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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

adoring ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut’ on the big screen

I love DVDs, I love my widescreen TV, I love that the movie experience in my living room just keeps getting better and better. But every once in a while — too rarely, these days — I get a reminder of what we lost when movies came home.

Revivals. I’m just old enough to have seen the last revival houses close in New York City in the early 1990s. I mean, sure, we still have the Film Forum, which shows new prints of old movies, sometimes, and the Landmark Sunshine, which runs cult movies at midnight; mostly, though, those theaters run new indies and foreign films. There used to be theaters that ran nothing but old movies, all the time. (I know it’s hard to believe, kiddies, but it’s true.) The films didn’t need to have been newly remastered, the revivals weren’t disguised advertisements for new DVD releases — the movies were just beloved favorites there for fans who wanted to see them again on a big screen.
I saw Blade Runner again on a big screen last Saturday; its limited run in New York and Los Angeles is one of those disguised ads: there are multiple new DVD packages set to release in December, including five-disc package packed with extra material and about two dozen versions of the movie, it seems. For the occasional, director Ridley Scott has created a “Final Cut,” which he “wholeheartedly” calls his “definitive director’s cut.” Apparently it contains added and extended scenes, added lines, and new and improved special effects. I can’t honestly say that I particularly noticed anything much different — though Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies, I haven’t memorized it. I’d have to watch this Final Cut side by side with the 1992 Director’s Cut in order to pick out the differences.

But that’s fine. I didn’t go looking for that. I just wanted to experience this movie on a big screen again. No matter how big the TV in my living room gets, it can’t compare to a flickering image projected onto a hundred-foot screen … and this new Blade Runner, which has indeed been restored and remastered, looks beautiful. All those rich blues and browns and greens almost make 2019 L.A. look luscious rather than grungy, and no matter how fantastic the new DVD set is, and how great my TV is, it will never look so good at home.

And there’s no way to replicate the mood of the crowd in that Saturday-night multiplex. Sitting quietly in that packed theater was one of the most reverent audiences I’ve ever seen a movie with. We weren’t there for the surprise of discovering a movie for the first time — or even the second or third time. We were all there to worship at the altar of a film we love. That can’t get packaged in a DVD box set.

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