Death And The Compass

on August 05, 1992 by Cathy Thompson-Georges
   You've got to admire the audacity of "Death and the Compass." The work of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges is all but unfilmable, but Alex Cox has tackled one of his stories anyway. The result is stylish, sometimes overly so, frustrating and intriguing. It might not be totally successful, but this Together Brothers production leaves viewers with plenty to think about.
   A typically Borgesian tale of conspiracy, the Kabbala and an oddly philosophical detective, the film involves a series of murders that might (or might not) be motivated by the occult. Unflappable detective Lonnrot (Peter Boyle) encounters arch-criminal Red Scarlach ("Jude's" Christopher Eccleston) and untrustworthy subordinate Treviranus (Miguel Sandoval) on a journey through a surreal, stylized landscape that has much to suggest a dreamtime version of Borges' native Argentina. Filmed in harsh, saturated colors and almost cartoonish in its presentation, "Death and the Compass" is a jarring film experience, but an intelligent, intriguing one as well.    Starring Peter Boyle and Miguel Sandoval. Directed and written by Alex Cox. Produced by Lorenzo O'Brien and Karl H. Braun. Drama/suspense. Unrated. Running time: 143 min. Screened at the Santa Barbara fest.
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