What I Enjoyed, July 2017

The film and literature highlights of the month, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and quite a bit of David Lynch.

July was a good month. It wasn’t too warm in Portland, and I spent most of my free time working on my film projects and reading. Here is what stood out for me in July.

Films

The NW Film Center’s David Lynch series continues, so I’ve mostly just been watching David Lynch films. I did watch Dunkirk, Okja, and Atomic Blonde this month, but neither of them really stood out to me. Here are the films that did:

Eraserhead

Eraserhead (1977) - Henry 2 - David Lynch

I got to see it in a theater, which was awesome. But the audience reaction was unexpected and strange.

Eraserhead was even better the second time around. It’s absurd and impressive.

The Elephant Man

I love the story of The Elephant Man and the story of friendship that is told. It’s a beautiful and moving film. Black and white treats it very well, and it has aged wonderfully.

It is interesting seeing Lynch work within the confines of a time period, linear narrative, and pre-existing script. I really do think he’s one of the only directors who could have pulled this film off.

The make-up, costuming, and settings are all superb.

I really like how focused the story is. A film that’s just over 2 hours that focuses on one story line, following John, feels so rare these days. It was refreshing to watch.

The pacing in the middle is poor, but it ultimately redeems itself in the end.

The 35mm print was in great shape, but the audio mix was rough. The dialogue by all characters was very straining to understand. I’d like to rewatch it with subtitles in the future.

The Elephant Man doesn’t rank in the upper echelon of Lynch films for me, but I truly did enjoy it.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I saw 2001 for the second time, and it rose to a new level for me. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack lately too. The classical music is a great fit.

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet Title

My sixth viewing of Blue Velvet really cements it as my favorite film. Within the first 10 minutes I got lost in the small, dreamy, American town of Lumberton again.

With some movies I can’t help but think when it’s going to end or when the next exciting thing is going to happen. But with Blue Velvet, by the time the credits roll, I can’t believe two hours have passed.

This time around I really appreciate Alan Splet’s sound work. Like a lot of early Lynch works, it totally sets the mood. I’m convinced Alan Splet was a master of sound.

Also, I’m pretty sure Angelo is playing piano at The Slow Club. It’s the little things with Lynch I appreciate on subsequent viewings.

I really love this film.

Books

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

My Lesbian Experience with Lonliness Cover

A very relatable memoir-style manga that tells the story of a young woman overcoming her anxieties and discovering her sexuality. It handles depression, dealing with family, anxiety, and sexuality in an approachable but still impactful way, especially with the aid of the visuals. Very much worth reading.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick

Do Androids Cover

I spent the second half of July mostly reading this book, the source material for the film Blade Runner. What a pleasant surprise. PKD’s writing is refreshingly simple and shows a lot of restraint for a sci-fi novel. I love that it takes place over a single day, and that it’s not an epic in length. The dust-ridden San Francisco is more relatable than the chromatic shine and wonder of most sci-fi that I’ve read. The biggest surprise is how well this stands on its own compared to Blade Runner. While they share similar concepts and themes, they have distinct characteristics that I appreciate.

The introduction of the word kipple may just be my favorite part.

Looking Ahead Toward August

August should be a good month. I have some travel coming up, which is a great time to watch movies and read. There will be more David Lynch as the series continues. I started reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace after finishing Do Androids…?, so I imagine that will take up most of my time since it is quite long. I’ve been enjoying it so far, but I wanted to read a significant portion of it before writing about it.

I Finally Watched Blade Runner

Thoughts on the film Blade Runner after truly seeing it for the first time.

When I was a freshman in college I had a professor that was very into Phillip K. Dick. We read a collection of his short stories and then watched Blade Runner. Strangely enough we didn’t read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We watched the film over the course of three class periods on a small CRT monitor with crappy speakers. I could barely make out the dialog. I had no clue what was going on. My most vivid memory is of Pris acrobatically putting Deckard’s head into a scissor lock. At the time and in the proceeding years until now, I didn’t get what all of the hubbub was about. People hailed it as the classic science fiction film. It’s historic. But to me, it was just that film I watched in class and didn’t really understand.

With the release of the visually impressive first teaser for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel set 30 years later, I felt like the film deserved a second chance. Wow, am I glad I gave it one.

Note: there are a few light spoilers below.

The settings throughout the film feel so real. They’re gritty and industrial, not sterile and modern like so many futuristic depictions. In a lot of ways, the city of L.A. in the film feels like its own character. It’s the kind of world that I want to spend more time in.

The predicted technologies, while off in some ways, still feel futuristic today. Little touches like the apartment lights automatically turning on in Deckard’s apartment when he walked into a room had me wondering, Why don’t the lights in my apartment work like that? Speaking of lighting, it is done so well in Blade Runner. It sets the mood and completely fits with the visual design throughout the movie.

The contained story works really well. I think the scope of it leaves enough to the imagination and doesn’t squander itself. I loved the ambiguous ending. It’s abstract and mysterious enough to make one wonder what it all means. Those kinds of endings keep the mystery alive, which I think keeps something churning in one’s mind after it ends.

The “Tears in Rain” speech at the end is very well known, and I found it to be very impactful. It gave me goosebumps. It’s a great performance. I think all of the actors did a great job.

The only think I didn’t really care for was Deckard’s romance with Rachael. It was forced, literally and figuratively. It seemed there was a checkbox for “add romance scene.” Everything else with Rachael, the Voight-Kampff test and Deckard conversation with her about how she’s a replicant, made sense to me. But the way the romance progressed felt like a stretch.

One of, if not the, most lasting parts of the movie for me has been the music. It’s incredible. I bought the soundtrack and haven’t stopped listening. I really enjoy writing while listening to it. It really puts me in a certain place. A dark and dreamy futuristic place.

Since finishing the film, I wanted to enjoy some stories with a similar atmosphere, so I started reading the manga BLAME! It seemingly draws some inspiration from Blade Runner and other sci-fi, and I am enjoying it. The art style is pretty unique. Blade Runner also has me excited to watch Akira again. They both nail the atmosphere of the futuristic cities. The world needs some more grit and neon in it.

I would say, with little doubt in my mind, that Blade Runner is now one of my favorite films. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again soon.


Additional Notes

  • I watched The Final Cut version.
  • I bought the Blade Runner Trilogy soundtrack by Vangelis, which has two discs of music from the film and one of original music inspired by the film. I highly recommend it.
  • I watched Blade Runner on an iPad, although it seems like the kind of film that would be even better on the big screen in a theater. Fingers crossed I get the chance one day.