The re-release of Ridley Scott’s personally supervised “final” cut of his future-noir gem Blade Runner, based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is another chance to savour its pure unhurried strangeness, beginning with that bizarre vista of 2019 LA, with four tall buildings mysteriously belching fire-plumes into the night like apocalyptic oil rigs. Harrison Ford is Deckard, an ex-cop pressurised by city authorities into resuming his work as a “blade runner”, a specialist assassin whose job is to track down and kill replicants – near-human android servants who have become disobedient. Four of these, led by Roy (Rutger Hauer), are effectively engaged in a covert Spartacist uprising, but it is Deckard’s unhappy fate to fall in love with one, the beautiful replicant Rachael, played with elegant, deadpan torpor by Sean Young. He is overwhelmed by the poignancy of false memories implanted in her brain, and perhaps by the replicants’ growing existential horror at being pre-programmed to die in just a few years’ time. “It’s too bad she can’t live,” Deckard is told, “… but then again, who does?”
Are the replicants, in their pain and rage, more in touch with the human condition than the humans? The eternal night of LA, taken over by Japanese corporations such as TDK, is eerily compelling: Douglas Trumbull’s design appeared to have modified JK Galbraith’s phrase about private affluence and public squalor and made it universal neon-lit corporate squalor – like Orwell’s Airstrip One. Thom Andersen’s 2003 essay-film Los Angeles Plays Itself superbly illuminated Scott’s use of the exotic Bradbury building in Los Angeles.
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