Monday, October 15, 2007

Things You People Wouldn't Believe

More Life

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.


keenEddie said...

For me, lately, the big questions have been, "Where do I come from? Where am I going?

How long have I got?"

I want answers.

btw, 'Blade Runner' is my favorite film. Ever. I was lucky enough to see it when it was released in the theaters, and have seen it many times since (both with and without narration). I've always thought that there had to be more to Deckard (and the story, overall), given that he sprung from the mind of Philip K. Dick and was brought to life on the screen by Scott.

So is the film saying that, in the Deckard's world, it's a crime to know who you are, where you're going and how long you have?

In today's "modern" society of the work-consume-crave-gimme treadmill, how close is the film's theme to reality and why does it seem like sometimes it takes the world a little while to catch up to the imagination of PKD?

Calitri said...

If one of man's duties as he walks through life is to learn from his past, consider it checked off your list.

I'm no psychiatrist, but the fact that you can analyze and process your past, facing all the hurt, fear, love , joy and everything in between can only mean that you've at least been honest with yourself and dealt with it in some way. Letting go is something that can't happen without understanding, which makes me think your well on your way. Of course, what do I know? I'm basing everything on the work you've chosen to share in your experiment. But still, my two sense.

Our past makes us who we are but it doesn't define who we'll be.

On a lighter and slightly related note, in two weeks I'll be doing a little running of my own. 26.2 miles of a little running in fact at the Marine Corp Marathon in DC. I may not be able to check the "dealing with my speckled past" box completely yet but at least I'll be able to cross something off my personal list.

Later, buddy.

girl with curious hair said...

Thank God for friends who know us and find us when we need them.

Be as kind to yourself as you try to be to those you love. The alternative doesn't just hurt you, and it's exhausting.

J.L.Jones said...

The way you talk of Blade Runner in such a profound way. It's never something I've considered like that. Thank you, Chez.

Anonymous said...

BF and i are going through similar process, been a rough month. looks like our respective divorces will be signed and sealed in the near future. means we have to decide if we are actually going somewhere or if this was "pending all else" fling. last night's talk: he's worried about his feelings for me. i'm worried about feeling, period. tears in the starlight, last night. he reads my posts now and then to see what i'm thinking. as does my [soon to be officially] ex-spouse. and they each cry, wondering if the hurt i express was theirs. but i look up at the sky, smile. no clouds, no rain. just a clear night in central florida. more beauty than the mind can wrap itself around. and i say to the BF, leaning against him in the parking lot, "c'mon. let's go right to the makeup sex and skip the fight" "don't want to fight with you. don't want to make you sad."
"no tears tonight, mon ami. too many stars. sky is already full of tears. so none tonight"

it's good to feel, chez. alien but good.

Chez said...

I'm envious of both your situation and your incredible way with words.

Good luck to you.

lakelady said...

once again your clarity and your direct honesty have touched me in places most writing rarely reaches. And once again I just want to say thank you and please keep going.

oh, and after reading this entry I'm thinking you might want to drop the "misanthropic" from your profile description. Keep the pain-in-the-ass part though. Just a thought :)

Anonymous said...

envious of me? oh sweets, you should read the things that scare the hell out of both my attorney AND my therapist!!!
and as mae west says, goodness has NOTHING to do with it...

one day we MUST compare x-rays.

Manny said...

I'm pretty sure you're an asshole, but I don't think you're damaged beyond repair. However, if I see that God damned nylon belt hanging past your shirt again...