English director Alex Cox studied law at Oxford—at least until being deflected into theatre through his participation in the University’s drama department. Cox switched to a film studies program at University of Bristol, received a Fulbright scholarship, then traveled to the United States to attend the UCLA film school. His plans to become the next Welles or Scorsese were muddied by several years’ inactivity, during which time he took a job repossessing automobiles. Drawing from the experience, Cox made his feature-film directorial bow with the wildly inconsistent but very entertaining Repo Man (1984), which served as one of the first starring assignments of Emilio Estevez. Repo Man’s musical score was drenched in punk-rock, a symbolic form of violent rebellion explored further in Cox’s Sid and Nancy (1987), a fascinating if depressing chronicle of the life and death of “punk” musician Sid Vicious and groupie Nancy Spungen. Critically celebrated for both films, Cox’s reputation declined… read more
Cox clearly understands Borges - the way he interprets the revelation of the mastermind is very clever, compared to how it reads on the page - though his colourful punk sensibility is not what I immediately pictured when reading the original text. I always see Borges as being closer to Greenaway or 80s-era Ruiz; Three Crowns of the Sailor perhaps? There's a bit of that here, but there's a bit of Alphaville too, with some of the gonzo energy of Straight to Hell thrown in.
I couldn't shake the feeling that Peter Boyle was miscast, and that the nested flashback structure served no real purpose. Had the sort of tone I expected from a Cox movie, but seemed to be trying way too hard to maintain it. (And though the plot is hardly important, the identity of the mystery villain is no real mystery after about a third of the way in.) On the plus side, the soundtrack may be better than the film.