I’ve been scratching into Alex Cox’s filmography over the past year or so and Three Businessmen is my latest stop. The thing I love about Cox is that his films are extremely strange and off-kilter and totally immersed in their own fascinations. Cox seems to have exiled himself from the mainstream in the late 80s in order to make very personal and idiosyncratic works without answering to anyone. The down-side of this is that these films don’t gain wide audiences and Cox has become a bit of an underground name.
Three Businessmen is every bit as interesting as Repo Man or Sid & Nancy – Cox’s A-side works, if you will – and succeeds in being a captivating watch for it’s all-too-brief 80 minute runtime. It’s a work of total absurdism and scurries along with breathless pace and endless, rambling dialogue heavy with philosophy. Even though we never leave their side and the film unfolds over a few hours, our main characters (two of the titular three businessmen) somehow manage to travel from Liverpool to the Orient and finally a desert wasteland. They never blink an eye and simply take it all in their stride which is, of course, the film’s great joke. It comes across like a great play yet never feels stagey due to the kaleidoscopic whizz of locations. You can tell it was made for practically no money and pure determination and imagination but this gives the film a real shaggy charm.
It’s by no means a major work but for anyone who gets a kick out of Cox’s crazy experimentation and freewheelin’ filmmaking methods, Three Businessmen hits all the beats you want it to and certainly leaves you thinking and smiling.