UNDERGROUND USA: Repo Man (Encore!)

Live Set from DJ Totally Abuse

“That’s why there ain’t a repo man I know don’t take speed,” grumbles car repossession agent Harry Dean Stanton to his new punk initiate Emilio Estevez in Alex Cox’s Los Angeles dream-odyssey. The set-up is simple: a bounty is set on a 1964 Chevy Malibu driven by a nuclear scientist gone loco, the trunk of which contains a glowing Kiss Me Deadly-esque McGuffin. But the classic Hollywood genre mechanics serve as a jumping off point for so much more – as British ex-pat Cox directs his searing anarchist wit to the underbelly of Reagan’s America and the pits of Los Angeles. The film is equal parts beauty and comedy; an observational coming-of-age tale for the disaffected urban youth of the early 80’s. Cox, who hustled to make this film after his time as a UCLA student, takes to the burnt out neighborhoods of LA with the unique eye of a foreigner, feeling out the neon-streets, political economy, and class struggles of the city. Repo Man excavates these threads, yet no matter how much it wrangles the city to do its own bidding (echoing other great films made by sharp visitors to LA, notably Michael Mann’s Heat), it does so with a rare gentleness for people and place. Repo Man, similarly to the hardcore punk scene, has gone on to earn a kind of crossover cult status, while its influence on the following generation of independent filmmakers in the 1990’s is probably underestimated – from master DP Robby Müller’s camerawork on Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA cites this as some of the best night photography ever committed to celluloid, and studied the film with Robert Elswit while making Inherent Vice), to the hilarious improvised dialogue on Quentin Tarantino.

Dir. Alex Cox, 1984, 35mm, 92 min.

Watch the trailer!