Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Strange Days, Here We Come

Strange Days (1995) is a strange movie. We watched it as a followup to eXistenZ, because they share a virtual reality theme. But that isn't really the case.

It's late December, 1999. LA is dystopian hellhole, just like today, and a youngish Ralph Fiennes is a low-life memory hustler - people can record their sensory perceptions, usually lawless violence or sex, and he sells the sensation. These recordings are called "tapes", because they are recorded on discs. When he is not hustling, he is wallowing in the recorded memories of his ex-girlfriend, Juliette Lewis.

Meanwhile, a hooker friend of the ex-GF is on the run from the cops with a mysterious recording, and ends up dead. Somewhere around here, Angela Bassett shows up. She is a bodyguard and chauffeur with warm feelings for Fiennes. She is badass, and maybe the first character we can really like. As New Year's Eve approaches, a dead rapper, some bad cops, and assorted clowns and hustlers all head for the big climax.

This is a great movie, if maybe a little scummy. It was directed by Katherine Bigelow, and co-written by her husband James Cameron, with script help from Jay Cocks (disclaimer: I am related to Jay by marriage - his and mine). My one big complaint is that the recorded memory gimmick is almost totally unused. That is, it is used, but a GoPro would have worked as well. The illegal tapes could have been the web videos that Vin Diesel made in XXX. So this wasn't really a virtual reality movie - there is never any ontological confusion about what is real and what is a tape.

In conclusion, there's a lot less Doors on the soundtrack than you'd think.

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