(Soft Skull Press, 304 pages, $17.95)
By Alex Cox
Alex Cox is a conundrum among independent filmmakers: a Briton who made his earliest movies in America; a leftie who persuaded well-heeled backers to shell out for revolutionary movies like Walker (1987), a political parable about the CIA invading Nicaragua; an Anglo-American filmmaker who has toiled in the Mexican film industry. Best known for the cult classic Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986), one of the most enduring artifacts of the British punk movement, Cox has always done things his own way. Sometimes it was to the detriment of his work and reputation, but it's hard not to admire the tenacity with which he chases his own perverse and engaging vision.
X Films is more a guide to filmmaking on the margins than an autobiography (Cox is actually quite an elusive figure in his own story). Each chapter is divided into sections: preproduction, production, postproduction and release, offering an education in securing funds, nailing down a cast, filming in unfriendly locations, and keeping a film going after the money's run out. Cox pays heed to his own filmmaking gods-Sam Peckinpah, Luis Bunuel and Alejandro Jodorowsky-and is often inspired by them to let the happy on-location accident or the sudden depletion of funds shape his ideas and methods. He's adept at adjusting to circumstance and making a virtue of necessity, as well as adopting fresh stylistic approaches. For example, he shot most of Highway Patrolman (1991) in Mexico in the complicated, roving single takes often used there.
Most of all, Cox communicates a tangible sense of filmmaking as adventure, the meeting of careful planning and brute happenstance. His memoir should appeal both to the established director yearning for more freedom, and to the film student looking for a fresher, more freewheeling approach.
Review written by John Patterson.