Acceptable in the 80s?

Edinburgh book festival authors nominate their favourite 80s movies

Acceptable in the 80s?

Blade Runner

It was the decade that brought us smoking replicants and scary twins, time-travelling cars and flying bikes. As Hadley Freeman brings her literary paean to memorable movie characters such as Harry, Sally and Baby to Charlotte Square Gardens, we hear from a bunch of festival authors about their own favourite 80s US films.

Chris Brookmyre
The Breakfast Club (1985)
For a film iconically synonymous with its decade, in the UK you could have blinked and missed its theatrical release. Thus by the time I saw it in 1986, I had left school, but was fascinated to see its dynamics evoked in a way that was familiar and yet exotic. The reason the film has endured is that though its clothes and music date it, the experience depicted is as universal as it is timeless. Molly Ringwald’s Claire wouldn’t need to be scrolling her iPhone for a modern high-schooler to relate to her. The Breakfast Club won a permanent place in teen hearts because it told them: I feel your pain. And if you’re scoffing at the idea of self-obsessed middle-class teens being in pain, then congratulations: you are Mr Vernon.
21 Aug, 8.15pm, £12 (£10).

Iain Macwhirter
Blade Runner (1982)
The film that towers over 1980s Hollywood is Ridley Scott’s ‘neo-noir’ masterpiece. Quite literally, since its dark industrial skyline, with towers puffing flames, is almost the main character. Loosely based on Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner became the template for a genre of dystopian, ‘cyberpunk’ sci-fi. The casting is inspired, with Harrison Ford as the reluctant replicant hunter, Rutger Hauer in his only great role as the killer cyborg (the original terminator), and Sean Young as the replicant who thinks she can fall in love. The soundtrack was exemplary, mixing sound effects with music fragments. Unfortunately, the studio added a daft happy ending. But the message of Blade Runner is that, human or replicant, no one gets out of this alive.
15 Aug, 1.30pm, £12 (£10).

Jenni Fagan

The Shining (1980)
Like all the greatest films, The Shining has not tired with time and it’s still brilliant now! The eerie hotel, amazingly paranoid character of Jack Torrance as he descends into madness, and his terrified wife Wendy portray a true terror that laces the entire film with a dark edge. Visually, the iconic image of the twins dressed in their blue dresses in that claustrophobic, never-ending corridor, or the little boy on his bicycle, stand out. Once you’ve heard the cry of ‘here’s Johnny!’, you never forget it. A slice of cinematic genius.
19 Aug (with Andrew McMillan), 7pm, £8 (£6); 20 Aug (reading workshop), 1pm, £15 (£12); 25 Aug (with Sara Taylor), 8.30pm, £8 (£6).

Iain Maloney
Back to the Future (1985)
This is still as good today as it was when it first blew me away like Marty McFly testing out Doc Brown’s new amplifier back in 1985. It’s the perfect blend of science fiction, comedy and drama, and packed with iconic moments. The premise alone is genius: a young man accidentally travels back in time and finds his own existence threatened when the young version of his mother fancies him instead of the young version of his father. His mission: to ensure his parents get it on. A classic.
25 Aug (with Glenn Patterson), 3.45pm, £8 (£6).

Chimwemwe Undi
Do the Right Thing (1989)
pestering swelter / the sweat stored at the small of a back / in the neon arch of an elbow / in that soft packsaddle they named the season for / & the way the air / pulls itself taut as a clothesline / we could hang our costumes from // when they said heat they meant / we would forget our names / & be reminded what it is to / store light. / no, it’s the humidity / or the fresh white kicks / or the heavy lessons of a misplaced step / or an object in motion. the question is / what means document / when the life is transcription / & the lens is built in.
16 Aug (with Agnes Török), 7pm, £8 (£6).

Rob Doyle
Blade Runner (1982)
This is one of the films I’ve seen the highest number of times. It’s comfort viewing: I can very easily settle into the aesthetic, the mood, the gorgeously melancholic Vangelis soundtrack, the burnt-out skylines and the android poetry. I await the rumoured sequel with optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect.
22 Aug (with David Szalay), 8.30pm, £8 (£6).

All authors appear at Charlotte Square Gardens, 0845 373 5888.


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