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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Longo’

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When Johnny Mnemonic premiered on May 26th, 1995, I was pretty excited to see it. I didn’t know much about cyberpunk, or the fiction of William Gibson. But I was a huge Star Trek fan, and loved Alien, Aliens, Batman, Blade Runner—big, immersive fantasies stuffed with over-the-top production design and special effects. I also liked computers, and Speed had made me, like so many people, a Keanu Reeves fan. Plus I’d somehow heard that this Gibson fellow was writing Alien 3. If memory serves, my friend Philip and I went opening day, buying our tickets and settling in, expecting to see our new favorite film.

Instead, we hated the movie—loathed it. There’s a moment, late in the picture, when a Yakuza member picks up a rocket launcher and starts firing it at the base where our heroes are hiding, screaming expletives until Ice-T’s character fells her with a crossbow. I remember turning to Philip and saying, “She wants out. She’s trying to blow up the film.”

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In the years that followed, I got more and more into cinema, branching out into foreign movies, experimental art films, classic Hollywood productions. I also remained a fan of the geekier genres, enjoying movies like 12 Monkeys, Star Trek: First Contact, and Starship Troopers. But I mostly forgot about Johnny Mnemonic. If it ever came up, which rarely happened, I found that those who’d seen it felt the same way that I did. The movie was garbage, a total joke. Even William Gibson agreed.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing cyberpunk movies, trying to figure out how massive walls of TV screens had become a cliche of the genre. Some google searches brought me back to Johnny Mnemonic, whose imagery intrigued me. Curious, I glanced at the movie’s Wikipedia page, where the cast list stood out: besides Keanu and Ice-T, the film stars Takeshi Kitano, Dolph Lundgren, Henry Rollins, Udo Kier. Twenty-three years ago, I didn’t know who they were, but I sure do now. What’s more, I learned that the director, Robert Longo, was a visual artist who, back in the ’70s and ’80s, used to pal around with Cindy Sherman, Rhys Chatham, and the late Glenn Branca. (One of his artworks was used on the cover of Branca’s album The Ascension.) And before he made Johnny Mnemonic, Longo directed the music videos for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and R.E.M.’s “The One I Love.”

I like those videos, I thought. So I found myself wondering if my memory could be faulty. Maybe Johnny Mnemonic was good? I had to find out.

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