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If you want a definition of cult-classic, 'Repo Man' is it!!
on 5 June 2005
I grew up watching the fantastic BBC-TV programme 'Moviedrome', which was basically director Alex Cox introducing favourite films in his own quirky style including 'Something Wild','Carnival of Souls' & 'Django Kill!' I enjoyed Cox's own films, 'Sid and Nancy','Highway Patrolman' & the classic 'Walker' - but it's 'Repo Man' that remains my favourite work of his thus far...
The only film as odd as this to come out of a major Hollywood-studio was the same year's 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension'- which makes an ideal double-bill with this! 'Repo Man' is science-fiction, though science-fiction in a manner not unlike Jean-Luc Godard's 'Alphaville' (1965). As Godard's film used contemporary Paris as a future dystopia, so you get the feeling that Cox did the same to downtown-LA (the locale of its setting is often noted as an infleunce on 'Pulp Fiction', as well as Dennis Hopper's underrated 'Colors' & the charming 'Falling Down').
'Repo Man' offers an 80s-take on dystopia, a post-Reagonomic consumer-hell where dope-smoking baby-boomer parents are hypnotised by the TV, where nihilistic punks steal & where a strange man drives around with a neutron-bomb in the boot of his car, that the FBI are after as part of a wider UFO-conspiracy! Amid all this is Otto, your average punk-loser, who after his girlfriend cheats on him and he gets sacked from his supermarket job (note the way the products are labelled 'beer','london gin' etc- a conceit John Lydon nicked for PIL's 'Album' in 1986)- crossing paths with Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who is a 'Repo Man'...
The film is an absolute trip from there, nodding to scientology, apocalypse, 'A Clockwork Orange'(the speeded-up sex scene in the car nods to another rapidly delivered sex scene in Kubrick's film), US-punk (The Circle Jerks appear as a band in a bar-scene), UFOs (pre-X-Files & Men in Black), 'Kiss Me Deadly' (the glowing mystery in the boot- another thing that turned up in 'Pulp Fiction'!)& William Burroughs (listen out in the hospital scene for a reference to Dr Benway, a major character from 'The Naked Lunch'!) There's also a great tunnel-shot that would recur in Jim Jarmusch's 'Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai'- probably as it shared the same cinematographer Robby Muller (most famous for his work with Wim Wenders).
There's not a film like 'Repo Man', which is charmingly odd and improves with every viewing like the aforementioned 'Buckaroo Banzai', Godard's 'Weekend', Rafelson's 'Head' & Linklater's 'Slacker.' It also belongs to an interesting breed of US-filmmaking - ironic, post-modern, alternative, and should be regarded alongside 'Suburbia','The Decline of Western Civilisation','Rumble Fish','Stranger Than Paradise','River's Edge','Out of the Blue' & 'Heathers'. Noy one for fans of the Brat Pack, though ironically the lead is best known for 'The Breakfast Club' & 'St Elmo's Fire' (what went wrong???)Look out for a cameo from former Monkee Mike Nesmith, who also produced it...
"I blame society..." !!!!!