Film Double Bill: `It made me want to ride bikes and be Mickey Rourke'

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The Independent Culture
ZIAD DOUEIRI, DIRECTOR OF `WEST BEIRUT', ON HIS IDEAL CINEMATIC PAIRING

Blade Runner (Dir Ridley Scott)

Rumble Fish (Dir Francis Ford Coppola)

RUMBLE FISH made me want to ride motorcycles and be Mickey Rourke - "The Motorcycle Boy". Whereas Blade Runner made me want to live in its city, and fall in love with a Sean Young. I was in Beirut at the time. When I saw LA in the year 2019, I said, if I have a choice to live in a town, it'll be that town.

I got emersed in the mood of Blade Runner and completely forgot myself, one of the few times I have ever felt like that. To me it is a visual masterpiece, Ridley Scott's master work. The cinematic techniques have been copied in many films but never equalled; the strong shaft of light and a fan; the use of wetting the streets to film an acid-rain city. I was a cameraman for a long time, and Jordan Cronenweth, who shot Blade Runner, is a major influence. Last month I saw it on a small TV in France and it still had the same effect.

It is science fiction, yet there are contemporary elements in the set choices and cinematic language; people fly instead of drive, but an old lady runs a Chinese takeaway; there are very high-tech telephones, but a voice asks for $1.25 deposit. This is a sense of realism. In 50 years, that's what LA will look like, not Star Wars.

It has tolerance. The replicants are killing left and right in a vicious manner, and you hate them, but you also understand why. The Rutger Hauer replicant just wants to live longer and prolong his dream. And in the end, he saves Harrison Ford. Everybody in the film is shady, everyone is dark. It's one of a few films that does justice to the book - Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. Except that the film has an ambiguity about whether Harrison Ford is an android or not (in the book, we know he is): there are very small clues, two or three hints, like where the chief detective says something to Ford. I don't know if the ambiguity was always going to be there. I think some of the film got burnt and there was earthquake damage, so maybe the footage that got used was there for convenience. Either way, it means you can't stop liking Ford. This moves my feelings more than analysis. I do analyse it, of course, I've seen it 20 times, but it's not a cold experience.

Rumble Fish just blew my socks off. You identify with Rourke's character. I don't want to sound like a social-studies programme but what he represents is more than meets the eye. He is an outsider from society who we know from the beginning will fall victim, in spite of his brothers idolising him. I was 20 years old when I saw this film. And as a man who is also not disillusioned, is pragmatic and realistic, you just feel that he is the ultimate romantic figure. He knows the game and falls victim anyway.

There's a scene when the brothers (Rourke and Matt Dillon) are talking on the edge of the ocean, a very cinematic shot with seagulls and the motorcycle in silhouette, and I took the same picture of myself and sent it to a girl I was trying to go out with. Of course it didn't work.

As a film it is brilliant, not just in its meaning. Stephen H Burum's camerawork, how it's shot in black and white (except for the fish, who are in colour) works so well for the picture. I find that I have always been attracted to saturated colour, where blacks are real blacks. I think each film needs its own style. My own still photography has always used very grainy film and saturated colours, whereas cinema seems to be moving towards a grainless picture quality closer to real life.

There is also great use of time-lapse photography; people are talking in real time, and behind them the clouds are moving fast, or there are changes in the shadows on the wall from the fire escape. All these aesthetic extras are so relevant for the story. The music is done by Stewart Copeland, of the Police. By pure coincidence, I ended up asking him to do the soundtrack for West Beirut.

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