Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Michelangelo Antonioni's last entry in his "ennui trilogy" is perhaps his best directed effort in the group. It contains the fullest exemplification of his "follow-cam."

I will draw a comparison between video-game camera angles, and Antonioni's cinematic technique, likely causing the entirety of the cinematic intelligentsia to furiously roll in their graves. Nevertheless, I think the point relevant.

In a third-person video game, the camera hovers behind the protagonist. There is a very obvious, fundamentally practical reason for this - as players controlling the on-screen character, we need to see the environment ahead. If the camera showed us the protagonist's face, we would not get a proper view of the video game world, incapacitating our ability to travel within it.

The concept of 'traveling' is key here, because characters in an Antonioni film do just that: they travel. Therefore, the movie camera acts like the video game camera described above - it hovers behind the characters, and so shows us where they are going. This makes viewers powerfully aware of the characters' surroundings.

When Monica Vitti, who plays Vittoria, walks past streets and parks, our focus is almost exclusively on the scenery about her - we often cannot see her expression, so she does not hold as much presence. This is quite effective in consideration of the film's thematic and narrative goals - as Vittoria tries to search for meaning in the environment that she inhabits, we are witness to the process of her search. Indeed, we search alongside her. She looks and gazes at her milieu, and we do so as well, thanks to the camera work, which points out attention outward, rather than inwards, towards Vittoria herself. If we identify with the protagonist of L'Eclisse, it is because Antonioni includes us in the actions of his main character.

But the film's cinematic wonder also lies at the level of staging - there is a unique, exciting, and constant interplay between background and foreground. This is particularly noticeable in the long stock market sequences, but can also be found during the street scenes. Vittoria, and her lover, Piero (an energetic Alain Delon), at times seem to disappear behind the onrush of people. Yet they resurface, time and again, from the mass of pedestrians and brokers, to regain their center stage amidst the camera-frame.

This could be read several ways - the characters are either being consumed by society, detaching themselves from society, or both.

It is as if the two protagonists are in danger of being suffocated by people, and to survive, they have to leave elsewhere, where they can emerge as individuals. This might explain why their growing affection for each other blooms while they are alone - most all the scenes of them together, supposedly in love, occur while they are in solitude.

Following this theory, we arrive at the ending. If Piero and Vittoria have been trying to leave the grasp of the masses, the conclusion marks their defeat, for we no longer see them, the individuals, but the coming and going of the random people that have been threatening to destroy them all along.

That said, though the above may be a true reading for Vittoria, it may not be so much for Piero, for he does not seem that eager to depart from society's sway - in fact, he's very much a willful participant of the culture he inhabits. He even says that he enjoys his job and place in the world. It is Vittoria who is dissatisfied, and who most clearly wants to leave everything, and discover some sort of new meaning through which to re-define herself.

This changes our previous thematic construct. In this second reading, Vittoria is trying to leave the grasp of the masses, and Piero is the man who drags her down.

It is clear that she does not agree with his incredibly materialistic perspective - when a drunk man steals, and then crashes, his car, he worries more for the car, than for the dead man, and she is evidently disgusted by this. They have two completely differing ideologies. But Vittoria tags along with Piero anyhow - maybe she is giving up her search for greater self-definition.

In that case, the ending marks only her defeat.

She has been trying to make herself into a discernible individual. But in the end, we see, not her, but a plurality of unknown people. Society has taken over the movie. The individual has been lost in the tumult.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Georg Wilhelm Pabst's film is essentially a propaganda piece - though the ideals being expressed are so undeniably wholesome and positive, that it's difficult to formulate much of a criticism against it.

The plot is as follows. When French miners are trapped under a collapsed mine, their German colleagues cross-over to help them, breaking a few international laws in the process, but, nevertheless, saving the lives of several men who, as is mentioned time and again, "have wives and children" that want to see them return.

Kameradschaft is based on the real 1906 Courrieres mining disaster, although crucial details were changed to better fit the movie's larger themes. For instance, the date of the events was altered to that of the film's release, which is to say, during the aftermath of World War I. Additionally, the location was moved to the Franco-German border - a mining town on each side - so that the frictions between the two nations, and their subsequent unification under the cause of human life, could all be emphasized.

The movie obviously intends to be a parable for the fraternity of all mankind, regardless of nationality. It divides itself in two distinct parts, which could be titled, 'separation' and 'consolidation.' The former section, which comprises a good half of the film, deals with the many ways in which the two neighboring mining groups demarcate their national differences. There's a stellar scene at a French bar, where a German worker become insulted all too easily when a girl kindly refuses his offer to dance. He assumes, with disquieting ease, that he is being discriminated upon based on his country of origin. It's a nice moment, because it demonstrates how volatile tensions truly are - how easy it is for the characters to become defensive at the slightest provocation.

There's also a 'separation' of another kind - not in terms of nationality, but in terms of lifestyle. A young girl decides to leave her mining town, predicting, with foresight, the fragility and ultimate deterioration of the mining life. She will leave for the city, to make something new of herself, and break away from her family's stock. So off she goes, on a train to Paris.

But then, something happens, and she's forced to return to her town, just as she was about to leave. An explosion - the fire that had been brewing for days within the mines, has suddenly broken out, leaving some of her loved ones trapped underground.

Thus begins the latter section, 'consolidation,' or 'unification.' The girl who was about to separate herself from the town, becomes united with it again, as a result of the disaster. And, most importantly, the Germans who so despised the French, now leave in their rescue, motivated by the stirring arguments of one particular worker, a man with a wife and a young kid.

There is a clear juxtaposition, then, between the girl's life, and the relationship between the two nations. In both instances, there's a drifting apart, and then a melding together. It seems like Pabst is getting at the interconnections between personal realities and national realities, and the ways in which both coincide, or are both influenced by the same occasions.

For the rest of the film, we have poignant moments of human fear and bravery - the wife of the particular worker bids him adieu as he goes on his rescue mission; a delirious French miner, upon sighting a German rescue man, suddenly believes he's back in World War I; German miners continuously risk their lives for the sake of others.

It's all certainly moving, although at times, things become altogether much too blunt. Consider the embarrassing zooming close-up of the Frenchman and the German shaking hands - the scene is shouting at you, communicating ideas long since made clear. The same happens with an earlier strip of dialogue, concerning the superiority of German beer. We already know the Germans, at this point in plot, think little of their French counterparts. Was it necessary to reinforce the point?

Kameradschaft also lacks any considerably deep characters - but that is more or less forgivable given the film's intentions to portray the communal, rather than the personal, experience. In this way, then, the film has plenty in common with classics such as Battleship Potemkin, and successors, such as The Battle of Algiers. Though the objectives of each of these works are quite disparate, they all strive to provide a broad perspective, never really limiting their focus to a specific individual for very long. Their shared central character could then be said to be the collective - the movements of the group stand in for the feelings of the singular protagonist that usually dominates a regular film story. Thus, some may find themselves at a lost to care for the happenings on the screen. But others, such as myself, may find much of interest in the combination of the many - the exploration of how multitudes can act upon a single thread of thought or intention.

This film is, to be sure, not as good as either Eisenstein's or Pontercorvo's. It has none of the complexity of the latter, nor the focus of the former, and it's excessively obvious at turns. Yet it still has a taste, an inkling, for scope and size - an understanding of how important a tragedy like this becomes to those who are nearby and who can, therefore, theoretically affect the situation for the better, in some way, however minor. So, whatever its faults, the film remains a success, because the viewer is swept up in the moment - not just in the kinetic sense, where we find ourselves excited, but also in the emotional sense, where we begin to know the consequences of what we're witnessing, comprehending the ripples that the depicted events will have on the characters, and on their milieu.

That is, we begin to perceive the before-and-after repercussions, in all their variety. We don't get stuck in the present day of the narrative. The film's simplicity means that these insights are not exactly profound - but those insights are still there. At any rate, it's enough to make of this film something more than a museum piece. Kameradschaft, as a cinematic artifact, is still alive.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel's biopic of Jean-Dominique Bauby is a risky film. It gambles its success almost entirely on the idea that it can provide an emotional effect.

This fact would not be that remarkable if we were talking about a traditional piece of cinema, shot in the conventional manner. Consider Penny Marshall's Awakenings. Or George Miller's Lorenzo's Oil. These movies are also about diseases and/or health problems, and they, too, strive to pluck the heartstrings of audience members - the latter film in particular. But the difference is that both these films are cinematically dull. They are filmed almost clinically, in a manner that is distilled of creativity. Neither film is, by any means, bad. Yet they are not really worth discussing, because their only aim is to make you feel sad or excited, and beyond this feeling there is nothing. Not even the methods these films use in their quest to emote are intriguing.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has much more in mind than just telling a story or relating true events as they occurred. You can read a book to learn facts. Cinema isn't about that. What Schnabel wants to do, then, is to make you feel like his protagonist. There is a distinction to be made, here, between feeling an emotion while watching a movie, and feeling the emotion felt by the character on-screen. In Awakenings, as Leonard Lowe returns to his former catatonic state, we certainly feel something; perhaps a bit of pity, mixed with melancholy and - if we were really hoping his condition would improve - anger. But we can't really say we feel like Leonard, though we might feel for him. There's still a separation between our perception of the situation, and the character's perception.

It is that separation which Schnabel tries to destroy in his film. Bauby, a successful editor working for Elle magazine, suffers a stroke one day, driving along the countryside with his son. When he awakes, he is completely paralyzed, except for his left eye. This could have been the subject matter for some morose weepy. Instead, what we get, is this. A stylistic wonder, where half the scenes occur directly through the point-of-view of Bauby's left eye. We see what he sees. When he blinks, the screen turns black; when his eyes glaze over, the screen seems to turn blurry; when he moves his eyelids, the camera moves; and when he focuses his attention on a person or place, the camera likewise focuses.

It's a fairly interesting aesthetic choice, and Schnabel knows how to make good use of his visual premise. During the early scenes of the film, his protagonist is, understandably, confused, depressed, nihilistic, fatalistic, and suicidal. Bauby doesn't want to live - not like this. These first moments are filmed almost entirely through his left eye. We, the audience members, are possessed by claustrophobia, since it's not customary for a movie to restrict our understanding of the spatial dynamic of the scene. We are in tune with Bauby himself. He's not just suffering from locked-in syndrome (the name of his affliction) - he is also psychologically locked in onto himself. He is subdued by the state of things.

As the movie progresses, however, he begins to use his imagination to escape the claustrophobia of his paralysis. He begins "writing" a novel, utilizing a unique blink-based system. He begins to free himself, if at least mentally - accepting the help of his nurse, who, earlier, had expressed her disappointment at Bauby's blink-stated wish to die. As these developments occur, Schnabel begins to leave the strict confines of the protagonist's eye, showing us scenes in a more "conventional" manner, in third-person view. As the character leaves his claustrophobia, we leave ours. It's a magnificent correlation of shared moods.

The movie continually plays with this correlation - getting us to gain an intimate comprehension of the protagonist's dilemma. There's the little moments, like when a hospital worker turns off the television in Bauby's room, just when his soccer team was about to score a goal. Or the humorous aside, where he looks at the fly that has landed on his nose, and he wonders how he can manage to get rid of it, musing dryly: "Olympic sports have nothing on this." He has lost all control of his surroundings, and we are witness to the tiny ways in which this loss makes itself evident. In a way, it is minuscule details like the ones above that give us the best exemplifications of Bauby's plight - we come to realize how profound the change that has befallen his life truly is, through all the utterly stupid, inane little complications that once were not there.

Getting back to the original thesis, the film is risky, because its power rests with its capacity to lure audience members into taking the trip along with Bauby. That is, Awakenings kept people at a distance. Nobody is going to be bewildered by it. The movie goes straight for the heart, with a simple style that is nearly unnoticeable and easy to digest. But The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a more aggressive piece of film-making - it goes for the heart as well, but it does so violently. You're either in for the entire whirling ride, or you're out. You can't be an impassive spectator who occasionally peeks inside to get a taste. You have to be, almost, a participant. When you see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, you're not watching somebody else, but learning how it is to be somebody else.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Léolo is a unique comedy; replete with elements of tragedy and the grotesque, and filmed with a sense of energy and discovery. There's a gleeful feeling at work here. A taste for invention and the unexpected; a need to show images that haven't been conceived before.

But there is also something else. A resentment. A well of melancholy. A desperation. The humor is always slant. It's funny, but its approach is peculiar. You're clearly supposed to laugh, but what's that beneath the joke? Is that supposed to be funny as well? Or is it supposed to be painful? Or both?

Director Jean-Claude Lauzon doesn't answer these questions for us. His film balances all sorts of tones and feelings, and our emotions vary wildly from scene to scene - or even within a scene - and yet he never gives us concrete footing on which to base our opinion of his work. No. He would rather make us fly. And he achieves this.

The early scenes set the mood; young Léolo grows up while the narrator's voice reads from Léolo's journal. Ostensibly, the narrator is Léolo, but it might also be the old man who finds the boy's discarded journal pages, or perhaps even the director himself. It's never made clear.

At any rate, our protagonist has to contend with all sorts of odd-ball problems. From a grandpa who tries to drown him, to a mother who demands he take daily shits under her supervision (and encouragement). The rest of his family is just as strange. Most of them are, in fact, clinically insane. Léolo enlists the help of one of his sisters, whom he refers to as a sort of Queen. She takes shits for him, and then he dumps those shits into the toilet, in the hopes of convincing his father that they're his shits. Daily ejection of excrement is an important matter in Léolo's household.

Then there's his brother. He gets picked on by some cocky fellow, and so he spends the rest of the movie working out and building his muscles. Later on in the film, he meets with the cocky fellow again, but all of his newfound muscles are for naught. He still gets beat up. Léolo tries to console him, but it's of no use. It's a powerful moment because of how quietly true it is. Fear is internal. Whatever external changes you exert upon yourself are irrelevant, if inside you're still the same person, with the same anxieties and worries.

When not dealing with his family, Léolo fantasizes about his neighbor - a pretty older girl named Bianca - and the land of Italy. He finds both woman and country linked in his imagination, and his musings are so elaborate, that he begins to believe that he's Italian himself. According to his theory, an Italian man, nine months prior to his birth, masturbated on a batch of tomatoes, which were promptly shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, and placed on display on a market, where his mother fell on top of the batch, and accidentally had one of the contaminated tomatoes stuck up her cunt.

Seem indecent? Consider what happens to Bianca. She gets involved with Léolo's grandfather, providing favors for the man, undressing herself for his viewing pleasure, and agreeing to cut his nails with her teeth. Léolo is witness to this, and he is confused as to whether he should revel in the girl's nudity, or become disgusted at his grandfather's lecherousness. Ultimately, he settles on both; he wanks it at the sight of the girl, and then tries to murder his grandfather.

All of this probably sounds horrible. And yet it isn't. Roger Ebert, writing his review of the film for inclusion into his Great Movies archive, wrote, after describing parts of the plot, as I have above, "If the movie sounds depraved and depressing to you, it is because I have failed to convey the deep amusement and even love that Lauzon conveys in his material."

I think he got at something there; this is not a movie you can successfully describe. On paper, it sounds absolutely disgusting. I mean, how can attempted murder be funny? Or pedophilia? Or insanity? But it is funny. And, not just that, but it's also humane. You care for these unlikely characters. You understand that they're not that weird or crazy; they're just human beings, trying to deal with problems - internal and external - and mostly failing. That is to say, they're like every one of us.

Léolo has his own challenges to affront. To maintain his sanity, he must dream. But what happens when your dreams start falling to disillusion? When your imaginary romance with the girl next door starts to appear more distant? When the brother you admired for his supposed strength, is suddenly revealed to be about as weak as a dove?

When you dream of open spaces, wind-swept hills, and sunny Mediterranean towns - and all you get in return are claustrophobic indoor spaces and the glares of intimidating teenagers. What happens?

The film, ultimately, seems to be an ode to the rejuvenating and inspiring power of fiction. To dream is to perchance escape otherwise unendurable realities. But perhaps fiction is not enough; you also need an environment receptive to your fancies. An environment which encourages imagination, rather than attempts to stifle it.

There's a character here that could have provided Léolo with said environment. It's the old man, who reads Léolo's journal by candlelight. Had he had more contact with the protagonist, perhaps something great could have happened. But it wasn't to be. They get together, but not too much. The old man most likely did not know who desperately Léolo needed somebody like him.

But what can you do? You can't ever know how important you could have been to a person.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

La Formula Secreta (The Secret Formula, 1965)

This is not an easy film; it's obscure, relatively unknown, and practically impenetrable at first glance. Director Rubén Gámez would go on to make only one more film after this one, and, after seeing this odd, surrealist, confounding opera prima, some may find this fact to be a blessing upon mankind. But I would disagree.

La Formula Secreta is fascinating. It confuses, angers, frustrates, and delights, usually during the same frame. It recalls both the dreamscapes of An Andalusian Dog, and the montage techniques of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. It is virtually wordless, save for a poem by author Juan Rulfo, and some other smatterings of cryptic narration here and there. There's no story to speak of, and even the individual fragments don't appear to make much sense, which differentiates this movie from something like Tarkovsky's The Mirror, in which the unifying plot may be murky, but the separate fragments are easy-to-follow.

Consider the first scene in the movie; the camera's doing circles around the Zócalo, and on the ground, we see the shadow of a bird - which, I might add, is not exactly convincing. So what does this image mean? Perhaps it has something to do with flying, and being free. But this particular bird keeps doing circles very close to the ground, never really taking off. Is the point, then, to show this animal as trapped, unable to leave its place?

The movie then goes on to portray the lives of several people who are embroiled by their surroundings and/or lifestyles. This suggests that The Secret Formula is about being chained to a state of misery, like the bird that can't rise into the air. Certainly, the next few segments seem to revolve around this theme.

We see a man assembling bags atop a truck. He finds a woman on the ground, and drags her to the truck too. Then he jumps on top of the bags himself, besides the woman. The truck starts going through the freeway. The woman wakes up, and in a matter of seconds, the man and the woman are kissing. Irreverent randomness? Or is this the story of a man escaping his job in search of eternal love?

Then the farmers come in. One of them stands close to the camera, but the camera tries to look away, and pans to the right, and then to the left. But the man, time and again, stubbornly side-steps into the frame again. He will not be ignored. We will hear his plight. The farmers are tired, and they are dying. They lie in piles amidst the crevices of undulating dunes.

And then the film jumps to a schoolyard, and then to a slaughterhouse, and then to the city streets, where a cowboy ropes in a pedestrian as if he was livestock. This is one of several instances in which the film asks us to consider how we would react if humans were treated as cruelly as animals. In an earlier scene, a boy first carries a skinned cow across his back, and then a woman, and then a man. Gámez is playing with "What If" questions here. Like Planet of the Apes, which had humans as the prey of totalitarian apes, this film likewise presents us with a scenario (or really several scenarios) in which we suffer the same fate that we accord to the "lesser species" of the world.

The film ends with a long list of American companies, which appears to be a statement about capitalism; an implication strengthened by the concurrent visual motif that appears throughout the film: the flashed silhouette of a Coca-Cola Bottle. In fact, one of the original titles for this movie was Coca-Cola en la Sangre (Coca-Cola in the Blood), a tid-bit which only reinforces the anti-consumerist undercurrents.

But despite all these varied themes, what one enjoys the most about The Secret Formula, is that it is refreshingly itself. It's a completely different proposition from regular cinema; a proposition which certainly has antecedents (Buñuel, for instance), but which is original nevertheless.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Applause for Roger Deakins

I think we're living in the "good-cinema times" again.

Great movies are being released. Not just acceptable movies, which fill some sort of yearly quota, and are recognized by critics and audiences merely for rising above some low standard of mediocrity. No; rather, what we're getting are ambitious movies, borderline-visionary movies, works which strive to be remembered for more than six months. One gets the idea that, perhaps, directors are finally trying to measure up to their forefathers of the 1960's and 1970's. Finally, we're getting epoch-making films.

Behind two of these such films is Roger Deakins, a cinematographer who has previously lent his art to movies like Sid and Nancy, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, and The Man Who Wasn't There. Not all of these, granted, are superb. But, alas, he's not in charge of making them good; he just has to make them look good. And he's rather successful on that end.

In my opinion, however, it's this year that's he's done his best work. Not only are The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men, the best films, in general, that's he's ever been involved in; they are also, probably, the most gorgeous ones in his career as well.

Jesse James takes place in the fields, and in the swaying grass and grain of the Old West. No Country is more about the desert of Texas, and the arid expanses of the Mexican-American border. Occasionally, we venture into the nighttime streets of uneventful towns.

In both cases, what we get, visually, are panoramic, natural vistas, and characters who are not so much consumed by their surroundings, as they are fused into it. This is different from, say, Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala, where the Siberian Wilderness devours those who step into it. Through Deakins's lens, nature is not a violent force, but something more gentle. What we remember, from Deakins's scenes, is the caress of wind; the white specks of snow hitting Brad Pitt in the face and the distant shadow of a lumbering cloud crawling to the horizon.

When night arrives, Deakins inundates the frame with deep blacks and streaks of light, yellow and white. There is total darkness, and there are also hints of brightness. The streetlights filter through the open space where the key-hole should be; the candle-light shines inside a wooden house; the moon light illuminates the hill or the tree-lined path covered in snow. In a way, it's no wonder this is the same cinematographer who provided such striking black-and-white images for The Man Who Wasn't There; this is a man who loves his shadows. He makes you feel the dark; you can still see enough to make out where the characters are supposed to be standing, but you never see so much that you can possibly forget that it's after hours.

As for the daylight sequences, there is a certain glow to Deakins's visuals. His canvas seems covered in that pale, weak sunlight that arrives at six in the afternoon on a summer day, an hour before sunset. It's this glow, this muted lighting present throughout Jesse James and No Country, that gives each film its distinct melancholic aroma. And that's fitting. Because these are incessantly melancholy films.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blade Runner: At the Landmark

I parked my car inside the underground lot, and hurried upstairs. Next to me, on the escalator, was a woman, probably in her early twenties, wearing a beige flat cap. She looked agitated, hesitant, much like I was. I wondered if we were not perhaps headed the same direction. After all, she looked the "movie-fan" part. I didn't linger to figure the answer; I hopped up quicker than the escalator's rise, went to the cashier, got my ticket, was informed by the ticket-shredders that the movie had already started, replied that I knew so, quickened through the doorway, past the hallway, and was finally affronted by the screen, the large screen, already displaying the first scene, where Leon is given the Voigt-Kampff Test. I found the first available seat and nestled down into it. Seconds later, flat-cap girl entered the auditorium. I was right.

We were both here to watch Blade Runner: Final Cut.

I had heard that it was playing near my house. But for some reason, I let the news flutter away from my memory. Then last Friday, being free, and having no class, I decided to go watch a movie at the cinema. I checked the schedule of showings at the Landmark, because I like going there. My plan was to watch either Assassination of Jesse James, or Into the Wild. Those were my options. But then I saw Blade Runner on the list of available movies. Obviously, all else faded in comparison. The day had a new prerogative, and that was to go watch Rick Deckard run after replicants in futuristic Los Angeles.

Alas, I'm a strangely lazy fellow, even when it comes to important stuff I've been looking forward to for months. Ever since I had seen the Final Cut's trailer - during this past summer's televised AFI list - I had been excited to go watch it. I knew that the movie was getting an end-of-the-year DVD treatment. What I didn't know for sure was whether or not it would play at the theaters for a short limited release. Thankfully, that was the case. But I didn't rush to the Landmark when I discovered the fact. No. I ate. I watched TV. I shaved. I talked to myself in the bathroom. And only then did I sprint to my car.

At any rate, forty minutes later, there I was, sitting down. Flat-cap girl was some rows ahead of me. To my right, there was an old fifty-something, nodding his head in tandem with Captain Bryant's briefing, as if agreeing with the dialogue.

I smiled a bit. I felt in the company of fans. I removed my jacket, and placed it on top of me like a mantle. I gazed at the screen.

Watching a film at the cinema, especially a great film, one often gets the feeling that this is how you have to watch movies. In front of the big screen, enveloped by sounds - music, ambiance, thumps, and steps - your face slanted upwards at the projected image. If film is an evocative art, it is never so evocative, as it is inside a theater. Such were my feelings on Friday.

Great moments in this film arrive unannounced; a shot, a camera-angle, a mix of music and imagery. Harrison Ford entering his apartment. Sean Young being made aware of her artificiality. The Spinners floating through the orange air. Pris walking down a dilapidated street.

And behind it all, Vangelis' score, endowing everything with something deeper, something melancholy and festering and horrible and beautiful at the same time. Like Jazz fused with echoes of the future; as retro-fitted as the cars and buildings. A fusion between old-style sounds and something new. The music of the sewers, of the after-hours; like something you'd hear while drunk a Sunday morning at two, wandering the long strips of pavement, stepping on old newspapers with their old stories and characters. Or maybe you wouldn't hear it, exactly, but you would feel it.

"Memories!" goes Deckard. "You're talking about Memories!"

This is his first real instance of disgust. He will only become more displeased as the film goes on. Sickened with how the replicants are treated, taken advantage of, used like tools. But the replicants aren't just any tools; they're tools that have emotions, aspirations, hopes.

Roy Batty isn't content with being a tool; he wants more life, and not to spend further hours as a slave, but to experience things, live more adventures, see more things. He is proud of what he has witnessed; he demonstrates the fact twice. He tells poor Chew, "If only you could see, what I've seen with your eyes." And then he tells a befuddled Deckard, in the film's great closing monologue, about all the important "moments" that he's stored in his memory - not pre-fabricated memories, but real ones, garnered through experience.

Deckard eventually comes to understand how humane the replicants are, how unfair it is to control their lives, or attempt to control their lives, as if they were one of Sebastian's crude toys. He begins to feel a real sense of pity for Rachael; he bluntly tells her the truth about her origins, but then tries to withdraw his comments. It doesn't work, and she realizes the truth; that what Deckard has just told her is real. They later fall in love, because, ultimately, they only have each other. Deckard becomes obsessed with Rachael's photographs of a youth that wasn't hers. Perhaps it's because he wonders if he is not a replicant himself. Or maybe he is pondering the cruelty of allowing someone to live under the assumption that they have had a life that never was.

Deckard's initial hate for the replicants turns into empathy by the end. He lets himself have feelings for Rachael, and is visibly disturbed when he kills Pris. She shakes uncontrollably after being shot; her last spasmodic movements making the floor rumble. Deckard stares, horrified, at the spectacle. He shoots her again, one last time. He doesn't feel comfortable. He has ended a life, a life that writhed in pain and desperation as it was coming to a close.

This is an important development for Deckard's character; one that the film only implies, but never makes abundantly clear. Deckard does try to continue his job; but it is not a job he is happy with. He completes his duties, but he has almost sided with the replicants by the film's conclusion. Gaff stands under the rain, looking at Deckard as if he was the enemy. There is a strange animosity in the former's glare. And yet, it could be said Gaff almost helps Deckard. Doesn't he let him run away with Rachael?

The idea is that, since Deckard is a replicant himself, and since Gaff knows this, because his little origami unicorn is ostensibly based on Deckard's implanted memory/dream, then it makes sense for Gaff to act a tad apprehensive at Deckard, since the latter is, potentially, as much of a liability as Roy Batty. And yet, if this is the case, why does Gaff help Deckard? Or at least, allow Deckard a prize?

Perhaps because Gaff has come to the same conclusion as Deckard: the replicants are not tools, they're not things. They have advanced past that point. Gaff doesn't like them. But he comprehends their plight. To a point, of course. He doesn't exactly discourage Deckard from completing his quest. It could be said that Gaff is the most ambiguous character in the film. So it is perhaps fitting that he leaves the most ambiguous clue in the entire film: the unicorn.

In fact, it's not really a clue. It's pretty obviously a fact. If this new version is taken as the authoritative final version - as the title implies that we should - then Deckard is a replicant. The theme of implanted memories is a big one throughout the film; and the only way for Gaff to know of Deckard's unicorn dream, is for that dream to have been implanted into Deckard's brain during his construction.

Some say this causes plot holes: How can Deckard be a replicant? Doesn't he eat? Doesn't he not have super-strength? To the second question I respond: we don't know enough about how the replicants function. Perhaps they have a mechanism allowing them to inject food, for later dispersal. Why? A replicant is given false memories in the hopes of convincing that replicant that he or she is a human being. Allowing that replicant, also, to eat, would further strengthen that mirage of organic existence. The replicant will not, thanks to this mechanism, find himself or herself asking, why do they eat, when I don't? To that third question I respond: doesn't he climb the building at the end? That surely seemed like a fairly difficult undertaking. He's not as strong as Roy Batty, but he seems fairly capable of doing his job; though he is not, true, the greatest at hand-to-hand fighting.

Nevertheless, whether we choose to accept Deckard as a replicant, or not, the point is still the same: he has sided with the machines. It's important to note that Deckard is a proverbially lonely figure. He has no friends, no family, nothing; the only human beings he meets, he does because of his job (Tyrell, Bryant) or his routine (The Noodle Bar). The only emotional link he establishes is with a replicant, Rachael. Though they meet because of his job, their later meetings, and eventual relationship, are not job-related. And that is Deckard's situation at the end of the movie. Whether he is a replicant or not is ultimately irrelevant; either way, the only thing of import to him, in the entire world, ends up being a replicant.

All of Deckard's connections to humanity have been closed. Even his employment is over with; Gaff's definite air of finality, during his final appearance, suggests that Deckard now won't even have much of a job. This has been his last collaboration with the police. What does that leave Deckard with? Nothing. Nothing organic, at least. Only Rachael.

Rick Deckard's entire life has revolved around trying to kill the things which are now his only reason for living.