In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams we present Dune.
Blue Velvet disturbs and Elephant Man moves, but David Lynch’s Dune is by far his most entertaining film. Based on Frank Herbert’s epic novel, it tells the tale of House Atreides and their move to the desert planet of Arrakis, the only source of the hallucinogenic Spice. Don’t worry. This isn’t about turmeric or something. The Spice allows for the navigators to fold time and space and thus travel vast distances through space.
Paul Atreides – the Duke’s son – is being trained by his weird mom as well as Jean Luc Picard to take over from his father. The dangers of complicated politics and particularly the threat of the rival Harkonnen house, a family that resembles a less fat and disgusting version of Donald Trump, surround the family and soon mother and son are fleeing into the desert as the family are attacked. Here as the Harkonnen take over the planet, Paul and his magic mum seek refuge with the Freemen. Sorry, I meant Fremen.
Of course, the film has flaws. I can’t think of any, but it has them. Perhaps the last half becomes lost as it does its best to take us through the messianic rise of Paul. But frankly the flaws are also in Herbert’s novel. Like Lord of the Rings, Dune is basically an okay-ish novel, full of mock medieval scrumptons and elevated by the worlds invented around it.
Lynch’s vision is startling and has moments of genuine beauty and ugliness. The cast are superb. The guy from Das Boot, Picard, MacLachlan and Sean Young are great. And then there’s Sting in his pants! Sting. In. His. Pants.
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Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week, Blade Runner.
Following his success as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Harrison Ford decided to try his hand at the old hard-boiled detective genre, but with a twist – setting it in the future! The oddball result was Blade Runner, a critical and commercial disaster which famously provoked Roger Ebert to do his first review where he stuck both thumbs up his ass to signal his contempt.
Ford plays Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter tasked with finding and killing escaped Replicants who have fled the off-world colonies and have come to Los Angeles to meet their dad. However, the Replicants – led by the enigmatic Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) – are both deadly and disconcertingly human, so much so that Deckard finds himself emotional involved with one, the femme fatale Rachel (Sean Young).
Although it’s difficult to get a copy, do try and hunt out an old VHS if you can. Ridley Scott – famous for White Squall and Someone to Watch Over Me – disowned the cinematic version and then his own director’s cut and then his own final cut, and now refuses to talk about the film, having gone on record saying that it ‘is way worse than Prometheus and Prometheus is a shit sandwich.’ The sci-fi noir is a dark compelling and occasionally violent drama. Ford has never been better, nor has Rutger Hauer, or Sean Young, or Daryl Hannah. Nor Ridley Scott. Scott seems utterly unconcerned with genre as such – this is possibly the least camp Science Fiction film available – giving the world he creates a grubby realism of flickering lights and dirty interiors as well as a grandiose dystopian breadth. With or without unicorns, voice over and happy ending, Blade Runner is a strange new world gone old; the last big budget science fiction film made exclusively for grown ups. At least its obscurity means that no one will be dumb enough to try and make a sequel.
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HOLLYWOOD – The news that Ryan Gosling is to star in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2 rocked the internet this week, but only the Studio Exec can reveal via a leaked email the details of Gosling’s role.
The following email was sent from Denis Villeneuve to Ryan Gosling cc-ing Ridley Scott and (accidentally) me.
SUBJECT: Blade Runner 2?
From: Denis Villeneuve
To: Ryan Gosling
First of all congratulations on Gangster Squad! What a film! It was like LA Confidential but without the tiresome need to think, or follow the story, or be particularly interested. And you made some brave choices. That squeaky high pitched voice you put on. At first I was ‘What the f*ck?’ then I thought ‘no. It’s brilliant.’ I can’t tell you why it was brilliant but it reminded me of Elisha Cook. OK. Enough ass kissing, right? Blade Runner 2. Larry said I should fill you in more before you make your final decision. I think the money business is all clear. Your request to be paid in macrobiotic restaurants is fine but health and safety tell me the Mariachi band you requested in your trailer for the whole of the shoot might be a problem. I’m sure we can resolve it but there are some laws about human slavery that we might be infringing. But to the story that Harrison Ford has called ‘the best screenplay he’s ever read’.
The year is 2056. Los Angeles. Timmy Deckard is a young Blade Runner, a maverick who doesn’t play by the rules but gets results. (We wrote it the other way round at first, but although original it just didn’t make much sense.) He gets a hard job. There’s an old renegade replicant living in the wastelands (West Hollywood as we now call it).This guy is building an army of escaped replicants and is planning on wiping out the Blade Runners and taking over the running of the city. Timmy has to hunt him down and retire him. But when he finds him, guess what? The old replicant turns out to be Rick Deckard, Timmy’s long lost father! Captured by the replicant army, Timmy’s dad tells him that Timmy was conceived when he and Rachel ran away. They were fugitive for years with their little replicant/human baby. But in a twist it turns out that Rachel wasn’t a replicant after all. She was just very emotional distant because she was played by Sean Young. Rick was the replicant. So she had Timmy and died soon after of plot convenience and contractual hassles. Now the hunted instead of the hunter, Timmy must decide whether to join forces with his old man, or bury his past and finish the job.
What do you think Ryan? Screenplay is in the attachment.
SUBJECT: RE: Blade Runner 2
From: Ryan Gosling
To: Denis Villeneuve
The Mariachi band is a deal breaker.
Blade Runner 2 will be released in 2016.
HOLLYWOOD – Ridley Scott has declared that he will not be using improvisation for the Prometheus sequel, breaking with a tradition established since the very beginning of his career.
‘I’ve hired writers,’ said the White Squall director. ‘I know a lot of purists are going to be mad at me but after what happened last time it just occurred to me it’d be better if someone wrote everything down BEFORE we started filming.’
The UK born director has been famous in Hollywood for his radical improvisation techniques. Harrison Ford had a huge falling out with Scott on the set of Blade Runner, as he explained in his autobiography Just A Carpenter Like Jesus:
I turned up on the first day of filming and we all stood in a circle. We had no script, no story, no idea. Then Ridley just went round the circle, pointing at each of us in turn and saying ‘You’re a robot, you’re not, robot, robot, not a robot.’ It wouldn’t be so bad but with me he couldn’t decide. And then he said ‘go!’ Me and Sean [Young] just looked at each other and thought oh oh.
As the years went on, Scott’s technique became ever more radical. But some actors found the experience liberating. Susan Sarandon praised Scott for giving actors such a creative role.
‘I’m just going to drive off the cliff,’ I said. He shrugged. ‘Do what you have to do!’ And that was Thelma and Louise.
However, some argue that after the shambles of Prometheus, the director is right to resort to a written screenplay. Michael Fassbender remembers the confusion on set.
Actors were doing whatever they wanted to do. ‘I’m going to take my helmet off!’ ‘I’m going to treat this weird xenomorph snake like it is a cuddly mouse’. The worse point was Guy Pearce turning up and he’d done his own make up and everything. ‘You’re character’s supposed to be dead,’ Ridley said. ‘I don’t care,’ said Pearce and just got in front of the camera and wouldn’t move.
The Prometheus sequel is due to start filming later this year.