Monthly Archives: June 2008


55. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

I took a class one summer called “Film and the Bible”. It was a pretty interesting course even if we watched a lot of garbage. I mean “S1mone“, really? Come on. It was mainly cool because the prof took the approach that the Bible was more a construct of men’s desires and values rather than being divinely inspired. This notion that the Bible was authored, constructed, and compiled by men and not God opens up a lot of room for discussion.

One of the concepts that particularly struck was the idea of primacy, as in the way we perceive the books and chapters of the Bible strongly influenced by where they were placed. As an example take the book of Genesis which is the first book of the Bible, and depicts the creation story among many other things. If that book were placed elsewhere in the Bible rather than the beginning, its renown would be considerably less. Fewer people would know what was in it, or bother reading it. In essence primacy in this context is the idea that we place heightened value on that which comes first.

Now to tie the idea of primacy to “Blade Runner“. My older brother is very fond of this film. He’s a big Rutger Hauer fan, and he’s a devotee of Philip K. Dick, upon whose story this film is based. So naturally he tried to get me to watch this film. But there was a catch: he wanted me to see the theatrical version with the voiceover. This was problematic because that version wasn’t easily available after Ridley Scott came out with his so called Director’s Cut, which removed the voiceover. This version supplanted the original release, and made it difficult to find for rent. I don’t remember how my brother came across the theatrical version on VHS, I think he found it the previously viewed bin at Roger’s Video.

I don’t really remember why my brother liked the voiceover version so much, I just know he insisted it was better, so I went along with him. I would later learn that my brother is the only person in the world who prefers the voiceovers.

Anyway I watched it with him, and while it wasn’t revelatory, I did enjoy it. It’s a good looking film, with an interesting story, and fine performances. Plus Daryl Hannah was pretty ballin’ back in the day. That eye makeup is tight.

I have since seen the director’s cut, I am pretty sure it was in the fabled intro to film class of 2002. It was perfectly ok, but somehow it wasn’t as good as the voiceover version. I don’t know if I could really explain why it wasn’t as good, and even now having seen the film again, I am still certain I like the voiceover version better.

My theory is that the reason I like that version is because it was the one I saw first. It’s that simple. I suppose it could be a bit of a nostalgia thing in that I used to watch a lot of movies with my brother, and because he now lives in a different city, I can’t do that with him. But I think the ultimate reason I like the voiceover version best is a matter of primacy. It was the version I saw first, and thus it is the version I value most.

On I gave the film 8/10. I would like the revisit this film, with my discovery of how awesome film-noir is in the past year.

Two morons, a goon, and a pizza place.

54. La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)

I have a love/hate relationship with Fellini‘s work. I love La Dolce Vita, and I hate this film.

The premise for this film is that some idiot girl, played annoying by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina, is sold off by her poor family to circus strongman Anthony Quinn. She becomes his partner in his act. Quinn is a total prick who basically abuses her, and she shuts up takes it. That’s your movie.

Masina mugs for the camera the whole movie, making these stupid faces that you want to punch, and she takes so much shit from Quinn, that you wonder why she stays. There was one point where she could have left and went off with an equally annoying performer called “The Fool”. All that guy does is run around like a spaz. His laugh is this completely and utterly irritating high-pitched giggle, and he does it constantly. He is equally punchable.

There’s like 6 scenes of her dancing and playing with children, which get old very quickly.  I guess she’s supposed to be gentle, childlike soul or something. I just thought she was retarded.

It’s always a bad sign when the characters that you are supposed to sympathize with annoy the shit out of you. This movie has that in spades. This is in conjunction with the fact that Anthony Quinn’s character is so unsympathetic that you can’t even find solace in him.

This movie is highly punchable.

The poster isn’t bad though.

On I gave this film 5/10. I don’t know why it’s even a 5.

I’m cold and there are wolves after me.

53. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

I’ve been trying to think of something funny, relevant, acerbic, or insightful to write about this film, and so far I am shooting blanks.

The plot is as follows: an old man, played by Victor Sjöström(who was a bitchin’ silent film director), travels with his daughter-in-law and some hitchhikers to the city to collect an honorary doctorate degree. Along the way he daydreams and is forced to confront how fucked his life is.

I guess that’s a function of being old: you dwell and reflect on the past, and the mistakes and what-went-wrongs especially.

This was the second Bergman film I watched after The Seventh Seal, and it’s a bit more uplifting, but that is as much a product of it not being set in the time of plague. It does probably have the most hopeful resolution of any Bergman film I’ve seen, in that the old man kind of comes to terms with his life, and regains a bit of what he had lost. But it’s still pretty much a bummer.

The poster’s a bummer too.

On I gave the film 7/10. Maybe I’ll start digging Bergman in my 60’s when I am filled with painful regret.

Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

52. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

The poster’s pretty average, nothing particularly remarkable, but inoffensive too.

All you need to know about the film is that it has a scene where Chaplin gets high on cocaine and foils a jailbreak.

On I gave the film 8/10. Good solid fun, but a little disjointed.

Leave it to Nazis to screw things up.

51. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

This poster is simply glorious, perfectly worthy of this glorious film. Those Germans know their shit.

I have a fascination with the Weimar Republic. Basically post-WWI Berlin was a wonderfully decadent, cultured, sex-crazed, artistic mecca. Then the Nazis had to come in and fuck it up. Jerks. I find the brazen sexuality of that era to be fascinating, simply because very few cultures in history have ever been so open and tolerant of sexuality(of pretty much every kind). Fucking interests me OK.

Anyway this film isn’t really about that, but it is a product of that place and era, so it seemed relevant, and the poster is very reflective of that time.

This film is wonderful. It’s the earliest film I know of that I would consider  film-noir. It’s dark, suspenseful, powerful, and compelling. Within 10 minutes I was crying. Peter Lorre gives an incredible all-world performance as a tormented child-molester/killer, I mean by the end I almost felt sorry for him. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Lorre gives this incredible speech at the end where he pleads directly into the camera for mercy. There’s an absolutely insane Nazi propaganda film from 1940 called “The Eternal Jew“, which among other things calls Albert Einstein a pseudo-scientist, Charlie Chaplin a Jew, and compares the migration pattern of rats to those of Jews. They also show this scene as proof that Jews are child molesters. The fact that Lorre is not Jewish, and that the scene is from a fictional movie, doesn’t seem to matter when there is propaganda to be made.

On I gave the film a 10/10. It drags a little bit in the middle, but it’s a small complaint.