Monday, 26 November 2012
Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008)
“Happiness is not a warm scalpel!”
You probably haven’t seen this film. Not many people have. Let’s face it; a quirky, Goth, cyberpunk musical starring Anthony Stewart Head and featuring Paris Hilton is not exactly the easiest thing to sell. It’s genuinely awesome, though, and you gave to see it. Think of a cross between The Rocky Horror Show, Neuromancer and Jeremy Kyle.
It’s 2057, and everybody has replaced their organs on credit with a nasty, evil corporation which repossesses peoples’ organs if they default on their payments by getting a “repo man” to come and remove their organs with a knife, wherever they are. It’s a gloriously dark, cyberpunk premise. On top of that we have an addiction to plastic surgery on behalf of the idle rich (Paris Hilton is perfectly cast here!), a succession battle between the various feckless and debauched offspring of a dying tycoon, Rotti, rampant grave robbery for body parts, and various other nasty corporate doings. Most outrageous of all are the events surrounding the opera itself at the climax, especially the incredible story of Blind Mag, who shows that integrity still exists in this dark future, albeit at a terrible price.
It all looks great, too, the visual style being a cross between Goth and retro Victorian, and eschewing realism in favour of a consistent style. Particularly effective is the use of comic book panels to narrate the events of seventeen years earlier from several different perspectives.
The cast is superb, aside from Paris Hilton, but at least her performance is, er, appropriate. Anthony Stewart Head is superb in a multi-layered role, and his American accent seemed ok to this British viewer. The songs, too, I liked, often tinged as they were with an ‘80s Goth sensibility which meshes well with the cyberpunk setting. It’s interesting that the sets, while resembling a three-dimensional stage set stylistically, also remind me of music videos by the like of The Cult and Bauhaus.
There’s a political subtext too, of course, with the whole American debate about health provision, so alien to us socialistic Europeans, with our awkward questions about why state health care should be called “socialised medicine” whereas national armed forces are not called “socialised mercenaries”, or the police are not “socialised security guards” for some reason. This film is fundamentally all about a health system fully controlled by unregulated private insurers and, like much science fiction, an extrapolation of present trends.
Not to be spoilerific or anything, but the plot is simultaneously intricate and easy to follow, leading to a big, satisfying climax, if you’ll excuse the slight naughtiness of the phrasing. And it’s interesting that youth and hope belong to the women, with the patriarchal figures fading away.