sábado, 19 de abril de 2008
articulo de Alex Cox en The guardian
Cox, que es maravilloso, habla de la película en The Guardian, nada menos. Un auténtico placer. Gracias, Alex.
I gave my right arm to be in this film
As he's slowly dismembered on the set of The Oxford Murders, Alex Cox gets a close-up look at Latin film-makers' love affair with Englishness
Friday April 18, 2008
Box clever... Alex Cox (on the bed)on the set of The Oxford Murders
A film-maker friend of mine, Alex de la Iglesia, emails me. I haven't heard from him since we had dinner in Madrid, years ago. Alex is to direct a film in England, The Oxford Murders, and is wondering if I have the personal phone numbers and email addresses of a couple of notable British actors - Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier, or similar. As a matter of fact, I do have Dick's and Larry's personal emails and cell numbers, but no way am I handing this priceless info over to a rival director. Instead I recommend a) that Alex find his actors via Equity or a casting director, and b) that he offer me a part.
Back-footed, poor Alex agrees: yes, indeed, there is a role in The Oxford Murders for his old friend. And so, six months later, I am locked, half-naked, in a wooden box in an abandoned hospital in the East End of London, playing a mathematician called Kalman.
Kalman is a great part. He exists only in flashbacks, and (since flashbacks are usually mute) there is no scripted dialogue. He starts off a young chap in the 1970s, with sideburns, wide lapels and garish ties: the makeup people give me fresh, prosthetic cheeks, my own being too old and sunken. This is just the beginning. Kalman is an Oxford don, driven mad by his inability to solve a complex mathematical quandary. His laboratory becomes a lair; he showers in the kitchen; he throws computer monitors through the window (yay!). In addition to going mad, Kalman develops horrible cancers: both his legs fall off. He gets to buzz around in an electric wheelchair for a while, carrying a skull. Then one of his arms falls off, and he's last seen lying naked on a hospital gurney, writing one word repeatedly with his remaining hand.
To help me portray this sadly-dismembered character, the special effects team squeeze me into a wooden box hidden beneath the gurney. Only my shoulders, head and arm protrude. Behind them, a rubberised cast of my torso and stumps is affixed. Makeup is applied to this, so as to make it more lifelike. My "good" arm is placed in a metal frame festooned with screws and spikes. "Stay in there as long as you can," the effects guys tell me. "It takes a while to put you back together, so we'll lose about half an hour every time you get out."
Then everyone leaves, to finish a scene in another part of the hospital. I remain in the box, ruminating. Make the production lose half an hour? Never! No matter how much I might want to get out of this uncomfortable, clammy box, there is no way I, a brother director, will waste even a minute, much less half an hour, of Alex de la Iglesia's precious shooting time.
I wait in the box.
Alex's crew - camera, art department, costumes - are fast-moving, highly professional, funny. They're almost all Spanish, with some bilingual Limeys thrown into the mix. Seemingly the quintessential English academic detective yarn, The Oxford Murders is actually entirely Latin in its provenance: a book by a young Argentinian (like Borges, playing the mathematical detective game), set in a magical-realist Oxford of sexy babes, son et lumière, and gun-totin' police constables. The script has good moments (the Kalman scenes are the best, of course!); but what is it that has drawn Alex to this material - so different from those visceral, original, action-and-assault comedies he made in Spain?
Lying in my box, I think of Mexican directors whom I know, who have worked here. Alfonso Cuaron has made two studio stocking-stuffers set in England-land, and one genuinely thought-provoking film about Britain: Children of Men. Great Expectations and 'Arry Potter are studio product; 20 years ago they would have been directed by one of the Scotts, or Alan Parker. But Children of Men seems like something personal: an honest foreigner's horrified reaction to the grim, angry, imperious, impotent, stoned reality of Blighty. Certainly, the ending is sentimental: who cares if we all stop having kids? A massive fall in human numbers means more affordable housing and higher pay for the survivors. It doesn't necessarily imply hordes of zombies roaming the countryside. But Cuarón's vision is intense, often spot-on, and doesn't aim to please.
These Kalman hospital scenes are weird beyond anything in Children of Men - but that's the point, I suspect: they're an opportunity for Alex to cut loose from the "Englishness" he must celebrate elsewhere. One of the PAs brings a cup of tea to my box. He's wearing a Barbour jacket. Alone, again, I consider how middle-class Spaniards dress on the streets of Madrid: there are more Barbour jackets in the Spanish capital than in the rest of the world combined. They know how horrible we English are (Torremolinos, anyone?), yet still seem to retain a notion of Britain as a land of faux-fox-hunting, five-o'clock tea, and Mr Sherlock Bloody 'Olmes.
I lie in my box. The metal screws dig into my arm. But I do not complain. Indeed, the weird torture apparatus around my arm recalls another Latin incursion into fantasy a la inglesa: Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. This film fits neither the model of a Mexican director working for Hollywood, nor of ambitious Spanish producers trying to break into the "international" (ie, English-speaking) market. It's a Spanish-language film, intended for the Spanish-speaking market; yet its fantasy language is utterly English, old chum - drawing on everything from Arthur Rackham to Alien. If truth be told, however, its English fantasy-stuff is window-dressing; Del Toro's film is a masterful fairy-story of a more subversive kind: of a Spain in which the partisans won, and the fascists were defeated.
Is Pan's Labyrinth - a film written, directed and produced by Mexicans working in Spain - the best result of this Latino-English cross-pollination? Children of Men's sheer horror of London still takes some beating. And, in The Oxford Murders, Kalman's story is frankly extraordinary! By now I am delirious. I wait in my box.
At last the crew arrive, and the lights are set. Here come the director, and my fellow cast members. I'm entirely stoked because this scene features another brilliant academic, played by John Hurt. John's character is supposed to come into Kalman's hospital room, and look down pityingly upon his former friend.
Kalman, by now, is entirely mad: grinding his teeth and writing, over and over again, a woman's name. In our first take, I make eye contact with John, and he bursts out laughing. On take two, it is the same. There I am, a pitiable figure, groaning hideously. All he can do is laugh. Trapped in my box, I am corpsing one of Britain's finest actors. We decide not to make eye contact. On take three, I gaze at the floor, and John looks sadly past me, shaking his head. Cut! De la Iglesia is happy, and the show rolls on.
In short order, the torture device is deconstructed, and I am let out of the box. Rosa, the very kind producer, presents me with a glass of traditional English beer. This is a wonderful-tasting beverage, which I plan to sample again soon.
My last scene on The Oxford Murders involves the younger Kalman walking through a hospital, greeting his patients. (I know I said he was a mathematician, but he's also a doctor, see? I really must read the script next time ...) Alex is there ahead of me, working with the extras. Though his English is excellent, he doesn't say a lot to the main actors - always very courteous, he usually lets them get on with it. On this occasion, though, he's deep in conversation - listening to suggestions, trying out different possibilities.
Both these extras have Down's syndrome. Watching my director working so hard with them, so willingly, and clearly having a productive and rewarding time, I think about the films which De la Iglesia is best known: outrageous, surreal, offensive comedies like Acción Mutante, films starring non-traditional and "disabled" actors. I'm sure The Oxford Murders will prove a chilling tale of horror, mathematics and suspense, just as Harry Potter is a splendid story of English secondary school life; and 28 Weeks Later, another studio flick helmed by a Spanexican, is a fine depiction of traditional English zombie lifestyles.
There is more than one kind of box. There are boxes under gurneys, awaiting unwary actors. And there are bigger boxes, ingenously wrought, and harder to escape, called England-land, and Anglophilia, and safe, generic film-making. Directors do their best work outside them.
· The Oxford Murders is released next Friday. alexcox.com