Repo Chick ★★½

I used to work on the selection board of a film festival and one of the things that job taught me was that you should have to get a license before you can make documentaries. But another thing that experience taught me was that there's a whole new level of low when it comes to production value that most of us never even experience, because it's too low for general release. I'm talking awful lighting, static-y sound and, most relevantly, a weird reliance on blocky, poorly color timed CGI effects, the sort of things you see show up in Youtube comedy videos where the joke is how lazy the effect is. I bring this up because this is the realm Alex Cox is working within here. The difference, of course, is that for all of his weird descent into madness over the past two decades he's still (theoretically) a great filmmaker, which means he's not doing this because he's an idiot and has no budget, he's doing this because he's a weird genius trying something risky (and has no budget).

The entire look of Repo Chick (and the look is the only thing worth discussing - the acting, barring a lead performance from an actress who is more gorgeous and charismatic that talented, is horrid, and the story feels like Cox saw Southland Tales, didn't get it, and proceeded to think he could do it) is overtly artificial, with roughly everything not actually touched by the actors being green-screened in later. Unlike 90% of movies made today where this also applies, we're supposed to notice. Everything looks like a test print. The actors rarely seem like they're even standing on solid ground. Much of the film apes an affectation of model train sets (which is in fact made explicit in the last line) but even then what we're seeing aren't models, but CGI images that evoke the sort of first wave modeling we saw in the early nineties (those monochromatic, squarish insertions that painfully stand out today). It's so blunt and obvious that barring the cognitive dissonance of the first few minutes it's clear he's trying something instead of just phoning it in. Of course, just because something is intentional doesn't make it good, but it does make it more interesting than a once-great artist making a lazy cash-in on his greatest film (which I would argue is anyone's greatest film).

Look, it's less than ninety minutes, and like S. Darko, it sets such a low bar that its charms make it kind of delightful. I don't know if I can call it good, but I'm certainly glad I saw it. It's interesting and unique, and we need more interesting and unique films, even if they add up to nothing.