his apprentice, Adso (Christian Slater), William journeys to a Benedictine abbey. Upon their arrival, they learn that a young monk has recently died. The others fear the presence of a daemon, possibly the antichrist. This suspicion only grows as other monks are found dead over the next few weeks. However, William is convinced that there must be a more logical explanation.

While the film is primarily a murder mystery, it also explores the discord within the church during the 14th century. The Name of the Rose examines the various ways the church dealt with the relationship between knowledge and faith. Likewise, it investigates the different beliefs of the mendicant Franciscan friars and more moderate Benedictine monks.

To a certain extent, these are issues that religions are still confronted with today. Like any other institution, there will always be a level of internal conflict within organized relgion. Because of this, films like The Name of the Rose are timeless.

Fun Links:


The Name of the Rose by Umerto Eco

Virtuoso of Deceit

Most of the time, I attempt to ignore the fact that human beings are capable of an inexplicable amount of cruelty. However, for two hours of my life, I was forced to confront it. After all, it is the main theme of Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons.

The movie's plot centers around a sexually driven battle of wits between the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich). Valmont brags to the Marquise about his intentions to seduce the virtuous Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) for sport. If he succeeds, the Marquise agrees to spend the night with him. Meanwhile, the Marquise also reveals her own intentions to seek revenge on her former lover by disgracing his young, naive fiancee, Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman).

Glenn Close's portrayal of the cold-hearted Marquise de Merteuil was flawless. As the embodiment of human depravity, the Marquise destroyed the life of everyone she touched. She was only happy when causing others' pain.

Both Michelle Pfeiffer's Madame de Tourvel and Uma Thurman's Cecile provided a perfect foils for the Marquise. Cecile had the innocence and beauty that only a sacrificial lamb could possess. Tourvel personified the kindness and morality of a saint. These positive attributes were only magnified by the pure evil of the Marquise de Merteuil.

John Malkovich's Valmont is equally as brilliant as Close's Marquise. The audience spends the majority of the movie viewing this pair as guilty accomplices. However, in the end, his performance challenges us to decide if this is, in fact, the case, or if he too was nothing more than another necessary victim of the Marquise.

Despite the superb acting, the true star of the film are the costumes and the cinematic. The extravagant clothing and furniture act as a strong visual representation the gluttonous excess of the rich. Visually, this film is stunning. There is a delightful irony in the ugly deeds of the people living in this beautiful world.

Other links:

Dangerous Liaisons was based on the Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses

For a modern take on this classic, check out Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions

Blade Runner - The Director's Cut

Blade Runner was one of the slowest movies I have ever had the misfortune to subject myself to. I watched more than three quarters of it and had enough. I could not bring myself to watch the last half hour or so. I like dramas and I usually love Harrison Ford movies, but I could not get into this movie. I know that is in part to what I was led to believe, that the movie was a must see. Nothing kills a movie for me, more than hype. So many times I have been told I have to see this or that movie and I have walked away thinking, “That’s it?” Often when that happens, if I at some point sit through the movie for a second time, I like it better. My expectations aren’t as high. Unfortunately, Blade Runner will not get that second chance. It’s just to slow for a movie I expected some action in. I expected a fast paced, riveting movie. Instead I got a movie I sat through and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I think the movie does reflect the times though. People fear change. Technology was advancing at such a pace that people knew robots, etc., were an eventuality. Robots are a threat to humanity. Not only can robots be made to do everything better and more efficient than a human, the very idea of them turning on us is terrifying.

I don’t want to persuade anyone not to see it, but if you’re looking for a fast paced action movie, Blade Runner is not the movie you want to pop into the DVD player. Make sure you’ve got two hours of nothing to do, with no pressing responsibilities, and maybe you’ll be able to enjoy it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Too Much Harmony

Much like the rusty tin cans that litter the ground around the Bagdad Café, its denizens have been discarded by society. Although they may seem like people who have come to a dead end in their lives, this motley cast of characters is what makes the film so endearing.

A German film known as Out of Rosenheim, it was released in the U.S. as Bagdad Café. The film revolves around the arrival of Jasmin (Marianne Sägebrecht) in Bagdad, a rundown blip on the interstate somewhere near Las Vegas. As Jasmin endears herself to the owner, Brenda (CCH Pounder), they forge an unlikely friendship that ultimately benefits them both.

The film does not rely on action or even too much on a structured plot. The emphasis here is on characters and the relationships they build. These oddballs quickly found a way into my heart. Although they all have quirky identities—harpy, hippy, tattoo artist, piano virtuoso, valley girl—they are all people desperate to make a connection with someone. The quiet shared between them often says so much more than the hackneyed dialog that pollutes many other films. Granted, this is a slow moving movie that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its moments of gentle humor make it a gem in my book.

In addition to playing with the conventions of story, the filmmakers also experiment with visual styles. Askew camera angles, over-saturated colors, and flashing images are just a few of the tricks that pop up to emphasize important events. These contrast against the straight-forward cinematography used in a majority of the film.

Like I said, if you expect explosions or a plot twisted like a pretzel, this film is probably for you. If you enjoy the simple elegance that can be found in an open, honest face, you may want to give Bagdad Café a visit.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Written and directed by Woody Allen.

Starring Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Barbara Hershey, Michael Caine, Woody Allen, Max Von Sydow, Maureen O’Sullivan.


Being the third of four sisters from New York City, I related to this film in ways that surprised me. I think Woody Allen did a good job capturing the love and tension inherent in sisterly relationships.

Hannah tries to be a supportive sister, mother, wife, and daughter. She is faultless, though she probably could stand to try even harder with her oversensitive, insecure sister Holly (Dianne Wiest).

I wonder if this film is the result of a masochistic need in Woody Allen, the filmmaker, to punish Hannah for being so good (or a wish to punish Mia Farrow in real life—we all know what happened to them). Hannah is the unwitting victim in the story, though she reminds me a bit of Katherine Hepburn character in
The Philadelphia Story (1940), in terms of her flawlessness, except that Hannah is more of a victim. Also she is warm, not cold and standoffish.

Hannah (Farrow) and ex-husband Mickey (Allen).

Personally, I think Allen indulges a little bit with this movie in a common (?) male fantasy of sleeping with a partner’s sister. Both Hannah’s husbands sleep with one of her sisters, which I find creepy.

What I got from Michael Caine’s character, Elliot, was the idea that, generally, men want to feel needed. They want to place their wives on a pedestal but then feel guilty making love to them. They want to feel unworthy, as he seems to feel with his wife Hannah (Mia Farrow), but then will look to another to feel needed, which is what he does with Hannah’s sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey).

The film still holds up for the most part; Woody Allen films are timeless in part because of the New York scenes coupled with old jazz music. However, Allen borrows that other, reprehensible fossil of old movies: the “black servant.” Yes, the only black character in the film is a maid, who appears prominently (hard not to since she’s surrounded by white people!) in two segments of the film, but has NO speaking parts. The only other black person that comes in contact with any of the characters is a guy that rudely bumps into Woody Allen’s character on the sidewalk and keeps walking.

Like clothing styles, beauty standards have changed. Apparently the 70s and 80s saw a dip in glamour. The actors and characters they play in this film are the NY (theatre) actors; that is, they are not glitzy Hollywood types. With current standards of super white teeth and sleek glossy hair, I imagine younger audiences would have difficulty looking past “beautiful” Barbara Hershey’s brown teeth and badly permed, frizzy hair—in vogue at the time—to see what Elliot sees, even though Hershey is attractive and has a great voice. (Elliot has gigantic glasses and brown teeth, too, but he’s from the UK.) And what’s with all these attractive women with much older, unattractive men???!!!?! An indication of one of Woody Allen’s many complexes, I guess; although he did cast
attractive younger men in later movies.

Hannah's husband, Elliot (Michael Caine) trying to pick up her sister, Lee (Barbara Hershey).

I was kind of dreading watching this film. Although I’ve seen a couple of later Woody Allen films that were OK, e.g. Mighty Aphrodite and Bullets Over Broadway, I didn’t know if I could sit through one this evening, with its guaranteed heavy saturation of fast, neurotic New York dialogue. I was dreading listening to Woody Allen himself, but as I watched the film, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It’s the best one I’ve seen. Hannah and Her Sisters addresses deep, philosophical questions with a good amount of humor. Some things about the story bothered me (I can’t believe he gets away with it in the end!!!!) but I really liked the film. I loved the architecture-tour scene.

The characters Allen himself plays (“Mickey” in this film) always seem to win me over because, although they are irritating people whom I would avoid in real life, they are so funny. Dianne Wiest and Mia Farrow give wonderful performances, which are not emotionally overwrought, of course, but these actresses are perfectly suited for executing Woody Allen dialogue in a non-irritating, realistic way. I enjoyed the performance of Max Von Sydow, star of seminal Ingmar Bergman films The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), and The Virgin Spring (1960). Despite my reservations, Hannah and Her Sisters is just too well written and the actors are too good; after watching it I feel I should have known that I was actually in for a treat.

Although I am conflicted because of the race thing, I highly recommend this film. I would watch it again, then cleanse my soul with a Spike Lee movie.

(President Nelson Mandela does not appear in this film.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Directed by Stephen Frears, from the play by Christopher Hampton, based on a 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Starring: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Swoosie Kurtz, Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves.

Positives: Beautiful cinematography, costume, art/set design and musical score. Eye candy, won awards for art design, etc (Muller, Films of the 80s).

Based on the epistolary novel les liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Ambrose Francois Choderlos de Laclos, watching this movie is like watching (or reading) a neoclassical play, with its witty, albeit wordy dialogue. I would rather have read novel, though, because in the context of a Hollywood film some of the dialogue seems…I don’t know…corny.

An 80s theme evident in Dangerous Liaisons is the idea of a decadent upper class or the evils of the aristocracy and how its members use money to get what they want. (Although 80s films often feature upper middle class protagonists, they’re still middle class mostly.) On the other hand, the “good” characters in Dangerous Liaisons are also aristocrats, but they happen to be pathetic victims of Merteuil and Valmont.

The film, being a period piece and very well-done in that respect, holds up visually. The stunning beauty of the film and the score made the rest of it bearable to me, but barely. Nevertheless, I never had any desire to see this film and don’t plan on ever sitting through it again. I’ll explain why in a bit.

In terms of gender/sex issues, I don’t think it holds up. First, it seems that, despite its stance against the corruption of the upper classes and the horrors of contemporary education for women (which Laclos explores more thorougly in another work), it shows the dangers of an educated woman with power. I think Laclos was writing based on old ideas of what “a woman’s place” should be. Though Enlightenment era philosophers and writers like Laclos rejected religious and moral traditions, they had backwards ideas about women and non-whites, e.g. even Rousseau was sexist. I acknowledge that I could be totally off but I also know that readers can interpret his work in various ways. Assuming that the work is misogynistic in nature, the filmmakers could have compensated for some of that; however, (aside from the plot) it still features lots of shots of naked female body and none of the men. None that I remember. We may have been treated to naked Malkovich-butt, but I shudder at the thought.

Glenn Close, who plays Merteuil, is pretty much flawless, as usual. Malkovich, whom I cannot stand, does a good job as Valmont. Everyone is good, and the young Keanu’s burnout accent is not as detectable as I had feared. Michelle Pfeiffer plays her usual wounded, vulnerable, fragile, beautiful character (she was that way even as Catwoman in Batman Returns, particularly in the beginning and towards the end). But she and Uma Thurman play the crappy roles they got really well.

The oh-so-virginal, angelic Mademoiselle Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman).

The oh-so-virtuous, angelic, meek Madame Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Some still shots of the characters: (Glenn Close isn’t naked in the movie but her cleavage gets lots of attention; there’s a still shot devoted to just that.)


OK, this is some of the beef I have with the movie.

Valmont is one evil son-of-a-bitch. For all the bitching I’m about to do on how women are portrayed in this film, I have to say: he makes men look bad. He destroys every woman he comes in contact with in the film, except for his paid prostitute.

The only woman that is ‘better at the game’ than Valmont, is Merteuil (Glenn Close). While they both use money and sex to get what they want, she is better at manipulating and controlling people. Merteuil is the only woman capable of ruining him without completely losing herself, but she is STILL destroyed in the end!

Both Valmont and Merteuil deserve what they get, for Merteuil is a selfish prig as well, but although he dies and she lives, he dies almost a hero while her dignity and reputation are gone. She starts out with a good rep, he with a bad rep; in the end he gets somewhat of a dignified death, with room for sympathy from the audience, while her rep is destroyed and the audience feels good about it.

There is a point where Merteuil could ‘get’ him, teach him a lesson. Certain moments indicate that she is his puppet master and he knows it. But she ends up failing in large part because, like every other weak woman he messes with, she loves him, too. Indirectly, her jealousy gets the better of her, and he ends up ‘getting’ her in the end.

Falling in love with Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) teaches him, but it costs Tourvel’s life. Although he falls desperately in love with her, the film could have done more with that. He doesn’t seem as in love, as defeated by it, as his dying words indicate—and, in my opinion, not enough to convince the audience in the end that he had learned his lesson (especially since he keeps harassing Merteuil about keeping her promise!). The film could have given him an emotional breakdown or something. All we get are flashbacks during the duel scene of him and Tourvel making love, which distract him. I’m left with the impression that he probably would have survived the love he felt for Tourvel if his own exploits outside the Merteuil/Valmont/Tourvel triangle, i.e. his affair with Cecile (Uma Thurman), hadn’t led to his death. But that affair conveniently provided the springboard for Merteuil’s revenge against him for falling for Tourvel. Ooooh, that Merteuil is crafty.

"Whoa! Dude! Did what I think just happened ...happen?!" (allusion to ending of film)

Back to Merteuil. The film begins with her looking in mirror, looking beautiful and refined. She is RICH and VAIN. The movie ends with her looking humiliated and broken, removing her makeup. That, and death of Valmont can symbolize the downfall of the aristocracy, but her fall is more humiliating. (Remember, his is kind of heroic and tragic??) The ending illustrates Merteuil’s comment earlier that “vanity and happiness are incompatible.”

The evil, vain, crafty Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil at the beginning of DL.

I felt exhausted watching these female characters’ terrible downfall, one after another, while the man gets his redemption, his hero’s farewell. He pretty much rapes Cecile, yet succeeds in turning her into a sex fiend who can’t get enough of him. He topples the virtuous, untouchable, devoted wife of another man, Tourvel, leaving her weak, crazed, sick, and then dead. He even defeats his female match in the end from beyond the grave.

I want to recommend this film, but I couldn’t help but feel, as the end credits rolled: “That was two hours of my life I won’t get back.”

Frankly, for all its expensive production, Dangerous Liaisons was excruciating to watch. But if you want to see an 18th/early 19th-century period piece with classical and baroque music, watch the brilliant, earlier film AMADEUS (1984) directed by Milos Forman, which is one of my all time favorite films. Like the poster says, it won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It has the requisite sexist moments, but overall it is FAR superior. It is also visually stunning with a great score. I got the feeling that DL borrowed heavily from the art direction of Amadeus (which makes me wonder if that's why Forman was compelled to make a version of Dangerous Liaisons entitled Valmont in 1989, which bombed.). Amadeus is clever, moving, exciting, and quite funny, with excellent performances by F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce.

Poltergeist (1982)

Tobe Hooper, of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) fame, directed Poltergeist, although Hooper's pitiless, blood-and-guts sensibility hardly seemed to be a good fit for Steven Spielberg who wrote the screenplay and produced the 1982 hit film Poltergeist The movie works well.

The plot shows a suburban southern California family of five and their dog being haunted by entities that take over their home. Ironically, the family’s neighborhood bears a striking resemblance to E.T.’s neighborhood which is directed by Steven Spielberg in the same year

The movie kicks off with the ordinary end of late night TV programming. The Star Spangled Banner is playing over a video displaying American patriotism, then abruptly ends with dead air or TV static. Carol Anne the family’s youngest child, wakes up, walks to the TV and begins a conversation. This scene repeats a second time and you can see a ghostly image emerge from the TV and fly out of the TV over Carol Anne’s head and disappear into the bedroom wall behind her. Carol Anne playfully says, "They're Here!" From this point forward the family’s home is haunted by a Poltergeist because their home was built on top of a cemetery, in which only the headstones had been moved. A poltergeist as a ghost that manifests itself by noises, rappings, and the creation of disorder

The movie has been linked to a Poltergeist curse because “six of the stars from these movies died deaths that are characterized as mysterious or tragic, and four of these six did not live a normal lifespan.” Specifically Heather O'Rourke and Dominique Dunne (the daughter of Dominick Dunne

Poltergeist was nominated for four Oscars and won for “Best Visual Effects”, “Best Horror Film”, and “Best Make-Up” in addition to Zelda Rubinstein who plays the clairvoyant wins “Best Supporting Actress”. If you’re a fan of “movie mistakes” you can locate them here

I enjoyed the movie though only some of its special effects hold up today. The movie is distinctly 80's because it highlights the picture perfect upper-middle class suburban family. Therefore, it is enjoyable to see their world turn upside down.

Monday, June 19, 2006

BLADE RUNNER (1982) - Director's Cut

Blade Runner (1982). Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford (Deckard), Sean Young (Rachel), Daryl Hannah (Pris), and a BRILLIANT performance by Rutger Hauer (Batty).

So, this is a cult classic I decided to watch after reading some of what Jurgen Muller’s book (Films of the 80s) had to say about it. Blade Runner is featured prominently in the book. I was intrigued by the visuals and the philosophical aspects. For the record, I haven’t read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, upon which the movie is based, but I’m sure it would have enhanced the experience.

All right.
At the risk of sounding like a ditz…

!!OHMIGOSH, I would have to watch this film, like, 84 more times in order to catch everything!!

I mean, in order for me to thoroughly appreciate, understand, and conclude anything definitively, I’d have to watch it at least a few more times. HOWEVER, even after the first time, my head is spinning with ideas. Oh, fun! But my response to the film was not entirely positive.

First, though it was obviously way ahead of its time, today it looks dated. It looks like an 80s movie, mainly because of the vehicles. But the film is visually impressive. I don’t think Peter Jackson’s computer-created 'wide angle shots' of Mordor are that much more impressive than Ridley Scott’s 'wide shots' of Los Angeles in 2019. The sets are impressive, though some of the machinery look plastic and cheap, but that’s okay. The physical world can be disappointing. But we’ll get to that later.

My suggestion to Ridley Scott if he ever decided to “update” it (I can hear the purists gasping and frantically groping for their inhalers…kidding!) he would have to chuck most of the synthesizer music and score the film with an actual orchestra. This is a real problem for so many of these classic 80s films. Over time, synth music has become heavily associated with TV show music, e.g. Doogie Howser. Nintendo, too. It’s not effective, dramatically. (When Star Trek: The Next Generation aired in the late 80s and early 90s, its orchestral score contributed heavily to its polished, theatrical feel, and it still holds up despite some of the now-cheesy set decor. No, I don’t have my own inhaler.)

I rented the director’s cut, which apparently includes more about Deckard’s status as the very thing he is commissioned to hunt down and kill: androids, or “replicants.”

Themes in the movie: Descartes, fours, grids, squares, eyes, Asians, unicorns (the last two were facetious…but they mean something, I just know it!)

The opening shots feature a huge eye and a pyramid, separate shots, but together they are reminiscent of the novus ordo seclorum, or “new order of the ages” idiom on our dollar bills, which can be translated as “a new world order” (I took Latin for three years in high school a gajillion years ago and that is one thing I remember).

(Sorry, I tried to center that eye above the pyramid. I didn't work. But, you get the point.)

This new world is an L.A. that is—on the ground—gloomy, crowded, wet, claustrophobic, dark, squalid and thoroughly infiltrated and dominated by….ASIANS AND ASIAN CULTURE!! Yes, those rat bastards have taken over our precious City of Dreams. See, we saw it coming!! Now, look. See what happened?*

*Now, BEING OF ASIAN DESCENT MYSELF, I couldn’t help but take notice, and offense, to the portrayal of Asians in this film. On one hand, anti-racist messages can be extracted from the story. On the other hand, this was the 80s, and America’s paranoia about Asia’s economic rise and impending dominance threatened America’s identity as numero uno. The multicultural urban jungle in Blade Runner seems to reflect the xenophobic paranoia of turn-of-the-century America (late 19th and early 20th century) when immigrants were pouring to America’s cities, and also late 20th and early 21st century America, as the immigration issue heats up again. So, in L.A. in 2019, most of the well-to-do are on luxurious off-world sites; but the minorities, white authority figures, and a few physically defective white humans have been left behind on the ground??! Also, I wonder about Pris and Batty, 'Aryan' as they are, and how they are referred to as “perfect” [particularly Batty, who looks healthier than Pris and is a higher-level replicant...I think] despite their status as slaves. I know “perfect” means that they have no defects, except their short life spans. They don’t need glasses, for instance. But, if we go with the idea that their looks are supposed to enhance that perception of perfection for the audience, maybe their fit Aryan perfect-ness is supposed to drive up the audience’s empathy for them and their plight. Or, maybe it was a way for a majority white audience to identify with the characters, to drive point of the inhumanity of slavery, regardless of race.
I don’t know. So many mixed messages in this film!
Following the pattern of 80s films, it could boil down to American integrity and freedom, regardless of race, versus foreign takeover and the loss of American paradise, as told in Die Hard.

I found it interesting that the genetic designer also has a short life span.
A couple of quick notes. . .

EYES: The replicants’ pupils look like camera lenses, including the owl’s eyes. Tyrell wears HUGE, thick, SQUARE GLASSES. Gaff has ice blue, striking eyes. Lots of eye close-ups throughout. The replicants’ eyes are designed by a caricatured Asian fellow; I’m not sure what that means yet.

I wonder if the emphasis on the eyes simply reminds us that they are windows to the soul and, yes, the replicants have these windows as well; i.e., since films are visual, they are a way to express that replicants have souls. It could be that the eyes represent wisdom or an omniscient God(?). Or it could be our collective unconscious, absorbing what we fear our world will become.

On the other hand, eyes are sensory and gather external, physical information.

OK, I will attempt to delve into what I gathered from a philosophical angle. I’m not a philosophy major, so forgive me if I am butchering any of this. Keeping in mind Descartes' internalist theories (, perhaps the eyes symbolize the physically observed world, or sensory perception, juxtaposed against the Cartesian ideas of the perceptions of self that exist in one’s mind. According to Descartes, what is in the mind determines existence, not what is observed through the senses. What I gather is that the replicants have the capacity to think and feel as humans do, and indeed Batty and Pris do. They are sensitive, sentient beings. But they are not human; they are artificially created life forms. A funny Asian guy designed their eyes, for goodness sake! While the eyes might be remarkably efficient (perhaps even fuel efficient!) they were crafted by Asian hands nonetheless, which I guess to a white, American audience might underline the notion of artifice, cold-calculation (notice the freezing lab), and mass-production; ergo, the replicants' physical makeup do not determine their value and dignity…what determines that is that they are sentient beings! For example, Pris quotes Descartes' I think; therefore, I am. And Rachael is alive, and her memories, though not entirely hers, are part of her consciousness and part of who she is. She has emotional ties to those memories.

Here is an exchange (not verbatim) between Rachel and Deckard:
Rachel, at the piano: “I remember lessons…don’t know if it was me, or Tyrell’s niece.”
Deckard: “You play beautifully.”
This to me illustrates Descartes’ notion of reality as fully cognitive; reality is what you make it. A romantic notion, in the literary sense. That is, it’s a mode of thinking suitable for romantics.

Oh, the intimate scene between Deckard and Rachel when he kisses her grossed me out. It was forceful AND she looked unhappy AND the saxophone music made the entire scene soooo limburger. Anyway, if we accept that they are both replicants we can see that they are both grasping for feeling. Or, he is and is forcing her to play along. And, miraculously, she ends up loving him. YUCK. Not a good message for you young guys out there.

I’m not going to go into the sexism issue in this film. It just hit me, though: Batty represents physical “perfection,” and Pris probably does, too, up to a point (before she gets super pale and paints a mask on her face—hey, another eye thing!). But, she’s female, so no dice. Also, the “evil” female replicant was a dirty whore of an exotic dancer! She is the first to be aggressively hunted and destroyed by Deckard. And, of course, Rachel, Deckard’s girl, is demure and fragile, even though she could probably snap his neck like a twig—unless, of course he’s a replicant, too, which we don't know for sure.

There were grid patterns throughout the film, recalling the Cartesian plane/coordinate system. In the kissing scene, a grid is hard against the back of Rachel’s head, emphasizing her artificial physical quality… or maybe reminding us of her dignity as a sentient, just-as-good-as-human being in terms of Descartes (she thinks, therefore she is). A shadow of the same grid covers Deckard’s face as well.

The white unicorn in Deckard’s mind is just as real, or even more real, than his surroundings. The memory of the unicorn is a clue that Deckard himself may be a replicant. The ending, where he finds the silver paper unicorn left by Gaff confirmed this to me and had me wondering whether or not Gaff was one, too, because he had such distinctive eyes. (Or were his blue eyes a means to separate him from the rest of the Asians? His eyes seemed to get bluer as we figure out that he’s a good guy. Or maybe I just realized that his eyes were blue later on in the film.)

I will cut the movie analysis short, but I took tons of notes watching this movie. I would like to watch it again. Yes, some things about it were disappointing. I can’t help looking at it from a sociological-racial perspective; that is a major aspect of this film. I am just fed up with and refuse to accept false, spoon-fed notions of blond perfection and the portrayal of non-white, “other” races as something other than American in America. I grew up watching lots of TV and movies during the 80s just accepting it and kind of believing it subconsciously, until I realized that it was bullcrap, being that I myself am a non-white, native-born American, who is no less American than someone who would be labeled “all-American.” It’s so easy to buy into that idea, and it has to be that much more automatic if you ARE a white American. These issues are touchy, but they are okay to talk about in a civil way. It’s healthy to talk about things. I’ve had many fascinating discussions about all this stuff with my white husband, who grew up in the south in a traditional Baptist family… and, yes, we actually love each other, A LOT! Because, ultimately, we're way more similar than different (my husband and I have such similar temperatments and likes and dislikes, it's freaky, considering that we grew up in such different environments). And THAT'S the beauty of talking about these types of issues. It gets everything out on the table so everyone understands everyone else; then, people can focus on what really matters, which is the internal.

Having said all that, believe it or not, I do appreciate the film and realize that there are MANY other aspects to it, and many ways of looking at it, and I believe that the film ultimately advocates the dignity of life. I would love to be able to explore Blade Runner and its many dimensions more thoroughly. A couple of the fafillion million gajillion questions I have: Why does Batty spare Deckard; is it because he empathizes with Deckard because he knows that Deckard is a replicant and will die soon anyway? And, what is the significance of Deckard’s apartment number 9732? I’m a math dummy, but it seems like a familiar number somehow. (Anyone?... Anyone?...)

If you are alive and like to think, definitely watch this film and judge it for yourself. I'm so glad I did. Now, I think I need a nap.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Romancing the Stone

This 1984 film is full of romance, mystery and danger. Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) a hermit character, steps into the fast lane as she heads off to Columbia to save her kidnapped sister Elaine. Once arriving in this non-English speaking country, Joan Wilder proceeds to get on the wrong bus and her journey begins. The wild women that Joan Wilder has written about in so many of her novels, has become a reality when she encouters a shoot out with Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). The mudslide ride in the jungle of Columbia and the shelter provided by the long lost plane full of marijuana are just some of the exciting journeys they take.

The on screen connection between Turner and Douglas is enhanced with Danny DeVito who plays Ralph, the kidnappers brother.

Director Robert Zemicks does an excellent job with the music to enhance the serious scenes and quickly follows them with something comical. The jungle scenes and swinging vines are sometimes a little far fetched for me, but they made the movie. The enormous size of the jewel found in the cave caps off the movie but Zemeicks keeps the intrigue going for viewers.

Watching this film again after many years, I still found myself laughing and enjoying the action. I would probably suggest this movie as a rainy day filler but could not see myself spending my Friday night on it.