Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Southland Tales: The Verdict

Well, in the end, I had a great time at the movie. I'll be one of a handful of people that did, though (amid a handful of people who bothered to see it), and the reason is the movie is a mess. A gorgeous, often hilarious, deeply complicated, thrillingly cerebral, elegantly staged mess. But a fucking mess all the same. It has to work too hard to get the exposition over, and even then, without the aid of a bunch of outside source material, the full weight of the movie is going to be lost.

Without the Prelude Saga graphic novel, the movie might still make sense - but there are a few vitally important things that begin in the Prelude that don't get properly taken up at square one in the movie (and in at least two cases, inexplicably so). I'll go further: really, to fully grok all of the religio-philosophical underpinnings, you kind of need to see Donnie Darko, because Richard Kelly's formative ideas on fate and determinism and the cosmic forces at work in the universe and the extent to which mankind is knit up in all that jazz begin with that movie. And, frankly, to get the full tilt of it, you need to branch out a little and take in some measure of what's been written about Donnie Darko as well.

Of course, the typical movie consumer expects a certain economy in their movie-going experience. Good flicks are self-contained, observe certain unities, and don't require advanced study to fully appreciate. This isn't to say that a film can't take on added dimensions by resonating with outside source material - e.g. someone who's seen Sullivan's Travels is going to have a deeper appreciation of O Brother Where Art Thou - but that's not the same thing as being left at a total loss. So in all these ways, the movie is a disaster. Nevertheless, if you've read the Prelude Saga, seen Darko, spent some time reading up on Darko, and have a smidge of experience with Lynch or Burroughs or Ballard, you will probably find Southland Tales to be fucking brilliant. Moreso, apparently, if you've seen Kiss Me Deadly. But what a niche demographic of filmgoer!

At the very least, I can say this: Justin Timberlake+The Killers+lip synching+hallicinatory ballet should not work. But, oh my. It DOES. This is not up for debate, I'm afraid.

1 comment:

Coeus said...

Ehh, so it's a movie that requires some research and thought process. Some of the best things require effort. I enjoy summer blockbuster popcorn flicks as much as the next person, but they aren't exactly intellectually stimulating. In the end, I am still very excited about this movie (still waiting on my prequel book to come in from Amazon).