With the “Blade Runner” sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” due out on October 6, “Escapes” is a timely documentary following the life of Hampton Fancher, one of the screenwriters of the 1982 Ridley Scott science fiction classic. A fascinating character study, “Escapes” is made even more interesting because it is directed by Michael Almereyda, who has given us fine narrative films like 2015’s “Experimenter” and this year’s Sundance entry “Marjorie Prime” starring Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins.
“Escapes” is essential viewing for every obsessed cineaste and especially those nuts about all things “Blade Runner.” Like Noah Baumbach’s and Jake Paltrow’s single interview 2016 documentary “De Palma” following the career of director Brian de Palma, “Escapes” is largely made up of a conversation with its subject (Fancher) and an extensive collection of archived footage and personal photos together with excellent use of film clips.
This means that the story is told exclusively from the perspective and through the voice of the man being profiled. While Fanhcer’s memory may be good, one reads between the lines that some of his anecdotes have other complex dimensions. He’s possibly not the most reliable narrator, which might make the film even more entertaining. And because it is only Fancher’s voice we hear and see, the viewer is challenged to search for subtext in vocal intonations and facial expressions.
Some tales are better told than experienced. And Fancher’s casual embellishments help make mundane life experiences seem more than what they might have been. The hint of sadness that permeates his story-telling is clearly detectable, which makes us lean in. The question is, whether this is a life worth profiling?
Fancher’s main claim to fame is that he co-wrote the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” that was directed by Ridley Scott. He is essentially a one-hit wonder. But there’s much more to the guy, who once had a relationship with actresses Teri Garr and Barbara Hershey and for much of his career struggled to make ends meet. Fancher’s story is one of the history of Hollywood itself albeit from a very personal and intimate place.