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SOFT RIOT

Repo Man

06 December 2014

Repo Man | Cover ImageSo, this little corner of the website has been in the deep freeze for around, oh, six months now. It’s not like there’s been nothing to post. There’s literally a cathode ray tube army of films that I could in theory stuff into this thing but to be honest, I just haven’t had the time between all the music happenings, work (design) happenings and getting-off-the-computer-and-doing-non-computer things happenings.

To kick this Film Klub section into some action, I thought I’d post a little overview about a great film in a category that I call “sci-fi punk”: Repo Man! It’s a pretty common film in North America, and it’s likely most people I know back home that have a vague interest in this sort of thing have seen it but it isn’t so commonly viewed in Europe.

Released in 1984, Repo Man is a film set within the LA punk scene at the time and centres around a young man called Otto (Emilio Estevez). He gets fired from his job at the supermarket and shortly thereafter gets offered a bit of cash by a man called Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) to help him move a car. After finding out he’s been duped into being a “repo man”, repossessing automobiles of those behind on their car payments, he refuses and heads home, only to find his parents had squandered his money away to a hammy TV evangelist. He then returns to Bud begrudgingly to take up being a repo man full time as he really doesn’t have any other option at this point.

While this plot development is unfolding, another parallel plot is also moving along, where a state trooper at the beginning of the film pulls over a car and after opening the trunk to inspect, is reduced to radioactive dust after getting a full blast of hyper-neon radioactive light from the back of the truck.

And not to spoil the plot of those that haven’t seen it, the movie starts to wind the two plots together with Otto working as a repo man along with the supernatural/sci-fi element of the mysterious car starting to come into his life.

It’s a quirky film, filled with a lot of strange characters from the American film underground like Fox Harris and Dick Rude. There’s also a lot short appearances and soundtrack contributions by LA punk bands at the time like Circle Jerks, Black Flag and even Iggy Pop. These additions to the film, and the comic but thought-provoking bits of dialogue that are abundant in the film (the “flying saucer” conversation around the bin fire is a good example) make it a very entertaining and even inspiring sort of film.

The film was directed by Alex Cox, who also did the popular Sid & Nancy. Shortly after that he did Straight To Hell (1987) and Walker (1987), the former starring a very young Courtenay Love in a very stylised wild west setting; a film full of outlaws in a punk meets “El Dorado” type setting. A visually interesting film but doesn’t really go anywhere. The latter film, Walker, is based on a true story about an American lawyer, William Walker (Ed Harris) who tries to take over Honduras in the 1850 by hiring a private army in an event called a “filibuster”. It’s a lot more watchable than the former.

I see this film paired up with a few other “sci-fi punk” films from around the world at the time. Switching over to Europe, Kamikaze 1989 starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a good equivalent: punk-rock styled fashions, bizarre plots, gritty dystopian landscapes and and interesting soundtrack — in this case a quirky “minimal synth” soundtrack by Edgar Froese of Tangering Dream.

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