Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Til The Shadows and the Light Were One

Despite the use of the term "disasterpiece," this review of Southland Tales (opening in two locations locally, both which mightily try my patience: Georgetown, Shirlington), on balance, resonates positively with me. Sounds like at the very least, the movie's overcome its Cannes drubbing. We'll have to see, of course.

That said, I'm unsure if this reviewer's premise, that Kelly is attempting to wreak some sort of personal reinvention by forcibly positioning the movie outside of the cult status achieved by Donnie Darko through some arcace, "base"-alienating process is a little wanting. If Kelly's that consumed with antipathy over achieving a "cult" success, it stands to reason that he'd never allow something as precious as AmRep's staged version of Darko to happen. (Disappointingly, it would appear that this strange and implausible idea is not likely to be Rorschach-bound because Randy is NOT a fan of Darko, which surprises me. It's totally up-the-alley of those apocalyptically-minded folks at Woolly, though.)

Besides, I've never thought that "cult" status is something that a filmmaker can engineer, let alone studiously avoid.

I'm also a little bit taken aback at the reviewer's preoccupation with Kelly's use of trash-culture as a means of setting the stage for his end-of-the-world fable. She maintains that Kelly is attempting to critic-proof the movie: " can’t say this film is 'bad', because it’s about being 'bad'––it's a cautionary tale about the inevitable endgame of tasteless, artless, 'alternative' culture." But the easier explanation is that most depictions of a dystopian future include riotous, wretched excess and cultural rot in extremis: think Blade Runner, or Idiocracy, or the comic Transmetropolitan.

That said, Kelly definitely doesn't keep all of this in the background. As this reviewer notes:

"Three Days", Perry Farrell's loving 11-minute ode to a heroin-fueled menage a trois, has here been re-purposed as a guidebook for the apocalypse. Kelly can only get away with this because Southland Tales is set in a world in which Perry Farrell-as-auteur doesn't exist, whilst all the while the Jane's Addiction frontman's post-Me Generation, corporate-sponsored hippie spirit, and the trash-goth aesthetics of his late-80/early-90s heyday, governs the realm of Kelly's critique.
In short, "For all that it attempts to say about the fix we're in, Southland Tales is ultimately built around the joke that prophesies can be foretold in the lyrics of Jane's Addiction." Ahh, but that's an inspired joke! In this world, where Perry Farrell does exist, the singer is only too happy to position his art as something prophetic and world-changing, as anyone who's ever suffered through an interview with him well knows! As the film's tagline says, the future is exactly as you imagined it.

Unfortunately, the bad sign is that without the backstory, one's imagination is going to end up being mightily taxed by this movie.

It's a film so rich with narrative detail that what seem like loglines for entire films are dropped carelessly as incidental set-up--something here about an election rigged via severed thumbs; something there about "soldiers reporting metal telepathy on the battlefield." There's a whole lot of plot about alternative energy begetting an alternative power structure, which involves a perpetual motion machine invented and controlled by a psychotic, vaguely European scientist ...This contraption, called Fluid Karma, produces an oil substitute that, when injected, literally doubles as a drug. I think. I imagine this might improve on repeat viewings, but Southland Tales is too narratively confused to make sense as a linear experience on the first go round.
That's problematic. Everything she's describing here gets a thorough going over in the "Prequel Saga" comic book, and I have to say, after reading it, my main worry was how all of this high-concept futureshock was going to get related to the moviegoing audience. Sounds to me like there's a lot that gets lost in translation. So, you better buy the book!


PK said...

Minor threadjack: Have you seen those college football promos with Perry Farrell? Mr. Prophetic and World-Changing is the new Hank Jr.! I thought I was the one overdosing when I saw that...

Anonymous said...

Actually "Three Days" is much more than a silly heroin fueled romp. Ritual de lo Habitual uses the bible as an organizing principle, Old to New Testament, with "Three Days" as the revelatory message of love and physicality transcending prior rules of order. An interwoven portrait of America, of our growth and struggle and contradiction, elevates this work to the level of "Leaves of Grass" in rendering an ode to America and our identity-less identity. We are unique and universal and isolated and joined just as "Erotic Jesus lays with his Marys". Yeah, Mr. Prophetic has fallen on hard times. But however he may debase himself, not to mention Dave Navarro's train wreck of a life, nothing can take away from the pure awesome sweep of Jane's ambition and acheivement. That Richard Kelly recognizes this, even if only intuitively, is a credit to his artistic vision. I have read elsewhere that he wrote "Southland" with "Three Days" in mind. I look forward to seeing the strange mixture of sex and religion and apocalypse and revelation that might result.