Film Micrœview #301: Southland Tales (2007)

07.03.2016 § Leave a comment

Rating: Shrug.

I had seen this once before when it came out, back when I was a Donnie Darko fanboy. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, it was quite similar to stuff I was writing at the time, in a way I was delighted to see brought to life. On the other hand, it was awful.

I can’t remember if this was before or after I saw the director’s cut of Donnie Darko and realized that Richard Kelly was not operating on a higher plane of perception than us other humans but was actually just a person who could write hugely complicated stories and fail to get them across, but with just enough strikingly weird beauty and micro-coherency to come across as lyrical. An accidental genius so to speak.

This time I attended Southland Tales with friends at a special screening with Kelly in attendance for a Q&A. The Roxie pitched this as “oh wow, nobody appreciated this film back then, but it’s more relevant than ever today. Let’s celebrate his genius and prescient vision over 4th of July weekend when it is set”. Indeed, the degree to which I feel his work foresaw our world today is (oh I’m so humble) similar to the degree I felt I knew where shit was going way back when, too. So again I am vicariously enjoying his getting lauded for recognizing societal trends.

Kelly claimed his favorite film is Mulholland Drive. It shows. The greatest praise you could probably heap on this film is that it is as if Akira had a lovechild with Mulholland Drive. That would be giving Kelly far too much credit however. Mulholland Drive is bottomless with mystery, far over the threshold of comprehension, while everything in Kelly’s worlds has an explanation, you maybe just don’t know it yet; and there is no why to it, only what. He does not care about people across the world; otherwise there would be slightest bit of conflict outside the US in his film, more than an empty gesture toward “civil liberties to women in the Middle East”.

I don’t recall if he said this in so many words, but Kelly more or less described this film as what it would be like if America (the war veteran, the internet celebrity, the acolyte) attempted suicide.


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