Blade Runner Changed my Life
Sitting in the New Yorker Theater on 88th street and Broadway, having been intrigued and fascinated by the long-running previews, I saw Blade Runner for the first time. I was just out of eighth grade, about to move on to high school, and trying to hold on to a middle-school friendship with a girl named Angela. We'd met to see Ridley Scott's new movie with Harrison Ford. Earlier in the summer, I'd seen 70mm booming previews in the giant Loews' Theaters around Manhattan. My head was still filled with dark-skied images of a dark urban future mixed with muted 1940's radio music. Harrison Ford was a hard-boiled detective in an ever-raining city, dwarfed by several-hundred-story spacescrapers and color TV billboards, with musical accompaniment by the Ink Spots.
I thought the film was quite a failure. There were several voiceovers and explanations in dialogue that insulted the viewers' intelligence, and a few last-minute, fear-driven decisions to lighten the touch and the message of the story. Visually, it was a masterpiece, but I would not have been drawn back to the film by its cinematography alone.
Although my grades at the time were still in their pre-highschool mediocrity, and I had only just started that year to read books for pleasure, I was beginning to fancy myself a young intellectual of sorts. I'd grown up assuming my family had money and was just keeping it from me. I had only ever had one torn blazer to wear to school with my plastic clip-on tie and sneakers, but how many kids have the good fortune to attend private school in the first place? I resented not having the money for better clothes, but didn't think I was poor. The five dollars I could never get f...
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.... The voice-overs and last-minute explanations I've come to ignore, and I watch the film with a nostalgic fondness and respect. Its strongest effect upon me was certainly philosophical, but I can see other influences as well. My general aesthetic is high-tech, dark and ominous.
I've come to think of the anachronistic, multi-cultural and sensuous, post-Information Age world of Ridley Scott and Cyberpunk as a rich playground for the imagination. Granted, this may all seem old-hat and backwards to my 21st-century students when I finally become a professor in a liberal philosophy department somewhere, but I'll keep my finger on the pulse of future philosophy and questions of mind and sentience, long after the science fiction scenarios of my youth have either become the familiar background of a new generation or the cynical prophecy of a past century.
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