Commies From MarsWednesday, June 30, 2010
The Acting School and Bar is a virtual version of my and Miguel Sandoval's long-term strategy: to get out of the business, move to Mexico, and hang out in a wooden bar and bait shop with stuffed marlins tacked to the wall. A sign behind the bar says, BEER TODAY, ACTING LESSONS TOMORROW. But this is yet to be.
Alex Cox, Film Director
I was pretty ignorant about Borges. I started reading and discovered this marvelous writer, of course - extremely highly regarded in Latin America and Spain. In the US and Britain he's often called a "cult" writer, which is depressing - as if great literature were a "cult" instead of a zenith to which all writers should aspire.
Alex Cox, Film Director
It was in 1969 that I purchased Ficciones by Jorge Luís Borges in Mexico City. Until then I had mostly ignored my Argentine heritage and I had become (after a five-year education in Texas) a quasi-American. I knew more about the American Civil War than of the malones and the eventual and near eradication of most of the Argentine native population in the late 19th century by the armies of General Bartolomé Mitre. Ficciones was a strange book but not too strange as I had until then read at least one hundred science fiction novels and short story compilations. Slowly but surely Borges taught me a bit about myself and my country. He passed on to me a fascination for books, libraries (especially infinite ones) and labyrinths.
The only film I ever saw based on any story by Borges was in 1996. Its director, the English Alex Cox came to town to promote it. It was called Death and the Compass. The film was especially spooky as Cox had shot a crucial scene in the by then closed refinery at Azcapotzalco which is in the outskirts of Mexico City. For many years a prevailing wind from the north would come into the Mexico City valley and blow through the oil refinery and cement plants of that area and then suddenly hit the mountains of the south end of the city. There all the pollution would plummet, with the paradox that the wealthiest area of the city (the south) was the most polluted.
The now empty refinery was an eerie location for a film about the secret name for God. The message (on a typewriter, a board, etc) The first [then second, etc] letter of the Name has been articulated, repeats through the story.
I remember, vaguely, that at the end of the screening Cox answered questions. I was too stunned to make questions of my own. In fact the only proof that I might have met the man is the file I found today: Alex Cox, Film Director, October 96 and 9 frames taken with my Mamiya RB-67 and a 140mm lens.
It is a shame (as Cox writes above) that Cox is a bit of a cult film director and that one of his finest is in Spanish (El Patrullero). In light of all the violence happening in Mexico these days, Cox’s film about a young idealistic police academy graduate who is shipped to Northern Mexico to deal with the corruption (that in 1994 was peace of cake in comparison to that of today) is heartbreaking (and heart warming).
Reading Death and the Compass in 1969 was an exercise in duty. As an Argentine it was my duty to read Borges. I liked some of the stories in Ficciones but I was much too young to really understand. I believe it was Cox’s film that set me straight.