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last update 26.Jul.15
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Blade Runner: The Final Cut
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Ridley Scott
prd Michael Deeley
scr Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples
with Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong, Morgan Paull
ford and young
release US 25.Jun.82,
UK 9.Sep.82
82-07/US Ladd 1h57


Blade Runner 2019 (2017)

blade runner Ridley Scott's most fully formed movie is always welcome on the big screen, especially in his 2007 final cut. Over the years, Scott has made several movies that are powerful and/or spectacular, but he's never made another one that gets quite this deep beneath the skin, using mystery, emotion and atmosphere to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

In rain-soaked 2019 Los Angeles, Deckard (Ford) is a Blade Runner, a cop whose job is to track down replicants, human-like droids who are prohibited from coming to Earth. Working with Gaff (Olmos), he's chasing four escaped replicants who are on a bit of a rampage: Pris, Leon, Zhora (Hannah, James and Cassidy) and their ringleader Roy (Hauer). And then there's the inventor-mogul Tyrell (Turkel), whose assistant Rachael (Young) doesn't know she's a replicant. And Deckerd doesn't care, as he begins to fall for her, complicating his job exponentially.

All of this unfolds in a spectacular landscape of skyscrapers, floating cars and bustling marketplaces. There are comical touches in every scene, including absurd imagery, freaky noises and the constant drizzle that makes everything look like it's melting away. But the characters are what hold the attention, because we can see their weariness due to the mayhem around them. But they press on, doing their jobs and trying to work out who they are in the grand scheme of things.

Ford is superbly icy in the role, undermining his film noir detective with a bitter fragility that swells subtly when he's confronted with real emotion. Even if it's coming from a replicant. His encounters with Young are beautifully underplayed, shot with artful sensitivity and packed with layers of meaning. These tender scenes make the outrageous fights that much more intense, especially the shattering encounter with Cassidy's jaded stripper, the vicious attack from the acrobatic Hannah and the climactic vertiginous duel with the fiery Hauer.

What the Final Cut does is strip out the obvious framing of the noir mystery and focus everything back in on Deckard's internal journey, revealed through clever touches that are often subtle and sometimes extravagant (like his unicorn dream). With Vangelis' pulsing score, Jordan Cronenweth's vividly gloomy photography and the general drippy murkiness of Lawrence Paul's production design, this is a remarkably involving film that seems to worm its way right into our pores. Its vision of the future is both retro and cool, and eerily recognisable.

15 themes, violence, innuendo
revisited 5.Feb.15
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The Breakfast Club
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr John Hughes
prd John Hughes, Ned Tanen
with Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason, John Kapelos, Ron Dean, Tim Gamble, Mercedes Hall, Mary Christian, John Hughes
hall, sheedy, nelson, estevez and ringwald release US 15.Feb.85,
UK 5.Mar.85
reissue US 16.Mar.15,
UK 6.Apr.15
85/US Universal 1h37

5th Shadows Awards

The Breakfast Club It's hard to believe John Hughes' iconic teen movie is 30 years old, so this chance to revisit it is definitely welcome. It was an instant classic when it opened in 1985; I named it my favourite film of 1985 in just the second issue of Shadows on the Wall (26 Feb 1986), mainly because I found it so unnervingly easy to identify with all of the characters. Which of course is the whole point.

It's set over one Saturday in a high school library, where five disparate students have been given detention: thug John (Nelson), popular girl Claire (Ringwald), jock Andy (Estevez), nerd Brian (Hall) and oddball Allison (Sheedy). They're overseen by the cocky Principal Vernon (Gleeson), who assigns them to write an essay about themselves. After some clique-based bickering, they indulge in escalating acts of rebellion against Vernon, all while looking beneath the stereotypes to discover that they have more in common than they thought they did.

Yes, this is extremely constructed, so with most of the action taking place in one set it often feels more like a pointed stage play than a movie. But Hughes continually finds breathtaking honesty in the interaction between these formulaic characters, turning each type into a person with his or her own hopes and fears. And a couple of scenes crack out of the stagey set-up, including a slapstick montage as the kids elude Vernon in the labyrinthine hallways or get high and dance to some cathartic music.

Dear Mr Vernon,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are.
What do you care? You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed.
But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club

Performances are flawless, digging deep without completely losing the surfaces. Ringwald and Hall are the standouts, with strikingly messy characters who grapple extraordinarily with what this day means. Nelson's John is the most cartoonish, simply because his brash dialog has to provoke much of the action. But he also offers glimpses into John's dark soul along the way, eroding the bravado for a split second before regaining his pose.

Aside from the 1980s stylings, the film still feels eerily undated. Its commentary is truthful and relevant in a way most movies are afraid to be, partly because Hughes didn't constrain himself to a PG-13 rating or a tidy Hollywood ending. Aside from one uneven romantic touch, the story concludes on a nicely ambiguous note, acknowledging that these subgroups are too strong to break with one day in detention. But by confronting the reality, these five people will never be the same. And neither will movies about adolescence.

15 themes, language, sexuality
revisited 8.Apr.15
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54: The Director’s Cut
dir-scr Mark Christopher
prd Ira Deutchman, Richard N Gladstein, Dolly Hall
with Ryan Phillippe, Mike Myers, Salma Hayek, Breckin Meyer, Neve Campbell, Sela Ward, Sherry Stringfield, Ellen Albertini Dow, Heather Matarazzo, Mark Ruffalo, Jason Alexander, Daniel Lapaine
meyer and phillippe release US 28.Aug.98,
UK 22.Jan.99
reissue UK Mar.15 flare
98-15/US Miramax 1h46

bfi flare
54 On its original release, Miramax executives cut nearly 15 minutes of footage from this film, deleting all of the gay content in a misguided attempt to appeal to wider audiences. The result was a movie that made little sense since this also eliminated much of the character motivation and complexity. Writer-director Christopher has now restored that material in a director's cut. Some of these scenes are VHS quality, which gives the film an intriguing period touch. More importantly, this restored material adds a serious kick to the plot. It's a much better film now, more focussed on the central journey of Shane O'Shea (Phillippe). As a result, it's more resonant and makes a much more provocative comment on the time and place.

Shadows' review of the 1998 studio cut, from the Oct-Dec '98 issue (before star ratings):

    Set during the heyday of the late 1970s disco craze, 54 wraps the true story of Steve Rubell and his infamous Studio 54 in a fictional story about a young man's aspiration to make something of himself. It's the stuff of ... well, disco songs! And the film succeeds in briefly recapturing the positive vibe of that period in time when drugs and sex weren't dangerous and music encouraged you to reach for the stars. Unfortunately, there's something artificial that never lets it become a real story about real people.

    Shane (Phillippe) is a restless 19-year-old in New Jersey, just across the river from the promised land - ie, Manhattan. He's obsessed by soap star Julie Black (Campbell), a local girl who made it big and hangs out with the stars in Studio 54. So when he gets the chance, he ditches his family and sisters (one is played by Matarazzo). With his pin-up good looks, Shane is spotted by club owner Rubell (Myers), who hires him as a busboy. Fellow employees become his new family, most notably Greg (Meyer) and his wife (Hayek). And as he scales the heady heights to bartender, he's wined and dined by the rich and famous. But there's a shadow of corruption and drug abuse in the club, and we know it's only a matter of time before "paradise" comes to an end.

    Writer-director Christopher fills the film with great set-pieces and a structure that works both dramatically and visually. The scene in which Shane is tempted onto the dance floor by the sheer energy of the beat is terrific. Yet the film as a whole is thin and surprisingly devoid of insight. Despite good-looking, talented young actors, there's little they can do with characters that are so hastily defined and never get the chance to breathe. Only Myers injects depth into his character. Using physical nuance, he makes the slimy Rubell utterly fascinating ... and tragic. Perhaps the main problem lies in the difficulty of recreating all that glitz. Despite some star cameos (although not nearly enough), this cinematic Studio 54 looks a bit too much like any old nightclub. Black and white stills from the real disco are shown in the closing credits, and they generate more excitement than any colour, lights and glitter the film can muster.
15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
revisited 13.Mar.15
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Man With a Movie Camera
5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr-prd Dziga Vertov
with Mikhail Kaufman
Man With a Movie Camera release USSR 8.Jan.28,
US 12.May.29
restored UK 31.Jul.15
29/Soviet Union 1h08
Man With a Movie Camera Consistently rated as one of the 10 best films ever made, this 1929 experimental documentary gets a new life with a pristine digital restoration and a new score by Alloy Orchestra following instructions from the filmmaker (there's also a video release with a Michael Nyman score). Even today, this witty, revelatory movie is a bracingly inventive film that demonstrates styles of shooting and editing that are still ahead of their time.

Set out in six chapters, the film follows a cameraman (Kaufman) as he sets out to document scenes of life in Soviet cities (it was filmed over three years in Moscow, Kiev and Odessa). This includes watching the metropolis awake in the morning, as businesses crank up, public transport begins to bustle, factories churn and shops fill up. Then there are more social pursuits in pubs, theatres and sporting arenas. The cameraman risks his life to get these shots, from precariously balancing on a speeding car to crouching on a railroad track. But he's also seen as towering triumphantly over the landscape (or emerging from a glass of beer).

A collage without a narrative, the film is shot with techniques that are remarkably current, including astute use of hand-held camerawork and some blindingly quick editing. But what sets it apart is its playful tone, juxtaposing scenes in ways that suggest that Soviet society is a mindless machine while allowing other sequences to explode with the lively personalities of its people, such as a moment when half-naked women rub mud all over each other at the seaside.

The film also includes moments of birth and death, and the wrenching grief in between. Director Vertov claimed that his goal was to create a work of art that was purely cinematic, set apart from the standard films of the day, which all had theatrical or literary styles. He's using the "truly international language of cinema", and it's astonishing that the film speaks so loudly about aspects of life that we can recognise today.

This is a thrilling, often exhilarating film that in its brief running time not only manages to capture what it means to be human, but also what it means to make a movie. Every shot winks at the audience, revealing the camera or a lens, engaging in visual trickery by reversing footage or combining elements, and most importantly capturing both the rhythms of real life and the cameraman who documents it. And we know that there's another cameraman shooting this film too. This timeless masterpiece deserves to be seen on a big screen.

U themes, some grisliness and nudity
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