Interesting how with a mere two films, Richard Kelly has announced himself as the preeminent mise-en-scene thief of our time, predominantly Stanley Kubrick and 'Dr. Strangelove'. What is 'Donnie Darko' but 'Garden State' crossed with 'Strangelove's affectionate apocalypse? We have Apocalyptic Emo-Whimsy. Now with 'Southland Tales', he proves that every first time filmmaker really wants to make their second film into 'Magnolia'. Crossed with the slapstickiest aspects of 'Dr. Strangelove' (though his cast is directed to infinitely diminished returns), 'Southland Tales' is his Over-reaching Apocalyptic Pretension.
There is something of merit in this film, garbled beyond comprehension though it may be. I don't like the notion that one must read a book to fully appreciate a movie (I call it the "Harry Potter Movies Are Vacuous Bullshit" Clause) and I don't like the idea that I have to watch a movie twice to really get it either. With 'Southland Tales', part of me wants to understand what's happening here. I know this much: every scene in 'Southland Tales' is his "You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company" scene and that's where he falters. There are some fairly clever lines in 'Southland Tales' but they're not delivered properly and every scene ends with a note of pithy "Superficial irony in the face of reality". It's grating because ultimately it renders every scene in 'Southland Tales' basically the same.
NOTE - nope. I watched it again. We're dealing with a movie so full of ideas that the filmmaker gets bored and decides to dance around each scene with pithy axioms and banter. This movie is about many things but as he A) spends every scene deflating all emotion with irrelevant little ironies, and B) couples them with as emo-hipster a soundtrack as one could imagine, letting us know we're supposed to take this very, very seriously in spite of his efforts to prove satirically otherwise.
That which dazzles in 'Southland Tales' does of its own volition in regards to nothing else around it. Justin Timberlake lip-synching "All These Things That I Have Done" certainly seems cool out of context but in the movie it is out of fucking nowhere. A halfway mesmeric threeway dance between The Rock, Sarah Michelle Geller, and Mandy Moore is sound and fury indicating nothing.
Ultimately, 'Southland Tales' is not a movie. Richard Kelly should remake it as the comic book it was meant to be. This is why 'Watchmen' is going to be an incoherent movie and why 'Y the Last Man' will be as well. 'Donnie Darko' had a straightforward story with some fat trimmed off. We followed Donnie. There is no A-story or B-story in 'Southland Tales'. Just shit happening. Lots of shit happening. I was never bored but I fault Richard Kelly for failing to get anything through across with any degree of clarity. He's a pithy sumabitch.
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