May 10 – Southland Tales (2006, dir Richard Kelly, dop Steven Poster, English).
Richard Kelly made the surprise indie hit Donnie Darko, was called genius, given the keys to Hollywood, and with a twenty million dollar budget and penning the most ambitious sci-fi screenplay of the young 21st Century assembled an ensemble cast built with fresh-out-of-TV-megastardom Sarah Michelle Gellar, action superstar Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson, box office dudebro stud Seann William Scott and pop-actor goldenboy Justin Timberlake… all to produce a film the box office, the critics and Hollywood itself loathed.
Those people are idiots. Southland Tales is one of the best films of the century. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and that’s because it’s a criticism of a time that was yet to happen – the world of ten years after the film was made, which is so neatly decorous for a film about time travel (sort of) you couldn’t script reality any neater. If, in fact, this film is not reality itself, and which we are not a pale reflection of.
Taking Philip K Dick’s irreverent, anarchic dystopian future creativity, a Frankfurt school academic post-Marxist intellectual sensibility, a Gilliam-esque overstuffed mise-en-scene, the anger and disgust of Pasolini and a shitload of chutzpah, Kelly delivered the most eyeball packed film that seemed ridiculous in 2006, but in 2019 seems right on the money.
It is impossible to summarise the plot of this wonderful piece of beauty, but suffice to say any film that features a Dennis Potter song-and-dance routine in a disused arcade parlour (performed by Justin Timberlake, miming someone else’s song), Marxist hair and nail salon worker-assassins, a soldier-reality-TV-star-drug-dealer hero, identical twins working as cop/journalists, a porn star talk show host with a partly vicious party vacuous feminist agenda and a billionaire’s blimp named the Jenny von Westphalen you can bet there is no greater representation of the brink-of-collapse, last days of capitalism contradictory socioeconomic clusterfuck in which we live today. This film is only insane in that it mirrors its future/our present with perfect, exact clarity.
Note: The trailer for this film was an attempt to rescue it by imposing a false narrative on the unbound genius script, so instead of playing that, we’ll just play a reprasentitve sequence from the middle of the film: