Archive for March 2015
It takes a fair amount of gumption to take on Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Blade Runner, but Ion de Sosa gives it a run for the money, with a new take that’s much closer to the source material – Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – and has considerable more to say about contemporary life. And the future that we’ve been building in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
A formal Benning-esque series of shots open de Sosa’s Sueñan los Androides – Androiden Träumen Film. Long shots of the unremarkable modernist towers that make up the distopic panoramas that populate the intro to the film come from the Spanish resort town of Benidorm – a place that developed through the late half of the 20th century into a perfect hell hole and representation of the mass tourism industry. The long shots give way to formal compositions of concrete ramps, unfinished interiors and exteriors, the usual unremarked upon and accepted demeaned fixtures of contemporary cityscapes. Soon we see still-life portraits of middle-class families, retirees and working stiffs posed in their apartment boxes. People working to make the best of (not very) and add a little humanity to the mean world that’s been built for them. Occasionally one of them gets gunned down. The violence is quick. The flash of a bullet. The daily terrorism tha haunts our waking hours comes home to roost in the most random of places, justified by a skinny, bald guy in a suit (Manolo Marín) just doing his job.
Unlike the conflicted and world-weary noir detective of Harrison Ford’s replicant hunter, the nameless blade runner in de Sosa’s version is basically a heartless killer.
Nor do we get Rutger Hauer destroying and chewing the scenery (brilliant,I may add). But de do get his analog, a paunchy bear, played by Coque Sánchez, the kind of guy who has no qualms about boasting of his sexual conquests with human guys and who gives no second though about grinding his hips in a cheesy sort of sexual provocation on the stage of a gay bar – that is until he meets his sudden dispatch.
We don’t get a cadre of uber mensch and damen replicants who populate Scott’s version, but a series of rather unassuming middle-class beings, working-class stiffs, bears and young couples with children in tow, who make up the universe of de Sosa’s blade runner’s quarry. Replicants is us.
De Sosa pulls one of the main themes of Dick’s original novel, mysteriously vanished from Scott’s film version – the empathy that humans can feel for other species. The empathy that (possibly) makes us human. The electric sheep part of the book. However, the way de Sosa addresses it, undercuts Dick completely. Empathy comes up not so much as feeling, but as habit. And by the final shot, merely a black joke.
The dystopia and the tenuous hold that we/them have on life turn de Sosa’s film make his vision of the future/now certainly much more terrifying than Scott’s version. Scott, with the weight of Hollywood behind him, created a complete universe through production design and movie stars at the tops of their game to create a cultural icon, no doubt. But he kinda cheated on some of the better and deeper things that Dick brought up. de Sosa digs deeper, finding essences in his version. With avant strategies, a low budget and smart camera work (de Sosa was cinematographer on Luis Lopez Carrasco’s El Futuro) in standard 16mm, de Sosa has pulled the best and most interesting from his source material that not only shows a compelling personal vision, but brings up some fundamental questions about place, landscape, time, history and what makes us human, grounding it in the contemporary realities of Spain and the larger picture of the world in this here early 21st century.
Yoshihoko Dai’s debut feature, Present for You, is a curious confection, flipping randomly from live action to doll animation. And it’s in 3D. The largely incomprehensible plot revolves around Shigeru Kajiwara (Joe Odagiri), sporting a retro 70s look selling out to the owner (Isao Natsuyagi) of the Give Me Money company by being the guy who kills the boss’s enemies. They’re delivered to Shigeru’s decrepit office above a ramen shop in a mythical natsukashi Shimbashi. This Shimbashi is full of ostensibly colorful characters – prostitutes, waitresses, café owners, a salaryman who’s always seen at the edge of rooftop contemplating suicide. Shigeru gets his first victim, the “present” of the title, delivered – one Muneoka-san (Akira Emoto) – and then the plot veers into a whole lot of, well, plot – of some sort. The whole mess that makes up the mercifully short film seems mainly to be a calling card so Dai can show off his animation chops, though has no idea about how to structure a story, let alone how to direct real actors – or even puppets.
Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2015.