“The Oxford Murders” seemed an uncharacteristically buttoned-down choice of project for fearless Spanish cult film director Ãlex de la Iglesia, he of the lurid and hilarious “The Day of the Beast” and the dedicatedly nasty “Ferpect Crime.” Shot in English in the U.K., the new film features Elijah Wood and John Hurt as a grad student and professor tracking down a serial killer by means of mathematical and philosophical concepts. It opens this week in the UK (ThinkFilm is set to distribute in the U.S. and has yet to attach a date), and at the Guardian, Alex Cox describes his small role in the film and reassures that there’s still some oddness to be found:
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.
Later, Cox speculates on, as he puts it, “Latino-English cross-pollination,” and wonders if his scenes are “an opportunity for Alex to cut loose from the ‘Englishness’ he must celebrate elsewhere.”
Kevin Maher at the London Times, who sums the film up less promisingly as “a pleasing piece of Da Vinci Code meets Agatha Christie hokum,” interviews Wood and find more oddness in his scenes with Leonor Watling, who plays his nurse girlfriend:
That relationship produces the movie’s raunch, including scenes of Wood sucking freshly cooked spaghetti out of Watling’s cleavage. Which, naturally, was a first. “It’s a funny thing,” he says, eyes brightening. “You’ve got a naked woman in front of you, and part of you wants to be able to enjoy it, but out of respect for the person you’re working with, you can’t.”
[Photo: “The Oxford Murders,” THINKFilm, 2007]