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4 December, 2007 / Erik

Far More Futuristic than they Originally Predicted

It doesn’t matter whether or not Southland Tales is good. I’d almost venture Richard Kelly does not mean it to be. It is a trashy and disposable. A lesser Philip K. Dick story stretched to the breaking point in these paranoid days as we cross into the four year mark before what the Mayan Calender claims is the end of time. In that refuse form with tossed out bits of millennial tension and half-recalled notions of revolution, Kelly brings us a wallpaper of the great comedy that never will be: the Leftist Revolt of America.


In the film, all the revolutionaries are performers. Sex performers. Comedy performers. Action performers. Even the scientists who fund the supposed neo-Marxist front spend entirely two much time on television. They engage in a battle with paranoid but clueless rightist for the soul of a man halfway between both worlds while the New Messiah rises from the ranks of the proles without access to the media arts or political powerplants. In its current manifestation, Southland Tales decries the attempts by, for lack of a better term, artists to change the world.

No wonder it got booed at Cannes in a previous form.

Kelly illustrates the utter futility and failure of a political movement run by members of a entertainment industries. When one forgets their first assignment is to keep people entertained, they lose their connection to the minds and hopes of people who might be open to receive the call to action or to see a new point of view. No one likes to be shouted at. In the film, all the members of the Neo-Marxist group bicker and look, ultimately, to preserve what ever edge they have as entertainers. If the film had been made a year later, it would’ve shown us Hollywood types playing at revolutionary as a trend.

However, Kelly does not (at least in the this version) stake his flag in with the right. They are portrayed at the their extreme worst scenario as well. It is largely their willingness to play by a corporations fiats that ushers in the end of the world.

Meanwhile, Kelly gives us a Los Angeles gripped with the sort of madness it had in the 1970s when Manson’s Gang roamed the hills and cults sprang up on ever corner. Now, it’s a heavily markets cult of porn and the readiness of the people on the ground to burn the city down. A seemingly peaceful Venice Beach is home not only to many Neo-Marxist Cells (which appear to operate free of central leadership or knowledge of each other’s actions), but to a former star/Iraq vet/drug lord with high power gun turrets positioned all over the beach. People continue to swarm the beach and its shops despite the clear presence of these guns.

As a film, Southland Tales does not work. It’s plot folds in on itself and is intentionally obtuse. Only fair to expect that from the Donnie Darko guy. It openly declares the necessity of ancillary comic books to fully appreciate its vision. It lacks a satisfying exploration of the themes only sketched at throughout. What it does right is present you with a hysterical mindset that is all too familiar packaged in a Souther California shopping bag of vapidness.

But even that shopping bag is an illusion.


One Comment

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  1. David S / Dec 5 2007 4:22 pm

    So – is it worth waiting to see it on DVD?

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