Friday, 26 February 2010

The Repossession of Repo! The Genetic Opera

Repo Men, directed by Miguel Sapochnik and starring Jude Law, Liev Schreiber and Forest Whitaker, is soon to be released in the States. As with most high-budget films, it’s getting plenty of attention in the press, and some of that attention is wondering if the book on which it’s based – Repossession Mambo – was also the inspirations for the Darren Lynn Bousman-helmed Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Well, no. No, it wasn’t. Because Repo!’s been around since 1999, when Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich created the stage show. Repossession Mambo was written in 2009…while the film was shooting 2007-2008, roughly the same time that Repo! was shooting.

The myriad similarities between both texts have been better outlined elsewhere, by Spooky Dan, and this goes far beyond the set-up of ‘futuristic organs can be repossessed’. Director Darren Lynn Bousman has also exhaustively demonstrated the history of Repo!, lest any more ill-informed journalists fail to do even the most basic research into a film’s production history. Terrance Zdunich has also artfully explained why there’s nothing at all he, or anyone else involved with Repo! can do about the blatant plagiarism of their film. He also graciously describes what it’s like to have his creative baby attributed to someone else – pretty shitty, as one would imagine.

Everyone involved with Repo! has encouraged its understandably pissed-off fans to counter Repo Men by simply telling people about their fabulous little film. So, let me tell you something about Repo! The Genetic Opera – it’s a brilliant little film. It might not be wholly original itself – what the hell ever is, anymore? – but it sure is singular. It’s a gory, emotional, melodramatic, funny, futuristic rock opera. It stars actors, socialites and musicians. Fans of the film perform Shadowcasts, which involves putting on a stage version of the film, as it plays. Repo! has its cult status on its side, but that doesn’t excuse any claims that Repo! has anything at all to do with Repo Men.

In honour of Terrance Zdunich, Darren Smith, Darren Lynn Bousman and everyone else who worked on Repo!, I sure as hell won’t be going to see Repo Men*. I encourage anyone who does go see it, to check out Repo! The Genetic Opera, too. You might remember that film a lot longer than you will Repo Men.

*I should add, this is really quite annoying, as I would quite happily watch Jude Law in an action movie in any other circumstance!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Women in Horror Recognition Month, day one

SlashFilm today asked, following on from The Guardian, ‘Why are there so few female filmmakers?’

There’s a clue in your article, SlashFilm. You write that Sofia Coppola was the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, even though the article from The Guardian that you’re discussing clearly states that three women have been nominated for Best Director, the last of which was Coppola (the others being Lina Wertmüller in 1976 and Jane Campion in 1993; Coppola was nominated in 2003). Small fact to get wrong, isn’t it?

The far more insightful article in The Guardian describes at great length the sorts of chauvinism faced by women who enter the film industry – particularly the Hollywood film industry. I can’t say my knowledge is vast here, and I’m not going to try to answer the question of why there are so few female filmmakers, either. In thinking about the question, though, I realised something: I can name more continental European female directors than I can American or British ones – off the top of my head, that is. Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, Liliana Cavani, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis. Having just looked up an arbitrary list of ‘female directors’, I then realised that, of the names on that list, I recognised far more American and British ones, yet I wasn’t able to recall the names myself. Why?

So I wonder: is it because I’ve never seen the European directors listed above treated as oddities (not in the case of the more modern Breillat and Denis, anyway)? Perhaps I’m just not looking closely enough, granted, and please do point me in the direction of any articles to that effect. Regardless, you’re probably wondering why I’m nattering on about this on a horror blog, and in relation to Women in Horror Recognition Month.

Breillat and Denis have both made horrific films. Denis made the languid Trouble Every Day, about a compulsive, sexual, cannibalism. Breillat made the brutal examination of teenage sexuality, À Ma Soeur!, as well as the graphic Romance. While Denis’ film is more strictly a horror film, Breillat’s films inject the horrific into the mundane, with a refreshing frankness. Her films deal with femininity, with no holds barred. Nancy Meyers, she ain’t.

Anyway – this got me thinking about European horror films, which, in my opinion, are the best modern horror films. They are, I believe, exclusively (so far) directed by men. These films, however, feature incredibly strong or interesting female characters, in my opinion, far more interesting than those seen the majority of recent American horror. Think of The Orphanage’s Laura, Martyrs’ Anna and Lucie, or Let the Right One In’s Eli. Perhaps in the same way that Kathryn Bigelow successfully directs male-orientated action movies, so these male directors have, somehow, managed to portray women in horror successfully.

I’m not really concluding anything here, nor arguing a particular case: this is me, thinking out loud. Is there really that much of a difference in attitudes toward gender in the Hollywood and European film industries? To what degree might the attitudes toward gender in Hollywood and the independent American film industry differ? I can’t help but think that attitude – of men and women – does play a large role in there being so few female filmmakers, but you know, I think the question needs rewording. Why are there so few prominent female filmmakers might be a more relevant question to ask.

For more information on Women in Horror Recognition Month, visit the website here:, or the Facebook fanpage HERE.