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There are two ways in which a movie can succeed.
Oneit can have a fully realized plot that works to explain some larger
subtextual moral. It can demonstrate a mastery of technical and
thematic areas and create an emotional response in the viewer. This is
the route that most critics look for when giving a positive review.
Films like Schindler's List. On the Waterfront. A Streetcar Named
The other way in which a movie can succeed is with ideas. This type of
movie doesn't have to make sense in the same way that a traditional
film does. It simply has to take you somewhere you have never been, and
hopefully throw your mind through a few loops along the way. Films like
El Topo. The Fountain. Eraserhead. Gummo. The Exterminating Angels.
Repo! The Genetic Opera definitely falls into the latter category.
The story, told entirely through song, details the intersecting secrets
of people living in a world where a mysterious virus has caused random
organ failure and forced people to resort to leasing cloned organs, at
a very high price.
There is so much whimsy in this film that it almost becomes an
absurdist fairytale. It skips and jumps from one homage to the next,
cribbing notes from Rocky Horror in one scene before moving on to
Rigoletto in the next. Genres and archetypes are thrown up against one
another and mashed together with reckless abandon mixing Grand Guignol
with Sondheim and Disney with Faces of Death. It cuts together the
pieces of our collective pop culture consciousness the same way that
the antagonists cut together new forms for their bodies.
And it's wickedly funny too.
Picking up where the ultimate consumers of Romero's shopping malls left
off, Repo! makes for a brutal satire of consumer culture where human
flesh is a commodity bought and sold with government approval. People
have designer spines and get upgrades on their bodies when they go in
for maintenance on their artificial organs. Starlets don't forget to
wear panties, they forget to sew on their new faces.
Darren Lynn Bousman has made a name for himself as a go-to guy for over
the top, operatic gore and he doesn't shy away from it here. Repo! is
often tremendously bloody with sanguine spilling left and right, often
directly on top of naked flesh. He takes what he learned making Saw
II--IV and pushes in into overdrive as he uses it to skewer one
satirical target after the next.
Normally I am one to shy away from sexualized violence. I find it
repulsive and saddening, but here, Bousman has found that perfect mix
between sexy and grotesque. Though the bloodletting is vicious, it
never spills over into elaborate rape fantasy. It is a shame that he is
no longer attached to the Hellraiser relaunch.
The cast, made up of a bizarre collection of geek favorites, musicians
and world famous opera singers is almost weirder than the movie's
central conceit. Paul Sorvino is brilliant fun as the patriarch who
controls the world but finds himself unable to defeat cancer. Sorvino
is fascinating to watch when he is let loose and he has a singing voice
to rival any star of stage. Sarah Brightman is also quite good in a
small roll that is entirely divorced from her signature turn in Phantom
of the Opera. The rest of the cast is a bit of a mixed bag. Alexa Vega
is strong as the cloistered daughter of the eponymous organ ripper and
Anthony Stewart Head outdoes his Buffy singing, even as his role is too
close to that of Giles. Meanwhile Bill Mosely is obnoxious and all over
the place, playing his seventh version of Chop-top while Paris Hilton
is actually shockingly watchable as Amber Sweet, a heightened reality
version of herself. But the real standout is Nivek Ogre of Skinny
Puppy. The man steals the show as a deformed lothario who has a nasty
habit of killing his lovers.
At a point, the film becomes as scattershot as the cast list with some
moments hitting it out of the park while others miss wildly. By the end
of the film one would be hard pressed to explain how the characters all
end up in the same place, but it has long since ceased to matter
because you've either accepted that the film is fairly divorced from
reality, or else, you've walked out of the theater. I stayed, and loved
every minute of it.
When I see a movie like this, I want to be taken to a new world.
Somewhere strange and alien. The futuristic retro-chic of the Repo's
alternate dimension is vibrant and dazzling, it's a whirling dervish of
colors and styles. And though it never comes together, the overwhelming
strangeness of it is intoxicating. The music is not for everyone, and
the bloodletting is extreme, but Repo! offers something rarely seen at
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Tags for Repo! The Genetic Opera Full Movie
, Anthony Head
, Paul Sorvino
, Sarah Brightman
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