Repo Man (Alex Cox / U.S., 1984):

The tangy preamble -- crumby flatlands, "Oh My Darling Clementine" warbled off-key, Kiss Me Deadly in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu, ominous surf-music thrumming -- sets the free-associational guerilla timbre. Otto the baby nihilist (Emilio Estevez) quits his job at the supermarket, ponders the phosphorescent wasteland before him, falls in with an ersatz-desperado gang of repo men. His wizened mentor (the deathless Harry Dean Stanton) extols the "repo code" in between toots of cocaine and yearns "to go indie," his parents have long turned catatonic before TV charlatans, his girl (Olivia Barash) is an activist with eyes on tabloid success. Battered city surfaces, UFOS and government agents in Hazmat suits, a lobotomized envoy (Fox Harris) in a literally hot car, "weird fuckiní shit, huh?" At the serene center lies the Zen manginess of Tracey Walter, recounting the "lattice of coincidence" by the vestal altar of a burning drum. "You know how everyone is into weirdness these days?" It takes a Yank like Joseph Losey to chart the venomous circles of London, and it takes a Brit like Alex Cox to sniff out the chaffing subcultures of Los Angeles. In protest against the docile "well-made film" and Reaganís smiley-face button vision of America, Cox shreds narrative lucidity, stutters from one Godardian cameo to the next, and foregrounds every racial, social, and political tension imaginable. In this half-shaggy, half-annihilating vision of a junk culture, authority figures are rent-a-cops knitting sweaters, the punk mystique avails us no more ("Letís get sushi... and not pay!"), even Stantonís last-frontier code is an illusion. And yet revolt is not out of reach, a boy raised on products labeled "FOOD" and "BEER" can still find his way to the stars. Coxís belligerent-spacey-sublime revue, a thousand subversive messages scratched onto the celluloid, a peculiarly magical call to arms. Cinematography by Robby Muller. With Sy Richardson, Susan Barnes, Tom Finnegan, Del Zamora, Eddie Velez, Zander Schloss, Dick Rude, Miguel Sandoval, Vonetta McGee, Richard Foronjy, and The Circle Jerks.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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