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Repo Man

Volunteer of the Month J.T. Hood on Repo Man

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August is already winding down, but it’s going out with a bang at The Frida! This weekend is not only seeing encore screenings of sci-fi slasher favorite Alien and rock musical spoof Phantom of the Paradise, but also a free outdoor screening of Gregory Nava’s Selena at Birch Park. As if that weren’t exciting enough, we’re playing all three entries of the Star Wars prequel trilogy – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith – all weekend long! But the fun doesn’t end with the weekend, because we’ve also got Alex Cox’s bizarro genre-bender Repo Man closing out the month starting Monday.

Released in 1984, the movie stars future Breakfast Club lead Emilio Estevez as Otto, an LA punk with no job and nowhere to go. He encounters a shady repossession agent named Bud (the one and only Harry Dean Stanton), who takes him under his wing and tries to show him the ropes of being a “repo man”. However, things take a turn for the weird when – thinking they’ll collect a $20,000 bounty for finding a missing Malibu Chevy – they race against enemies on both sides of the law to locate it, only to discover something truly out of this world. The feature film debut of director Cox, Repo Man established him as a one of a kind filmmaker who wasn’t afraid to break rules of genre and form to bring his boldly eccentric vision to life, to say nothing of hinted at the amusing weirdness to come in follow-up titles like Sid and Nancy and Walker.

Now we’ve played Repo Man before, but we owe this fresh round of screenings to J.T. Hood, one of our two August Volunteers of the Month! While I haven’t worked behind the counter with J.T., I had the chance to meet and chat with them coming in and out of movies before I approached them for an interview. Sitting down to talk at length though, I found them not only easy to talk to but very thoughtful also, as evidenced by the careful consideration they put into their potential VOTM picks as well as the thought they put into their responses to my questions. It was a fun conversation and one that doesn’t reveal too much about Repo Man, which – as J.T. points out in our interview – is best experienced in person rather than in someone else’s words. 

How did you find out about The Frida Cinema?

I found out about it through a friend. My friend Ian had told me about this cinema that was always playing very interesting movies. I also heard it was one of the places that played The House That Jack Built back in 2018, but I didn’t actually come out here until 2019. I went with my partner at the time to see Halloween and it just had a really cool vibe for an independent arthouse theater.

What made you want to volunteer here?

After the pandemic, I looked back at The Frida as businesses were opening up. I came here pretty regularly for movies but it wasn’t until I moved to Riverside that I decided “Okay, I actually want to commit to doing this.” It was also influenced by one of my TAs at UCR: he also used to volunteer here and him sharing about his experience kind of inspired me to look into volunteering. I had been wanting to help out somewhere for a while and I just think it’s really cool to be part of a movie theater, so I thought I might as well start here.

Tell us a little bit about Repo Man.

To be honest, it was a pick I wasn’t 100% sure about because I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I kinda felt like some of my other picks were a little pretentious, so I thought I might as well throw in a film that’s very cult and that says a lot about my film taste in general. I think even just rewatching it as of lately that it’s a great film. It’s by a British director, Alex Cox, who I think, with this film, understood a lot about the punk scene and transfers that not only in terms of the subject matter but in terms of meshing together other genres. It’s not only a punk movie, it’s like a crime film, then you have sci-fi, and I think all those genres are mixed to the point where it’s just like it’s own unique blended catastrophe. The quotes are very memorable and there’s a lot I could say about it that I don’t think I should say lest I reveal too many details: I feel like you’d have to watch it to actually understand what makes it such a unique cult classic, so I think that’s what makes it such a unique film and a perfect one to play at The Frida.

What were your other choices for Volunteer Pick of the Month?

It’s funny because volunteers usually send in three picks but I sent in 11 to [Programming Director] Trevor. He said I needed at least three, so I thought “Okay, I have too many options”, I was like so overwhelmed by picking the movies. For the other picks, I had a top tree: Dogville by Lars von Trier, The Battle of Algiers, and Hard to be a God. My six other picks were Who Killed Captain Alex?, Tetsuo the Iron Man, either First Reformed or Mishima (I did it as like a twofer for either one of those), The Color of Pomegranates, and Ghost Dog. The ones I was really excited for besides Repo Man were Dogville and Ghost Dog, but yeah, those were my picks!

What is your favorite Frida memory?

I think my favorite Frida memory is very broad. I just like seeing people come in and talking about the movie they just watched. I remember during my second shift, for example, people coming out of the movie Cure, the 1997 film, and watching them discuss it and really analyzing its meaning, and I got like this kick of euphoria from it. It was like “Wow, I’m participating in the culture of cinema”, and I thought that was really cool. It really made me latch onto this place.

If you could program any movie here, what would you pick?

So, funnily enough, I was thinking of doing something that was a bit controversial like – let’s say – Salo, like I would want to see people’s responses to a movie like that. But the one movie I really regret not putting on my list is Branded to Kill by [Seijun] Suzuki. The reason why is that movie was an influence for Ghost Dog, but also because it’s a very unique take on film noir and the crime film. You essentially have a guy who has a rice fetish, like he sniffs rice for no onscreen reason: I guess it was because, [Box Office Manager] Garrett told me, they were trying to sell this rice product and that was the only way they could include it in the film. Anyway, he gets involved in this convoluted conspiracy, and there’s an introduction for this woman character, who’s very much obsessed with death, driving an open-roofed car in the rain and it’s like very striking. In terms of film style and just going all over the place, it’s quite an experience that any filmgoer who likes highly-stylistic films could really enjoy, so that would definitely be a film I’d love to play here besides Salo or something like that.

Repo Man screens starting Monday, August 29th at The Frida Cinema.
Monday, Aug 29 – 2:30pm, 5pm
Tuesday, Aug 30 – 5:30pm, 7:45pm
Wednesday Aug 31 – 5pm, 7pm
Thursday, Sep 1 – 5pm, 7pm


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