Saturday, June 28, 2008


SOUTHLAND TALES is Richard Kelly's satire on post 9-11 US society. It's a paranoid fantasy about a USA destroyed by the four things: terrorism; the government's anti-liberal response to it; the vulgarity of popular culture; and environment degradation. Sadly, Kelly isn't up to synthesising all these concerns into a definitive take on contemporary angst. Rather, he has created an ambitious, fleetingly interesting, but overwhelmingly baggy, messy and pretentious film.

The movie is a rag-bag of inter-twining stories all played out in Kelly's alternate USA in 2008. A terrorist nuclear attack has wiped out Texas and prompted the US government to turn the US into a police state. Meanwhile, the energy crisis has been solved by a company that harnesses wave power to produce energy, the side-effect of which is to slow down the rotation of the earth and cause a warp in the space-time continuum. Against this back-drop we focus on three characters. The Rock plays a Schwarzenegger-like actor suffering from amnesia, trying to make sense of it all. He's being exploited by a porn star turned cultural commentator, Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Meanwhile, Seann William Scott plays a police officer, on the trail of Marxist radicals and his alternate self. All these characters are being messed up warps in the space-time continuum caused by environmental degradation.

The resulting film is a mess. And not in the way that Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL is a mess, but touched by genius, and therefore a cult film. SOUTHLAND TALES is misconceived. "State of the nation" content is better suited to the format of the novel. Novels like THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES or VANITY FAIR can take their time and build up a coherent narrative. My proposition is that the feature film is fundamentally unsuited to this kind of artistic endeavour.

SOUTHLAND TALES played Cannes 2006 to a disastrous reception. It was then put on extremely limited release in the UK and US in winter 2007. It is available on DVD in the theatrical release cut.

No comments:

Post a Comment