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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Southland Tales to be released in director's cut in North America

In Cinema Scope 27, publisher-editor Mark Peranson offers an incisive editor’s note on the post-Cannes state o’ cinema, and reports that since going to press with the print edition, he’s heard that Richard Kelly‘s epic soph feature, Southland Tales, dismissed by many crickets and film scribes at Cannes, will likely released in its original form, at a length about equal to that of Superman Returns… and Returns… and Returns…. southland57328.jpgOn the magazine’s website, an editorial addendum: “Just as this issue was going to press, word (albeit, still unconfirmed) came that Southland Tales will in fact be distributed in North America without the drastic cutting rumoured to be inevitable… ” Slices of Peranson’s Note and an interview with Kelly, presented as “a monument to the general stupidity of relying on overblown reactions from the international press corps for assessing both the aesthetic and commercial validity of a challenging American feature film”: “As universally reviled as a film can get without being directed by Vincent Gallo, Southland Tales, over the course of a week, took on film maudit status, as its few, ardent supporters became more vocal when faced with a storm of insults from a hoi polloi that, not content to pummel a poor director when he’s down, had to knee him and those who dared defend him in the groin for good measure…. Southland Tales is sprawling, abrasive, loud, vulgar, and something to behold—in its current form, at least… [I]t’s one possible vision of what will happen when the shit hits the fan (after Texas is nuked, when the Apocalypse is triggered by a baby’s fart)… [W]ith its crazy names and cuckoo conspiracies, it strikes me as positively Pynchonian performance art—the entire film an approximation of Tyrone Slothrop’s plunge into the crapper in “Gravity’s Rainbow, “emerging in a semi-fascist, semi-recognizable near-future America. Its obfuscated, noir-tinged narrative style is of the conspiratorial variety beloved of Jacques Rivette (who will surely love this movie: it’s the new Showgirls), with constant double-crosses and shadowy, under-elucidated plots manned by a bevy of oddballs, both government and private. Southland is also a film internet propre, constantly condensing space, zooming about like a hyperactive, southlandnuke2344507.jpgpre-Ritalined (silver) surfer: it’s a perpetual motion machine. The way the story is told is inseparable from the content, as the conspiratorial narrative style is an integral element to Kelly’s anti-status quo provocation. Will the kids like it—dunno, don’t care—but, irregardless, why does it all need to make sense? … Oozing over the viewer like a wave of mutilation from the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic, perhaps young Kelly’s folly cuts too close to the bone: Americans can be touchy, especially when it’s pointed out that they’re currently leaning towards a fascist dictatorship… But in this age, where there’s always a director’s edition DVD or two on the horizon, there’s still hope that the full Southland Tales will be seen by more than just an international conspiracy of dunces in a dinky French fishing village.” What about big questions? “I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to ask them,” Kelly says, “and we’ve been trying to ask them with a great deal of humour, and obviously fantasy. smg2357_75.jpgIt’s a big, epic political cartoon, and the complicated narrative is supposed to be a narrative for, holy shit, someone just detonated a nuke in Texas, what do we do now?… It’s my interpretation of what I think is going to happen. It’s like if someone took mushrooms and read the Book of Revelations and had this crazy pop dream… that’s the film in a nutshell.” The Canadian Peranson asks, “Do you think part of the problem with the film’s reception is that critics, especially American ones, aren’t used to American films being ambitious?” “Maybe… and it seems as though corporations would prefer them to be less ambitious because then they could put them onto spreadsheets and test them with market research groups and they can be made to be predictable to ensure profit for the shareholders. And that’s show biz—that’s the business I got into, and you have to figure out how to work within those parameters. For $17 million, we got a lot of production value and marketablility. If it were released in a wide release it could easily turn a profit… To make movies is so difficult. I can see how easy it might be to be defeated by the system, because maybe I’m being defeated by it right now. But at least I got to make two movies the way I wanted to… The original draft [of Southlandwas written just before September 11th and it was just about blackmail and a movie star and a porn star and two cops, and the Hindenburg over downtown Los Angeles, but that never had any context. It was more about just making fun of Hollywood. But now it’s about—I hope—creating a piece of science fiction that is about a really important problem that we’re facing… and the problem is very complicated, and hence the nature of the narrative… [T]he delivery mechanism is subversive humour…. [Y]ou go through all of the trouble to make a movie, and you put five years of your life into it, and you just want it to be about something.” [More contumely at the first link; conversation at the second.]

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