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Rebel Without Applause: The Films of Alex Cox

September 28, 2012 - October 7, 2012


Alex Cox is an unruly soul. From his first radioactive rollick, Repo Man (1984), an unrelenting rebellion has bruised his films. It’s not limited to Cox’s dizzy and anarchic punk aesthetic—beyond that turbulent surface are subversive swipes at dominant culture, the evils of empire, and even the very underpinnings of cinema. Since his early success with the roentgen-registering Repo Man and that epic of the addled, Sid and Nancy (1986), Cox has stuck to his guns, literally. Each film is like a shoot-out with civilization: Walker (1987) with its anti-imperialist altercations; Highway Patrolman (1991) where honor is the road less taken; or Death and the Compass (1992), a dire vision of superstition replacing order. If Cox has a soft spot, it’s for cinema itself. His films are shot through with sly references and signature send-offs. Straight to Hell (1987), with cameos by sub-pop celebs like Elvis Costello and Courtney Love, cross-dresses as a spaghetti western, a particular Coxian genre fetish. Resourceful and resilient, Cox continues to apply his anarchic wit and stylistic subterfuge to microfeatures that find an uneasy place within commercial cinema. With a dirty dozen films behind him, Cox is still cocksure about one thing: the revolution will not be monetized.

As part of our ongoing series Afterimage: Filmmakers and Critics in Conversation, we are delighted that renowned critic J. Hoberman will join Alex Cox to discuss his films following the screening of Walker on Saturday, October 6. Until recently, Hoberman was the lead film critic at the Village Voice. Hoberman is also the guest curator of our series An Army of Phantoms, based on his recent book on the same name.

Steve Seid, Video Curator

Friday, September 28, 2012
7:00 p.m. Straight to Hell Returns
Alex Cox (U.K./U.S., 1987/2010). Rude boys gone Western: several bandits, tricksters, and desperadoes—including Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, The Pogues, Courtney Love, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, and Jim Jarmusch—are adrift in a deserted desert town, in Cox’s delirious remix of spaghetti westerns and Sam Peckinpah. (91 mins)

Friday, September 28, 2012
8:50 p.m. Repo Man
Alex Cox (U.S., 1984). A very youthful Emilio Estevez is a young repo man taken under the wing of grizzled Harry Dean Stanton in Cox’s first feature and cult favorite, one of the defining films of the 1980s American indie scene. (92 mins)

Thursday, October 4, 2012
7:00 p.m. Highway Patrolman
Alex Cox (U.S./Mexico, 1991). Alex Cox in person. A Mexican highway patrolman learns the seedier side of the job in this straight-from-the-hip study of a young man who yearns for the noble when everything around him is grubby and corrupt. (104 mins)

Friday, October 5, 2012
9:00 p.m. Death and the Compass
Alex Cox (U.S./Mexico, 1996). Alex Cox in person. Cox’s ongoing fascination with Jorge Luis Borges is seen in this feature adaptation of a Borges tale. Here, we are engaged by the dogged Peter Boyle as Erik Lönnrot, a philosophical detective who uncovers a series of murders that might be the outcome of an occult conspiracy. With Pedro Armendáriz Jr and Christopher Eccleston. (86 mins)

Saturday, October 6, 2012
6:00 p.m. Walker
Alex Cox (U.S., 1987). Alex Cox and J. Hoberman in conversation. A broadside at the ship of state and Reagan-era imperialism in Latin America, Walker follows the bloody campaign of an American mercenary (Ed Harris) to conquer and rule over Nicaragua in 1855. (94 mins)

Sunday, October 7, 2012
4:00 p.m. Searchers 2.0
Alex Cox (U.S., 2007). Ed Pansullo in person. Two men in a lengthy odyssey to exact revenge for past wrongdoings—not John Ford’s anguished oater The Searchers, but Alex Cox’s road movie redux, which follows two former actors on a trail of vengeance. A road romp filled with film references, sly homages, buddy banter, and a love of the panoramic. (96 mins)

This presentation is part of our ongoing series Afterimage: Filmmakers and Critics in Conversation, which is made possible by generous funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association® and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.