Monday, October 15, 2007
Things You People Wouldn't Believe
When I was 12 years old I enlisted, of all people, my grandmother to drive me to a theater in Miami and sit with me while I excitedly took in a movie which would eventually be considered a masterpiece: Blade Runner.
The irony of course is that, as with films such as 2001, Psycho and Citizen Kane, Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi landmark was at first met by reviews that could at best be described as lukewarm. Most critics admired its abundance of style, but panned the movie overall, claiming that it was slow, pretentious and downright silly. It would be years before Blade Runner's cyberpunk aesthetic and astonishingly prescient themes of globalization and genetic engineering -- as well as its masterful production design by Syd Mead and Laurence Paull -- were heralded as brilliant and groundbreaking.
When I was 12 however, I paid little attention to the opinions of critics; I allowed Blade Runner to wash over me, giving myself to its world completely and, as such, leaving the theater believing that I'd just seen something bordering on genius.
10 years after its brief theatrical run, Ridley Scott released a special "Director's Cut" DVD, which removed both the blasphemic narration track -- designed to aid the more obtuse within the audience and essentially provide clarity to a storyline which was never intended to be completely concrete -- and the studio-approved "happy ending," while adding a dream sequence, the aim of which was to suggest that Harrison Ford's character, Rick Deckard, may himself be a "Replicant."
I own that DVD and have watched it more than a few times, even asking my wife to sit through it recently -- as it's the kind of film that she, despite her excellent taste, might have otherwise overlooked. Her thoughts after viewing it echoed mine -- that even with 25 years of advances in special effects and camera-work, the movie has a beauty and power that defies antiquation -- that it's as good now as it likely was at the time of its release.
Except that it's not.
It's actually better.
I now know this because last week, on a cold and rainy day here in New York City, I grabbed a cab to the legendary Ziegfeld theater in Midtown and relived a part of my childhood by seeing a new cut -- the supposed "Final Cut" -- of Blade Runner on the big screen.
The new edition adds little in the way of unseen footage -- although a scene in which Replicant leader Roy Batty kills his maker, Dr. Tyrell, is considerably more gruesome -- but the cleaned-up and remastered print is pristine, allowing the audience to enter into the world that Scott created like never before. The already lush production now seems exquisite and flawless; the effects as gorgeous today as they were all those years ago; the soundtrack by Vangelis, moving in a way that's nothing short of otherworldly.
Once again, I fell completely under the film's spell.
This time though, it was the story that affected me most. Given the recent difficulties in my personal life, the concept of one man desperately craving more time, and another who may eventually be forced to face the reality of his very nature rang especially true for me. There's been considerable debate throughout the years as to whether or not Deckard is, in fact, the very enemy he's chasing. He is. The new version, with its crystal-clear print, allows the audience to see unequivocally his eyes glowing orange for a brief second. This revelation lends an extra sense of satisfaction to Tyrell's already smug smirk when he meets Deckard, supposedly for the first time, earlier in the film.
Deckard has no idea who and what he really is, therefore he has no idea that his time may be running out -- as Replicants weren't built to last.
His nemesis meanwhile, Batty, is well aware of what he is; he's tortured by it. He knows that his life will soon be over and he can't come to terms with it. No amount of prosaicism will convince him that his end is something to embrace or even to celebrate. Tyrell attempts to console him with platitudes: "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long," he says -- as if this will provide comfort to a dying man.
The film ends in an unexpected way, with a startlingly quiet moment between Deckard and Batty. It's during this scene that Batty -- resigned to his fate -- delivers a sad monologue recalling all that he's seen in his all-too-short lifetime.
"All those moments will be lost in time -- like tears in rain," he says.
A man longing for more time -- for life; for love; for redemption -- speaking to a man who's unaware of his true identity, and unaware that he may one day face the same fate.
It's the definition of tragedy.
Aren't You the "Good" Man?
In the days following my 20-year high school reunion, held a few weeks ago (Life's What You've Made It/10.2.07), my old friend Suzy and I continued to reconnect. Once again, I was reminded just how well she understands me, even now, after all this time. It's somewhat startling to realize that although experience, success, loss and time in general may change a person, somewhere buried under all those layers of life is still the foundation -- that earliest and most lasting incarnation. Know someone during those formative years and you'll know him or her for life.
My old friend read through the virtual pages of this site -- my little experiment -- and listened to me talk about the painful difficulties now facing me in my personal life; she paid close attention and responded not only with love and kindness, but with surprisingly intuitive advice and several pertinent questions for me to answer, not for her but for myself.
"What's your identity? Who are you?" she asked during one phone conversation. "Do you even know?"
"What do you mean?"
"I read the blog. I see what you've created there -- the image you've created -- but is that how you really see yourself?"
I said nothing, unsure how to respond. She continued.
"I mean, do you consider yourself an ex-heroin addict, an asshole smart-ass, damaged beyond repair, someone who's defined by his past? Because that's what it sounds like."
"I guess I'm not really sure."
"You don't deserve to torture yourself like this. You've made some mistakes -- taken your knocks -- and you've definitely paid for all of it. You've done your time -- let it go."
She was -- she is -- absolutely right.
So who am I really?
I'm not what everyone thinks, nor what anyone would suspect. I can occasionally offend, but my intentions are never to do outright harm. I'm secretly an idealist and believe that good can overcome evil, we just need to try harder. I love with everything inside of me, and sometimes that's to my own demise. I've lied on more than one occasion throughout my lifetime, mostly to keep the peace, but I realize that that's not a valid excuse and am both genuinely sorry for my actions and am working hard to change the behavior which led to them. I've endured life experiences which would seem a dream to some and a nightmare to others -- regardless, they've made me who I am today, and that's not so bad. I can find more beauty and passion stepping outside my front door than some find in their entire lives; this has made the world wondrous to me, but also caused me excruciating grief. I admit that I've spent a good portion of my life looking for something "more," and am only now learning the pure joy of quiet contentment. I'm tired of upheaval. I believe in family. I love my mother and father and understand that without them, I likely would've been dead a long time ago. I'm not aloof as much as I am shy -- a situation that's led me to be, as trite as this sounds, sorely misunderstood. I believe that love can last, despite so much proof to the contrary. I believe that, yes, there's something bigger out there -- although I also believe that no religion is even close to understanding it. I simply believe -- and will fight for those beliefs. I'm often an exposed nerve. I'm grateful to those who care about me and my well-being. I accept that I haven't always done the right thing, but likewise I've paid enough penance for my sins to where I can finally forgive myself. I forgive others far more easily. I'm not perfect and never will be, which gives me something in common with every other human being on the planet. I can find humor in just about anything. I'm occasionally high-strung and have a quick temper, a situation I'm working harder on than I ever have before to rectify. I know my faults better than most. I'm not always easy to live with, but I hope that the immense benefits are worth the risks. I'm learning to finally let go.
I've been wrong all this time: I don't, in fact, want to be normal.
I am normal.
An Itch You Can't Scratch
The morning after I went to see Blade Runner, I did some running of my own.
I pulled on sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect me from the cold and headed out to run around the reservoir in Central Park. The city was beautiful -- with heavy, low clouds severing the tops of the buildings and absorbing the usual cacophony, and a chilly mist being whipped along the jogging path by a light wind. I pushed myself hard. I listened to the hypnotic slap of my feet into the soft mud and allowed the thoughts I'd tried to contain for so long to break free and swirl around my consciousness. I let the memories of my time with Jayne come.
After awhile, the path ahead of me began to blur. The cold sting of water on my cheeks became warm. I realized that I was crying.
I cried for a candle that burned twice as bright, and not nearly as long.
I cried for all those moments that will be lost in time.
Like tears in rain.