Blade runner 2049 review

October 24, 2017 1 comment

Review contains spoilers.

This is a fascinating short film about Neander Wallace (Jared Leto) that you can stream on YouTube.


A. Review and résumé

Blade Runner has achieved the impossible : bearing meaning to the original movie, while keeping the original signature of the original movie, the visual craftmanship that made its mark, even 35 years after its release. It is a highly poetic movie, graced with moments of silence, virtual poetry and cunning observations of today’s society. Above all, it is, in my opinion, a movie that warrants repeated viewings despite what some critics have said. The visual framework of the movie is blessed with a scenario and a script that are anything but shallow. For those who have seen the movies on IMAX, the repeated viewing made me write some notes during the movie and come up with a review. While the original movie remains my favorite movie of all time, BR 2049 still pushes Philip K. Dick’s ideas and obsessions : existentialism, loneliness, artificial intelligence, its inevitable blossoming and surpassing of human beings and above all, the timeless search for the meaning of life, the meaning of our life…

While the first movie raised the following question : who are we and what makes us humans (souvenirs, photos, empathy), the sequel hails more towards the very existence of humanity. Ecological issues, rampant consumerism, quest for our origins, the world itself as one giant illusion, the ever increasing presence of publicity and the power of corporations are some of the subjects that are tackled in the movie. Also there are some spiritual reflexions graced by the presence of Jared Leto and his charismatic character, Neander Wallace, owner of Wallace Corporation. The strenght of the movie lies in one accomplishment that was thought to be impossible to overcome : continuity from the first movie. In the world of Do androids dream of electric sheep and Blade runner, cell phones and social media doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean its elite doesn’t find ways to monitor the plebian population remaining on Earth and not able to make it to the off-world colonies. Monitors and cameras are set up everywhere, which echoes our world.

B. The Baseline test : Dick’s familar theme of (police) surveillance, Orwell’s big brother running at every corner.

If you’ve seen the movie, you saw what skin jobs like Special agent K have to pass a test called The Baseline test. In fact, it’s an emotional test that androids have to pass after completing certain tasks that could enhance or change their behavior. The test has certain keywords which a replicant must repeat when he hears them, and throw in between those keywords are comments designed to provoke a strong emotional reaction in the subject. The statements run the gamut of fear, anger, arrogance, self preservation, and so on. The voice speaking speaks faster and more intensely as the test goes on. It’s reminiscent of THX 1138. The subject can fail the test if they get lost in their emotions instead of immediately following the command words. A replicant who can be provoked might kill someone they shouldn’t, or fail to kill someone they should, and so on. They demonstrate enough individuality to identify themselves a public risk. It’s a dehumanizing event and there’s reasons to believe the test will be copied, in real life, some time in the future.. Yet the test also reminded me of the emotional journey this film managed to sweep me along with. In the second viewing of the movie, I was unnerved but I quickly noticed the rules and was unable to react along with K. Fast forward to 2049 and the newer, more stable (supposedly) replicants and you have regular emotional baseline testing that probes at the center of ego and social hierarchy rather than mundane ascension. In that way, might the Baseline test be just a natural evolution from the Voight-Kampff test ? Here is the full text of the Baseline test.

The following lines from Blade Runner 2049’s post-traumatic baseline test come from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire.…”Blood-black nothingness began to spin / A system of cells interlinked within / Cells interlinked within cells interlinked / Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct / Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.”

 C. Visuals and cinematography

One of the strongest element of the film lies in its continuity with the first movie in the use of lights, decorum, costume and overall atmosphere. Since the original movie was set in 2019 but made 35 years ago, in 1982, that is no small achievement. When K walks to his building and enters his appartement, everything from the tone to the rain that pours on his leather coat feels right : it feels Blade runner.

A list of elements of continuity in Blade Runner 2049 :
Rachel serial number
(More human than human, the motto of Tyrell Corporation)

Memories vs implants what is real vs what is not
(K realizes that his memory of a wooden horse is not his. 
It means he is not Rachael’s child, that he’s not a miracle.
But it doesn't matter. 
The moment K thinks he is more and wants to be more, he becomes more.
His perception is reality.)
Flat screen ?
(No, rather round computer)

The Appartement of K
(Small, close to a balcony, tiny sink)
Omnipresence of corporation and police
(Joshi  calls K repeatly not unlike Bryant)
Rain and snow, no lights are the results of nuclear war

Arkives from Tyrell corporation

Rich people live in tall buildings

Mood organ for Joi (Element in the book)

Metaphor use of the eyes :
Sapper Morton loses one eye

The nexus 6 test for eyes

Wallace is blind

Sappers eye is picked up by K

K's eye opens up the movie

Resistant loses one eye

K asks Graff why Deckard left society, Graff said it was something in his eyes

 D. Random tidbits

The film includes signs for companies that suffered the alleged “Blade Runner Curse,” most notably Pan Am airlines (which went bankrupt in 1991) and Atari (which currently exists as a brand but has not been a corporate entity since the mid 90s). Denis Villeneuve has explained that both films take place in an alternate universe where these companies remained corporate powerhouses and other companies like Apple didn’t exist (not to mention a universe in which synthetic humans were developed by the 2010s)

When K is approached by Mariette and two other women, one of the other two speaks her lines in Finnish, saying “Tää jätkä on Blade Runner. Se on vitun vaarallinen. Annetaan sen olla.” (“This guy is a Blade Runner. He’s fucking dangerous, let’s leave him be.”). The character is played by Krista Kosonen, who is a native Finn.

The labels on Sapper’s tent-farms read “Tselina”; Bulgarian for “Celery”. This is the first example of the mix of various languages used throughout the movie.

The flying car brand is the French one Peugeot.

Wood is rare, and valuable as shown by the wooden horse K owns. Wallace house is made of almost all wood. Showing how wealthy and rich he is.

When K enters a building to find Deckard, the sign above the door reads, in reverse, “Haeng Un”. This is Korean for “Good Luck”. Cityspeak was comprised of many languages to include Korean.

Both this movie and the original use eyes as a recurring motif: in the original Blade Runner the second shot is an extreme closeup of an eye. This is the first shot of Blade Runner 2049. In the original Blade Runner Roy and Leon visit Chew, the engineer who designed the Nexus 6 replicant’s eyes. In Blade Runner 2049 the Nexus 8 replicants are identified by their eyes. Eldon Tyrell wears very large glasses and is murdered by Roy by having his skull crushed through his eyes. Niander Wallace is blind and relies on miniature drones to see.

Jared Leto’s character Niander Wallace is blind. Not only is this a reference to Oedipus Rex who blinds himself upon learning that he has had sex with his creator, but Niander Wallace’s predecessor Dr. Eldon Tyrell had his eyes gouged out by a replicant in search of its/his creator

 E. Meaning and interpretation

 

This short film, which happens in 2048, sets the tone surrounding Sapper’s death in Blade runner 2049. The atmosphere of the clip above is eye candy but also a of masterpiece in terms of settings in Budapest. This is a rare flick that is poetic on so many levels, the movies goers have to pay attention to Easter eggs and little details. On the first viewing, I did not notice the serial number on Rachel’s skull, buried in Sapper Morton (above, played by Dave Bautista), but that would make total sense in Blade runner universe. At the end of the narration version, done by Harrison Ford, he mentions Rachel was special and didn’t have a limited lifespan unlike other Replicants.

Above all, further viewings of the movie just confirmed its immense metaphysic scope. Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 works like a poem. It’s a neo-noir movie about the mystery of the  empathy, connection, how we define what’s real, whether it matters at all and how replicants strive to live even more than humans... And it’s also a love story about a replicant and a digital woman. Screenwriter Hampton Fancher explained that, “[K] is a handbook. He follows the rules. He’s a machine in a way. But the image was this: A handbook turns into a poem through his experiences and his ordeal and love. And the same thing with the digital woman.”

Unlike the ambiguity of Deckard’s identity, K knows that he’s a replicant. The people who inhabit his world are shadows. The overall tone of the movie is one of great solitude. If replicants were created to fill a void of solitude, that what kind of world is 2049 when even agent K feels lonely ? There’s plenty of loneliness in BR but a definite lack of love. The only loving character seems to be Deckard’s daughter aka Dr. Ana Stellin, the miracle itself… The LAPD, Niander Wallace’s corporation, and a replicant rebellion are three dehumanizing forces in conflict that want her for different reasons.

Discussing K’s digital companion Joi (Ana de Armas), screenwriter Michael Green said, “Since we are defined by what we love, what [K] loved needed a story as well.” To the world, K is just a “skinjob.” To Joi, he’s a poem. She calls his DNA “the alphabet of you.” Joi brings love to a souless world that echoes our very world that lacks the sentiment itself. But also to K who is incredibly alone. In the same way that K might not be real for Joshi, Joi might not be real for K…

The first Blade runner was about what made us humans but the sequel is about humanity’s future. Ecological issues (rain, and lack of sun due to nuclear wars as stated in Dick’s book), rampant consumerism : the people who populates this world are largely mockering anything but reality. They live within other’s conciousness, or therelack of. Those relationship are either fake, shallow or virtually an illusion. Blade runner 2049 is a film deeply haunted by death. It is melancholic, dreamy and has a cinematic tone of great poetry. In the novel Pale fire, the fictional scholar annotating John Shade’s poem, Dr. Charles Kinbote, writes: “We all are, in a sense, poets.”

In his search for Deckard, K finds himself walking through the ruins of a city suffocated by radioactive yellow haze. A bee lands on his hand. He continues on and finds apiaries of bees, and he lets the bees cover his hand. The bees echo the replicants, the concept of hive mind. But they also represent hope, connection, “cells interlinked.”K becomes more conscious and here lies the greatest strenght of his character : the yearning for more that what he seems to be, the desire for more than a 3 year lifespan, for more than a skin job, the desire to be loved…

Below is a mix I did on my Soundcloud page Rekall called Blade runner : Voight-Kampff Mix.

The first Soundcloud link at the top of the page is the soundtrack made by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch. Interesting story about it here.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Carbon based lifeforms tribute

October 8, 2017 2 comments

I have made a live mix of mostly ambient tracks from the Swedish duo Carbon based lifeforms. Their music blends ambient with patches of static, garbled radio transmissions and disembodied voice bytes. This music revels in mystery, layered with lush synthetic chords, suggesting something akin to a long scuba dive in the waters of an alien world.

The melancholic “MOS 6581” from Hydroponic Garden (2003), for example, summons the exquisitely-layered liquid harmonies of Tangerine Dream but confounds expectations with its brittle, crunchy trip-hop drum break. These albums are wonderfully deep and immersive, still dreamy even amid the dark, urgent intensity of tracks like “Proton/Electron” from World Of Sleepers (2006) with its Roland 303 acid-house snarls and massive bottom end. World Of Sleepers is positively storming at times and the album is particularly well suited to cranking up the volume. Interloper (2010) is noticeably less dark than the other two, with the shimmering “Frog” being perhaps the most luminous, openly loving piece of music they’ve done.

Post-Interloper, the band has taken two detours into beatless ambience. VLA (2011) is a single 60 minute track that’s rather too minimal to work as anything other than background wallpaper, but Twenty Three (2011) is a stunner. Tracks like “Terpene” and “Somewhere In Russia” offer some of the most cosmic, richly harmonic float music since the late 70’s/early 80’s heyday of Californian new age. CBL’s sound design remains immaculate and its a revelation to hear the duo apply their craft to eight beatless, drone-based compositions. Twenty Three is something of an exception to the classic CBL sound but an absolutely essential one.

Also essential is the solo album Comfortable Void (2012) from Daniel Segerstad, recording as Sync24.  The music has his band’s same sense of mystery but is a little more personal and idiosyncratic. “Nanites” is a quite indefinable blend of slow breaks, electric piano sounds and a looped choral sample; pretty yet with a slightly sinister edge. “Sequor” spreads a slow, hypnotic arpeggio from acoustic guitar over a droning bass progression and hints of field recordings. “Something Something” and “Oomph” are probably the most CBL-sounding tracks; layers of bubbling machine bleeps and 303 acid lines beneath soaring, celestial melodies powered by muscular slowbeats. Comfortable Void is superb, up there with anything by CBL and one of the best Ultimae releases of all.

CBL’s sound design remains immaculate and it’s a revelation to hear the duo apply their craft to the 20 beatless, drone-based compositions of this mix.

 

Artificial intelligence mix

September 17, 2017 6 comments

 

The best of Warp records and ambient-techno from 1991 to 1998. In 1992, 25 years ago, Warp records released the highly influential compilation Artificial intelligence. I made this mix of my favorite Warp tracks but also some other tracks released on similar labels at the same time such as GPR (General production recordings), Rising high records and Apollo.

Samples from movies: Apocalypse now, 2001 a Space odyssey, THX-1138, and Scanners.

Artificial intelligence, a sublabel of Warp.

Enjoy!

1) Intro Kiss 100 FM Transmissions
2) Reload : Teq / Album : A collection of short stories 1993
3) Robert Leiner : Interval / The Source Experience ‎– Visions Of The Past 1994 / Apollo
4) Reload : The enlightment / Album : A collection of short stories / Infonet 1993
5) Global communication : 4-02 / Album : 76:14 / Dedicated 1994
6) Bola : Glink / Album : Soup / 1998 / Skam
7) Speedy J : Symmetry (live) / Album : Artificial Intelligence II 1994 / Warp
8) Air Liquide : If there was no gravity / EP : / Rising High Records 1994 / Blue
9) James Bernard : Phosphorous / Album : Atmospherics 1994 / Rising High Records
10) Irresistible Force : Space is the place(Intergalactic ambient mix)1991 / Rising High Records
11) Redcell : Gimp / Album : TimeTourist 1996 / Warp
12) The higher intelligence agency : Hubble / Album : Freefloater 1995
13) Saint Etienne : Skin up you’re already dead Autechre remix (1994 EP)
14) Seefeel : Time to find me (AFX fast mix 1994) / Astralwerks
15) Beaumont hannant : Utuba / Tastes And Textures Vol-3 1994 GPR & AI2
16) Reload : Rota link / Album : A collection of short stories 1993
17) The higher intelligence agency : Speedlearn / Album : 1993 / Beyond
18) Autechre : Clipper / Album : Tri Repetae / 1996 / Warp
20) Biosphere : Novelty waves ( Biosphere artic mix) / EP : Novelty Waves 1995 / Apollo
21) L.F.O. : L.F.O. (Leeds warehouse mix 1991) / Album : Frequencies / Warp
22) Speedy J : Pepper / Album : Ginger 1993 / Warp
23) Speedy J : G-Spot / Album : G Spot 1995 / Warp
24) Polygon window : Polygon window / Album : Surfing On Sine Waves 1992 / Warp
25) Darell Fitton : Blipsalt / Album : Artificial Intelligence II / Warp
26) Caustic Window : On the romance tip / EP : Joyrex J5 EP 1992
27) Aphex Twin : Tha / Album : Selected ambient works vol 1 1992 / Apollo
28) F.U.S.E. : Dimension intrusion / Album : Dimension intrusion 1993 / Warp
29) Autechre : Eutow / Album : Tri Repetae / 1996 / Warp
30) Golden girls : Kinetic (Morley’s Apollo Mix) (David Morley mix) / Album : Kinetic EP 1993
31) The Irresistible Force : Waveform / Album : Global chillage 1994 / Rising High Records
32) Cmetric : VOID/Comm (1996) / Album : TimeTourist 1996
33) Balil : Merck (1992) / Album : Bytes 1992 / Warp
34) Kenny Larkin : Tedra 1993 / Album : Azimuth 1993 / Warp
35) FSOL : Ill flower 1994 / Album : Lifeforms 1994
36) FSOL : Omnipresence 1994 / Album : Lifeforms 1994
37) The 7 th plain : To be surreal 1993 / EP : General Production Recordings (GPR) ‎
38) Sister love – The Hypnotist 1991 Ambient mix

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