my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   Southland Tales
Director:   Richard Kelly
Year:   2006
Genre:   Comedy
Times Seen:   1
Last Seen:   09.22.07

Other Movies Seen By This Director (1)
- Donnie Darko

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
09.22.07Alamo South LamarThis Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2007
I started today off by sleeping in. I think my Asian wackiness quota filled up yesterday with just two movies so I wasn't in the mood for the Japanese wacky comedy I had scheduled for the first show (turns out I should've seen The Cold Hour I guess, but oh well). So my first screening was actually a collection of shorts made by this dude named Phil Chambliss. He's been making his own movies completely independantly down in Southern Arkansas for decades now and the festival programmers decided to make a program of them and show four that give a good example of the range and variety of films this guy makes. They're... pretty rough but contain a raw authenticity that city folks making fun of country folks can't duplicate. The films themselves are really trippy and existential. I'm not really sure if he designed them that way or they just came out that way due to rudimentary production and post tools (he literally edits with the camera, clicking pause and record while cueing with a VCR to create the final cut). Technically speaking, they're very amateurish and all the people in them aren't really professional actors, but all of these factors come together to create something I got a kick out of (oddly enough). Definitely not for everyone though. A few people found that out real quick and scuttled away a few minutes into the first film (a Bergmanesque conversation between two ex-con would-be hunters and a devil's helper offering them hunting permits for twenty years of servitude). Described as folk-art filmmaking, it was very odd and interesting.

Next up was the first super duper secret we're-not-telling-you-what-it-is screening of the fest. I heard people started lining up four and a half hours early for it. I'm glad they decided to show Southland Tales today because it's really the only film I was sure they'd screen and now the rest of them will just be rumor and hearsay for me.

Apparently we are the first audience to see the "completed" cut of the film. Richard Kelly was there to introduce it and Q&A afterward. It's like two and a half hours long. How was it you ask?

Well... I thought it was a mess. There were a few moments of clarity where I kind of enjoyed myself but for the most part it was a real big mess. An incoherent, disconnected, needlessly obtuse yet mind-blaringly on the nose (at the same time!), indulgent mess. I hate to say that because Richard Kelly seems like a nice guy and I (like everyone else) really liked Donnie Darko (well, the theatrical cut at least) but the reason why Donnie Darko was good was because it actually worked. It was like a souffle that rose while Southland Tales is the failed lump of eggs and flour that didn't come together.

There are a few guidelines that came from this experience that might help me in the future though:

-if you need a series of graphic novels to explain your movie, you might be in trouble.

-if your big important mantra line for the whole movie involves a character calling himself a pimp, you might be in trouble.

-if you have Justin Timberlake walking around an arcade lip syncing to a Killer song, you might be in trouble.

Here are the good things I have to say about it: It certainly is an ambitious movie, and it has a lot of faces in the cast that I like. Amy Poehler, Wood Harris, John Larroquette, Wallace Shawn, Curtis Armstrong, Jon Lovitz... I love that they're all in a movie together. I don't quite get how casting all of them makes your movie an Andy Warhol pop art masterpiece, but whatever.

And I totally don't get how Kevin Smith can think a movie like Magnolia is criminally indulgent then BE IN this movie. Don't get that one at all.

So whatever. Hopefully it'll come out, flop, hit DVD, get the Donnie Darko uberfan cult support and Kelly will be able to move on and make another (smaller) film that might be really good. I sure hope so.

And that's about as much thought as I'm giving Southland Tales. Next.
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