Bladerunner, Laputa and anonymity 

Feeling awkward about going to the cinema on your own is ludicrous. It’s the ideal solo activity, particularly if you have esoteric movie tastes / no friends. But it’s still taken me years – decades – to feel comfortable with it. I remember going to see some (quite dull) Chinese romantic epic when at university. When the lights went up at the end to reveal I was the only solo viewer, I wanted to skulk out without anyone noticing. But university is a strange time, when humans tend to surround themselves with people and validation – when it seems perfectly acceptable to hang out in groups of twenty five of an evening. Perceived judgement is itself a touch of teenage arrogance: to think that you’re so important that the people around you have noticed what you’re doing.

Fast forward sixteen years or so, and I’ve just about got the hang of it. I still talk in a slightly overly friendly fashion with the person at the ticket desk – hey look how well-adjusted I am, I’ve got friends honest – but once that dance is over I relax into the anonymity.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen Bladerunner: the final cut and Laputa: City in the sky. Bladerunner needs no introduction, but I hadn’t seen it since I was young, and it had merged into a few key themes and images. In fact, what had left the largest impression on my young brain was mood: a kind of underlying rainy despondency, but a sexy one. It made the future seem impossibly terrible and impossibly glamorous, and it shaped so many of the books, films and anime I was to go on to seek.

Watching it again, it’s remarkable how well it stands up. The architecture of the future LA is still dazzling and dreamlike, the corporate pyramids scraping the sky over the litter and noodles down below. Not much jars – though I did have a wry smile on my face when I saw the vast corporate ads for Atari – and so much was left unseen, unsaid, merely suggested.

The other film was a Ghibli classic. Laputa has yer classic Miyazaki signifiers: anti war, in thrall to nature and the magic of flying, and strong female characters who give not a proverbial shit.

The film introduced to me Captain Dola, the air pirate matriarch of my dreams. Fast flying, hard drinking, belly laughing and despairing of her useless pirate sons, Dola stomps all over this film from the moment she arrives. Dola quite rightly keeps her husband working the machines on board their sky galleon while she heads off raiding and buccaneering. But there’s tenderness too: there’s one short, gorgeous scene where Dola and her husband are playing chess on board their magnificent flying machine. Irritable, honest, and utterly the match of each other, these mythical animated sky pirates are a lovely, inspiring couple.


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