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Sublime Cinematic Moment: Tears in Rain

June 4, 2007

June 25th will mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Blade Runner. It’s one of those films that is both masterpiece and oddity. Not everything was right with the original cut, the voice over, continuity errors, effects errors. In 1992, when Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut edition was finally released, much was done to finally set Blade Runner right. There are still moments where the film isn’t perfect (when a spinner lifts off, you can still see the cables lifting it), but it’s like burn marks in the wood of an antique table, and adds to the character of the film.

But Blade Runner is much more than the sum of her parts. The assembled talent on the film from the talent on-screen to the talent behind the scenes was huge, and sometimes, just sometimes you are left with cinematic alchemy. For Blade Runner, it is the “Tears in Rain” scene. When the Promethean machine meets his death with a moment of Shakespearean grace, it was Rutger Hauer’s improvised moment that all but cemented the piece into cinema’s collective unconsciousness.

It’s moment like these that every passionate filmmaker dreams of. When actors find their space, their moment and a talented crew captures and sometimes augments those moments through cinematography, editing and score. When it comes down to the director and his or her ability to spot and capture those moments, deftly shaping them rather than manipulating them. Sometimes you are left with magic. . .

But what strikes me just 12 years from Blade Runner’s imagined date is the significance of Roy Batty’s act. At the moment of his own imminent demise, a machine discovers the preciousness of life. It leaves me with the question, how long will it take humanity to discover the same thing, and will we make the choice in time?

* * * *

It has been announced (albeit very quietly) that Ridley Scott is in the process of completing a definitive edition of the film which will again be released theatrically, followed by a DVD “Ultimate Collection” release. Joanna Cassidy has indicated that she has even done a re-shoot of her famous death scene. Let’s hope that Blade Runner will finally receive its due. . .

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2007 10:01 pm

    Extraordinary how utterly different the movie is from Phil Dick’s original novel and yet both, flawed though they are, seem to come together to create one great gestalt that asks: what does it mean to be human? This question will only become more relevant as the future careers toward us and the lines between human, machine and transhuman become increasingly blurred. I’ve seen just about every version of “Blade Runner” out there–the original, the director’s cut…and now we are faced with even more add-ons and tweakings. Are these changes driven by aesthetic concerns or monetary? Wouldn’t Ridley Scott’s time (he’s getting to be pretty old) be better served conceiving and creating new projects, rather than constantly revisiting the past? In a similar vein, we’re seeing the original “Star Trek” series reworked, new special effects digitally added. But wasn’t the cheesiness of the original part of what drew us to it? By tampering with and doctoring the footage, we’re catering to tastes that insist the story’s not the thing, golly-gee-whiz-bang CGI effects are where it’s at. Leave the original vision intact! The worst offender must be Francis Ford Coppola. In an interview included in the “Apocalyse Now” special edition “dossier”, cinematographer Vittoria Storaro admitted than in the course of preparing the AWFUL “Redux” version of “Apocalypse”, the original master print of the movie was painstakingly taken apart to add in the superfluous scenes. That master is now irrevocably LOST. That tampering can only be considered a crime against cinema and Coppola and company should be mightily ashamed. Let’s hope Ridley Scott and his people don’t have something similar in mind for “Blade Runner”…

  2. June 5, 2007 8:41 pm

    I’ve not read “Do Androids. . .”. I guess it’s partly because of the image that I carry in my head when it comes to Blade Runner. Not a lack of curiosity, so perhaps sometime I will give it a try.

    When Ridley did the “Director’s Cut” it was not completed, believe it or not. He had a deadline which was approaching faster than the work was going, so even that final product was never as he had intended it.

    It’s my hope that what Ridley is doing WILL do the movie justice, and not degrade it like so many others have ended up doing. With Joanna Cassidy’s material, I have a feeling that they have re-shot her death scene which is clearly NOT her when she goes through the window. I’d read that they were adding footage where Zhora actually shoots at Deckard first. This however, I read as a joke tying into the whole “Greedo shoots first” bit.

    I also don’t think that Ridley will add a bunch of CG effects. It’s my sense (and hope) that it will be cleaning up stuff that never should have stayed in (cables in shots, etc.) and blurring a few matte lines here and there.

    I have to say if he gets this right, for me it’s as significant (possibly more so) as a “new” project, considering that I really haven’t been enamored by anything Ridley has done in the past 15 years, maybe more. He jumped his own shark when he did Hannibal, and Gladiator was fine, but it’s kind of sad when I think that the last thing that felt like a Ridley Scott film to me was Thelma and Louise.

    I do look forward to the definitive edition, but like you, I just hope he does the right thing.

    Thanks for stopping by, Cliff!

  3. June 5, 2007 10:00 pm

    The only possible movie I can think of that could be restored or improved by using the new CGI technology is the original “Jaws” (are you listening, Steve?). The scenes before we see the shark are terrific but the closeup shots in the final sequences with the mechanical shark are painful to watch (and were the very first time I saw the film, all those years ago). I have a deep aversion to the video game-like movies I see today, the shallowness of the characterizations. Then I remember the wonderful interplay between Scheider/Dreyfuss/Shaw in “Jaws”. The scene on the boat when they’re drunkenly comparing scars. That is some terrific acting. Good posting, look forward to more. And, yes, you should absolutely read DO ANDROIDS and Dick’s SCANNER DARKLY too. I read that Dick was totally unimpressed with Hampton Fancher’s original screenplay for “Blade Runner” but ecstatic when he read the David Peoples draft. Not surprising, since Peoples went on to a highly regarded screenwriting career. I’ve seen some interesting segments on the “Making of Blade Runner” documentary on YouTube as well.
    Enough for now.

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