Apparently, they don’t dream of electric sheep

In this article, I will use the Final Cut version of Blade Runner (1982) as the source material. That is by far the superior version to the original theatrical cut, and also the preferred version of the director Ridley Scott.

Does Deckard know that he’s a replicant?

That’s the question that has been on my mind ever since I sat down a while ago with my friend to have a beer. We started talking about Blade Runner (1982), which is my all time favorite film, and pretty soon both came to the conclusion that Deckard is a replicant. What we didn’t agree on, however, was whether or not Deckard himself knows this.

I’ve always thought that Deckard and Rachael are Nexus 7 replicants who don’t know about their true origins. We find out relatively soon in the film that Rachael is a new generation of replicant who they have given memories to in order to make her more human. Now, could it be possible that Deckard is part of this experiment by the Tyrell Co.? Maybe it’s like an Adam and Eve sort of thing. Create a woman to do god know’s what with her, and create a man to make him into a killing machine. This would explain why, if Deckard is a replicant, he wasn’t given superhuman strength like the earlier replicants. Obviously they don’t want Deckard to find out.

But did he? My friend pointed out a certain scene to me. After Rachael has first been in Deckard’s appartment, he finds a photograph she left behind. In the picture there is a mother and daughter outside of an old house. Rachael thinks it’s her and her mother but we know that it’s not as we see Deckard explain this to her. But after Rachael leaves, Deckard looks at the picture and suddenly, and just for a few frames, it starts to move.

This raises the idea that Deckard was given the memories of the little boy who took that photograph. And judging from the lack of reaction by Deckard, this could mean that he is already aware of the fact that he has implanted memories.

Also, my friend thinks that because Deckard has such a cynical and mean spirited approach to Rachael’s realization of her true origin, it is implied that Deckard has actually taken the Voight Kampf test himself and found this all out.

"How the hell did I get here?"
“How the hell did I get here?”

However, I don’t believe this. The film’s emotional climax at the end, when Deckard finds the little origami unicorn, leads me to think that he doesn’t find out that he’s not human until the very end. There’s a sense of discovery and realization in Harrison Ford’s face during the ending scene that, to me, echo the intended reaction of the audience. Now, it’s possible that the ending is purely symbolic and the scene is there to only provide the realization to the viewer, but I don’t buy that.

What do you think? First of all, is Deckard a replicant? Second, has he himself found this out? And third, does the police force know that he’s found it out?

PS.

I’ve always fancied the idea that the first time we see Deckard waiting for his noodles is the first time he’s alive. To explain:

Maybe the Blade Runner Unit got really scared after Holden dies at the beginning and then decide to go along with this plan of programming a replicant to kill the rest of the replicants. They then give Deckard all the memories from hid childhood and all the memories of some other Blade Runner so that he’ll feel like he’s done this all his life, take him outside to the rain in front of a noodle bar, and turn him on.

How ’bout them apples?

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

 

Slowly being consumed by South Korean cinema Part II

Okay, now that Snowpiercer (2013) is finally coming out in Finland (or at least I think it’s coming out, if not I’m seeing it illegally) I’ll talk a bit about Bong Joon-ho, who is one of my favorite directors working at the moment. He hasn’t had the longest career in film yet but the films I’ve seen from him have lead me to being super stoked for his future films, including Snowpiercer.

So, without further ado, here’s a little synopsis of his Korean language films that I’ve seen. Again, in chronological order, with a 1 – 4 stars rating afterwards. Oh, SPOILER ALERT!

1. Salinui chueok (Memories of Murder) (2003)

I was watching the Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) and during the last episode there was a short segment about Memories of Murder. What I saw made my jaw drop and I immediately tracked down a DVD of the film.

I can safely say that Memories of Murder is one of the greatest films ever made.  At least it’s one of my personal favorites. It is an amazingly inventive and haunting story based on actual events that took place in Hwaseong in South Korea during the 1980’s. A serial killer/rapist is on the loose and it seems that no-one has any idea who it could be. At first the detectives investigating the

"I won't feel like eating peaches any time soon, that's for sure."
“I won’t feel like eating peaches any time soon, that’s for sure.”

case start picking up clues but they always end up leading nowhere. They make plenty of arrests but never find anything conclusive. Many people are raped and murdered during the investigation and eventually the events die down and the killer is never caught.

Flash forward about 10 years or so when one of the detectives has quit the police force and become a salesman of some sort. He one day finds himself driving through a field where he remembers finding one of the victims’ bodies. He walks to the place and finds a little girl there who tells him that another man was there just a few days ago. She says the man told her that he was there remembering something he did a long time ago.

The detective jumps at this and starts asking the girl what the man looked like. The girl can only say that he looked ordinary. Like anyone else. At this point it becomes painfully obvious that the killer will never be caught. The last shot is of the detective staring into the camera. His eyes pierce through to the audience which is really disturbing because the actual killer could be sitting in a movie theater somewhere watching the film. It’s like the detective is breaking the line of reality and fiction in his desperate attempt at finding the killer.

Everything in this film is fantastic! The cinematography, the acting, the screenplay… It’s filled with humor, horror, action, and violence and it’s one of the best films ever made. Watch it now if you haven’t, and if you have, watch it again.

fourstars

 

 

2. Gwoemul (The Host) (2006)

Now, this one was really weird. It was a silly monster movie on the surface but seemed to be hiding something deeper beneath. The film even begins with a scientist just spilling chemicals down a drain into a river which ultimately creates the monster. It’s goofy and over the top but the characters really hold this film together.

This just proves that a talented director can take this kind of material

"I'm somehow a comment on American foreign policy... Okay!"
“I’m somehow a comment on American foreign policy… Okay!”

and make it really fun and creative. The characters are a lot of fun, really acting on the border of sad and funny which gives the film an emotional edge that many monster/horror movies desperately lack.

One thing that Bong Joon-ho seems to do very well is balancing between horror and humor. His films are never comedies but they find humor in the simplest things and the absurdities of the situations the characters deal with. The Host is a really entertaining film and rather deep with its subtext about American imperialism and what not but it hasn’t aged that well. I never care about the quality of the special effects because the times change so fast nowadays, but here the computer effects seem really dated in a couple of places.

It’s never so blatant that it hurts the film, however, so check this out if you want to see a fun monster film. Unfortunately, I need to warn you that the film sort of overstays its welcome near the end which is why I can’t give it more than three stars.

stars3

 

 

3. Madeo (Mother) (2009)

Mother is, more than anything else, a sister piece to Memories of Murder. It also deals with a hunt for a murderer but from a completely different perspective. This time it’s the perspective of an old woman and her mentally handicapped son who has rather quirky memory issues.

This film somehow manages to be even more haunting than its predecessor but in a much subtler way. This time we don’t that much witness the horrors but recount them in our heads. We feel the horror of the prospect of losing a loved one and the pain of realizing that you might not be as innocent as you have thought.

The only problem with this film is that the humor, which is really Bong

"A mother's love will break all chains."
“A mother’s love will break all chains.”

Joon-ho’s trademark, is sorely missing. There is some of it in the early scenes but I can’t seem to remember there being anything as hilariously awkward as in The Host and Memories of Murder.

It’s a steady piece of work which still manages to leave an impact without becoming an obsession. A fine film, to say the least.

Star 3 half

 

 

So there you go! A small recap of Bong Joon-ho’s films I’ve seen. Hopefully you’ll check them out. I’ll probably make one more of these and talk about the films of Kim Ki-duk. But until then…

Cheers!

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

Lonely, desperate old men and dancing dolls

Pinocchio (1940) is probably the greatest animated film ever made. Not only is it a great and emotional story, it’s also a milestone in hand drawn animation. Still the best looking cartoon of all time. A masterpiece !

This said, I have to make the claim that it’s definitely not a children’s film. Don’t get me wrong! Children should watch it repeatedly because it teaches many important life lessons. It’s just that the definition of children’s entertainment has changed radically with the years. Nowadays, I would consider stuff like The Teletubbies and Sesame Street children’s stuff, and Disney films more like family entertainment because they are films that adults can enjoy just as well.

And in certain cases, as in this one, even more. I always had the idea that Gepetto is a widower. We can see that he spends his days building clocks and toys, and his only friends are his cat and goldfish. He even seems a bit coocky at the beginning. And it’s not a coincidence that he decides to create a young boy as his friend. It seems that Gepetto was once maybe married and had a child. Then

"Let's give your dad something to live for, Pinocchio!"
“Let’s give your dad something to live for, Pinocchio!”

something tragic happened and he they both died, leaving him all alone for years and years. During this time he developed a habit of talking to his pets and building more and more clocks. In word, he went crazy.

Then one night he prays earnestly and desperately to god (or the fairy) that the doll he just built would come alive and become his long lost son. It could even be that the likeness of Pinocchio is really the likeness of his dead son.

I don’t know if the original story had something like this in it, but I’ve always felt there was more to Gepetto than that he’s just an old man who happens to be alone.

This, I think, gives a lot more weight to Pinocchio’s own adventure because we feel for Gepetto and, therefore, truly hope that Pinocchio becomes a good boy and is able to turn into a real boy.

I wouldn’t really consider any of these themes for a children’s film. But that’s the thing. Kids grow up as idiots if they spend all their time watching the so-called kid’s stuff because, let’s face it, that stuff is mostly retarded. Films like Pinocchio might be a bit challenging and, even in some cases, traumatizing (I still haven’t gotten over the scene where the creepy kidnapper dude turns the kids into his donkey slaves for the rest of their lives) but they teach important lessons and have powerful drama. They are an essential part of life to teach children empathy.

So, let’s always watch and show our kids Disney films! They really are amazing and Pinocchio is the ultimate masterpiece; their magnum opus.

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

More than a Tokyo story

Tokyo Monogatari (1953), by Yazujiro Ozu, is considered by many critics and film enthusiasts as being the greatest film ever made. Period. Apparently, there isn’t much competition. It suffers from the same baggage as Citizen Kane (1941) in this regard, as being told that something is the greatest ever, usually puts people off. Why?

Well, I guess there are always those expectations that can’t be met when someone claims to have found the greatest film ever made. People become weary of that. Also, when you make a claim like that it seems as if it’s some sort of a challenge. “If you don’t like this movie, it means you don’t get it because it’s the greatest film ever made!” It can make people feel stupid for no reason.

After establishing this, I have to say that it took a while for me to see Tokyo Monogatari for this exact reason. It was like Gone with the Wind (1939), I was just not interested. But then fate stepped in the way.

I was in London with my friend, awaiting our ride to the airport, in the middle of the night, with a few hours to kill. My friend suggested that we watch Tokyo Monogatari on Blu-Ray which was available. What was I going to say at that point?

It’s been a while since that night and I’ve had some time to think about it, but I do have to admit that Tokyo Monogatari really is the greatest film of all time. Hands down.

Up until now, I’ve considered Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) to be the greatest film ever, but it has come time to lay that to rest. Oh, Harmonica! You were so great but I found something better.

But don’t feel intimidated by Tokyo Monogatari! You don’t need to

"Isn't life disappointing?"
“Isn’t life disappointing?”

understand much about Japanese culture, or film in general to enjoy it. It’s a very simple story about a old couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown up children. It’s equally about the slight disappointment the parents feel when they see how their children are doing, and the slight inconvenience the trip causes for them. There is so much reality behind the actions and the words that it makes my heart ache. You feel the love the people share but are incapable of expressing. It is also a metaphor of how urbanisation kills the traditional family unit and causes a divide between people.

There is a ray of kindness and hope, however, symbolised by the widow of the old couple’s son who passed away prior to the events portrayed in the film. The woman is of no relation to the couple but still treats them with kindness and love throughout the film. And even though the widow realises that the couple’s own children don’t seem to care much for them, at least in a way which is visible, she doesn’t become bitter or harbour any ill feelings. All she wants are good things for everyone. I bet we all wish we had someone like that in our lives.

I won’t give anything away but the last scene in the film sort of sums up love, life, hardships, death, and survival in one glorious sentence uttered by the old man.

The great Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki once stated that Tokyo Monogatari is the sole reason that he became a filmmaker. It certainly has that quality about it. Not only is a masterpiece of emotional storytelling, it is also a technical masterpiece. Extremely impressive for its time.

But really, all these words seem futile because Mr. Kaurismäki said it best: “Mr. Ozu, you simply were able to tell everything essential about human life.”

If you haven’t seen this film, please watch it. Don’t fear the baggage of it being the greatest of all time. Embrace it!

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

Sick and Tired of the Finnish Cinema Industry

I’m from Finland, and pretty much the only thing worse than the state of the Finnish film industry is the the state of the Finnish cinema industry.

We basically have only one chain of cinemas in Finland, called

"The scene of the crime..."
“The scene of the crime…”

Finnkino. There are some small theaters around the country but they’re mostly just small art-house cinemas. So, Finnkino has a monopoly of mainstream film presentation and, therefore, can charge whatever they want.

This is the first problem, the pricing. It’s ridiculous. If you go to the movies on a Saturday, be prepared to pay 13 euros for a single ticket. This is not an IMAX 3D showing. This is a small screen showing something like The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

I wouldn’t be so bloody pissed about the price if at least that would mean I don’t have to sit through commercials. But no. Before the film begins there are 15 – 20 minutes of commercials. Not previews, but commercials. The same shit we get on TV.

Then, of course, all the films are shown with a huge delay. The Master (2012) was released in September in the United States, but we had to wait until April of the following year to finally see that film. It’s stuff like this that leads me to downloading films over the internet.

Okay, now we are in the theater. We have paid the ridiculously over priced ticket, bought the ridiculously over priced candy and popcorn, watched 20 minutes of commercials, watched 10 minutes of previews, and already gone to the bathroom twice. What next?

The whole theater chain is 100% digital! Even if the movie itself was shot on film, and there would be a film print

"Attach this to your right arm."
“Attach this to your right arm.”

available, we have to sit and basically watch a Blu-Ray. What exactly is the difference nowadays with huge screen HD TVs and movie theters, especially ones with such small silver screens? Film is so beautiful, and it makes me sad that it’s pretty much impossible to see movies on film in Finland these days.

So, what is there to do? I guess I could never go to a cinema again…

No. Fuck it. I’m weak. Fuck Finnkino, seriously. But I’ve got to watch more movies…

If there only were another chain of cinemas in Finland. Then there would be competition and the prices would drop and the quality would rise. Until then, though, I’m stuck with this piece of shit corporation.

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

The worst thing about The Return of the King

No film is without flaw. Especially one so long.

I have always held the The Lord of the Rings in very high regard, both as a book and a film. However, I would have to disagree with the common consensus that The Return of the King is the strongest of the films. The Two Towers is the winner for me, particularly the

"God from the machine!"
“God from the machine!”

Extended Edition. Just the fact that Faramir is actually treated as a respectable and complex character, instead of the dry and pointless bore he is in the novel, is enough to make it my favorite.

I do consider the three to be one big, epic film, however, so there really is no point in picking favorites.

The problem I have with The Return of the King is with the battle at Pellenoir. I just feel it’s a letdown. A mess. And the worst part is the army of the dead.

Really the army of the dead is a perfect example of Deus Ex Machina. It just seems way too easy and convenient.

If they are really undead, then why didn’t the people just hang back and retreat and let the undead do all the fighting? There is no weight, no consequences, no drama in the battle when the heroes are basically using a cheat code. The battle at Helm’s Deep is really the central battle in the saga.

I don’t remember the army of the dead in the novel very well. Were they really characterized as not being able to die? I always thought that they were just cursed somehow. They really don’t have anything to sacrifice if they can’t get hurt so there is no point in them trying to refuse Aragorn’s plea. Why wouldn’t they fight and regain their honor? Are they just going to hang around for an eternity doing nothing instead?

The whole army of the dead thing is really stupid and almost ruins the third installment for me. Fortunately, there is so many other things to adore in the film that I can get over this.

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

Slowly being consumed by South Korean cinema Part I

Jesus, I love Korean films.

I watched Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance like a year ago and developed a taste for more of Park Chan-wook’s work, so I ended up watching all of his films I could get my hands on.

If you haven’t seen or even heard of any of these films, I strongly suggest you take a look at them. I’m also a huge fan of Bong Joon-ho and Kim Ki-duk. I’ll probably write about their films another time.

These films are in chronological order, not in a “Top 10″. I use a four star rating system.

1. JSA (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA) (2000)

This film is located in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. A southern soldier is out on patrol and accidentally wanders into North Korean territory and steps on a landmine. Therefore, he cannot move without blowing himself up into pieces. He stands there in terror for a while until a northern soldier finds him and saves his life. They then develop a friendship that can only have a tragic ending.

This film would so damn good without the silly “bookends” type of

"Well... Hello there! Yes you on the other side of the border! Can you here me over there?"
“Well… Hello there! Yes you on the other side of the border! Can you here me over there?”

narrative. The story is told unnecessarily in flashback through the thoughts of an international agent investigating in the area. I hate this part of the film. It shows that Park Chan-wook really didn’t yet have the chops to write a film in English. Fortunately, the actual story is a gripping and unforgettable cry for humanity in a conflict which doesn’t seem to have an end. Uneven but very touching.

stars3

 

 

2. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Boksuneun naui geot) (2002)

This is the first film in Park’s so-called “Vengeance Trilogy”. I seem to be alone on this, but I find this film superior to Oldboy. Where, I think

Symven04
“Which one?”

Oldboy went just a tiny bit over the top in some respects, this film handles itself in a much more subtle demeanor. It’s long, quiet, complex, and violent (not in an action film sort of way but rather very shockingly and disturbingly) and I love every minute of it.

Just the setting itself is so damn atmospheric. The loud machines in the factory, where our main character works, contrasted with quiet rural settings outside of Seoul. Flawless cinematography combined with an often puzzling but ultimately satisfying editing style.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance tells the story of a deaf factory worker whose sister needs a new kidney. He will do anything to get the money, even kidnap a child to hold as ransom. The film is so full of twists and shocks that I’ll just leave it at that. Park’s finest film in my opinion. A marvelous picture!

fourstars

 

 

3. Oldboy (Oldeuboi) (2003)

The second film in the “Vengeance Trilogy” is the one film most people have seen by Park Chan-wook. Oldboy won awards at multiple film festivals and garnered international acclaim when it was released, and even though I find it goes a bit off the rails in a few places and suffers from dated CGI, this film is still a masterpiece.

This time the director chose a more energetic style, combining manga

oldboy2
“Yum, yum! It’s alive!”

and anime influences into his own distinct imagery. The films is faster paced and more entertaining, in a simpler way, than its predecessor, but doesn’t quite give me the same rush. It is however one of the more emotionally disturbing films I’ve seen in recent years, which is high praise coming from me.

Oldboy is about a man who gets imprisoned in a private prison for 15 years. When he is finally released, nobody tells him why. He finds himself on a path to uncover the mystery. Again, so many twists and turns that I won’t say more. A fiendishly entertaining thriller.

fourstars

 

 

4. Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi) (2005)

The third and last film in the “Vengeance Trilogy”.

A woman is wrongfully imprisoned and decides to take vengeance on the people who framed her. On the way she receives help from all the people she helped, in one way or another, in prison.

vengeancetrilogy-04
“Be White. Live White. Like this.”

This film is not on the same level with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, but what films are? This is again a bit more subtle and quiet film, focusing much more on atmosphere and characters than plot and action.  Not much more to say about this. It’s a good film, but a bit underwhelming after its predecessors.

Star 3 half

 

 

5. I’m a Cyborg, but that’s OK (Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a) (2006)

I would definitely recommend this film for its quirky visuals and acting, but as a film I think it falls flat. I just probably didn’t get it. It’s about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg who’s in a mental hospital. She falls in love with this weird guy who thinks he’s some sort of a soul thief.

Really, the problem with this one is that it doesn’t have a story or

im_a_cyborg_but_thats_ok
“Something weird and crazy…”

characters I could identify with. It’s funny, I guess, and clever in certain ways but it left me cold. Impressive camera work and composition of shots redeem it in my opinion.

Not for me, but check it out if you like crazy people and weird humor.

two-stars

 

 

 

 

6. Thirst (Bakjwi) (2009)

Thirst is a vampire picture. The most original vampire picture I’ve ever seen actually. Here Park’s style really speaks for itself. A great treatment for the barrage of awful vampire movies recently.

3226_2
“Delicious…”

The film opens with one of the most touching scenes I’ve seen. A fat man is lying in a hospital bed, dying. He’s speaking to the camera, describing a sponge cake he once bought when he was really hungry. Instead of eating it, though, he gave it to a starving person. He wonders if God will remember that.

A priest is there to answer: “That’s what he does. He remembers.”

Very easy to identify with. I bet we all want to do good things but just somehow we don’t. Maybe there is that one moment in a life where you do something good. Something small, but something good. A beautiful thought, although I’m not religious.

Star 3 half

 

 

I won’t talk about Stoker because it wasn’t written by Park, and it was done in the US so it doesn’t feel like a Park Chan-wook film. Quick opinion: It was okay.

Peace

-Aleksi Mörttinen (Student at the University of Tampere)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.