Sunday, April 7, 2013

Arzach, the Duellist

Ridley Scott has acknowledged the influence of Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Metal Hurlant, and Heavy Metal on, not only his work (Alien, Tristan & Isolde, Blade Runner), but the sci-fi genre as a whole.  Moebius would contribute production drawings to Alien and Scott had pages of both of the aforementioned magazines on the walls of his production office during the prepping of Blade Runner and used stories and artwork from both magazines as inspirations, when he was launching his original (cancelled) production of Tristan & Isolde.  Moebius and Dan O'Bannon's The Long Tomorrow was a direct influence on Blade Runner, just as the Taarna segment of the Heavy Metal feature (not a Scott feature), baldly takes its visual cues from Arzach.

I knew all or most of this before I finally sat down to watch his first film as director, The Duellists, via the recent Blu-ray from Shout Factory!, so, perhaps, I'm looking for an intentional homage where there is only coincidence, when I note certain visual similarities between this screen grab from Scott's film and a sketch or frame from Moebius' famous Arzach strip (take away Keith Carradine's early 19th century-era pistol and the snow).  The placement of Carradine's character in the frame, his pose, the hood and cape he wears, and the mountainous, rugged terrain immediately made me think of Arzach. If this was purposely drawn up by the filmmaker as a tribute to Moebius, would make me think even better of him, for whatever that's worth.

The Duellists trailer that Paramount, for some reason, would not permit Shout Factory! to put on their Blu-ray.  It does appear on the Paramount DVD version of the film:

Addendum (1/9/14): After reading the excellent book-length history of Alien...aptly titled The Alien Vault, I can confirm that Scott was an avowed admirer of Moebius and, in particular, Arzach at the time of Alien's production.  I'm not sure if he was familiar with the strip when he was making The Duellists, or if it came to his attention afterwards.


Anonymous said...

You may be right about Moebius; I know Scott based some of Blade Runner's visuals on the bande dessinee The Long Tomorrow, but honestly, most of the Duellists' visuals seem to me more reminiscent of the landscapes of Claude Lorraine, and the interiors of Singer Sargent and Turner.

Ned Merrill said...

You clearly know more about this than I do, so I take your word for it and will seek out the names you've added to the discussion.