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A wildly different take on SOUTHLAND TALES from Cannes!

Hey folks, Harry here with the latest from Cannes. The screening of Richard Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES - from the perspective of the Trade Press (Variety & Hollywood Reporter) was disasterous. Stacking it up next to MARS ATTACKS!, 1941 and STARSHIP TROOPERS as amongst the worst stabs at broad black comedy. That I happen to enjoy the hell out of those movies didn't deter me in the least -- and Richard Kelly has a history of having his films (both of them) tank at festival screenings. DONNIE DARKO got trashed by an ignorant critical mass that simply wasn't the audience for the film... and now the same thing has happened at Cannes - and once again... there's a very big chance that they just simply missed the point altogether. OR... it really sucks. The below review comes to us from a fella that's written in, in the past on films like THE FOUNTAIN, PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION and others. He's someone that was genuinely excited about the film and Richard Kelly. He flipped. Watch out for spoilers... Here ya go...

So I was in attendance last night at the Cannes premiere of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales. I have to start off by bragging a little. Coming to Cannes, after I found out that The Fountain wasn’t in the Cannes lineup, Southland Tales was THE movie that I was coming for. I loved Donnie Darko. A lot. So I nearly pissed my tux when I found out that not only was I given a free invitation to the screening, but I had my seat 3 chairs to the right of Marilyn Manson, and I was in the row ahead of the attending cast, which included Kevin Smith, Cheri Oteri, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne Johnson (who deserves that name over The Rock after his performance in the film) and of course, Richard Kelly. Willem Defoe and Charlie Sheen were also there somewhere, but I didn’t get to see them.

Enough about the attendance though. Southland Tales blew away Cannes. Every person I talked to after the screening had no doubt that it was the best film to screen in Cannes so far, which includes Fast Food Nation, Volver, and Wind That Shakes the Barley. It takes everything you saw in Darko, (Apocalypse, Messiah’s, Time Travel) and multiplies it by 10. First thing, though, like Kelly said himself, this doesn’t really make too much sense. It’s messy, we only got parts 4-6 (with the graphic novels due this summer) and it makes Magnolia feel concise.

Early descriptions called this 30% musical, 30% sci-fi, 30 % Thriller, and 10 % mystery. This is not a musical. There is music playing throughout almost the entire thing (Moby’s score is great, he really needs to stop with the pop albums and just do film scores for a living) but there is never any sort of musical number that helps to advance the story. Justin Timberlake (who is the film’s narrator for most of the film) has an abrupt music video that plays about halfway through the film that is exhilarating in it’s location and lyrics, as Justin repeats over and over again “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” (the singing isn’t him by the way, it’s a much deeper voice).

The film works best as a thriller, though, and that’s what it will be remembered as. The opening sequence of the film is as scarily apocalyptic as anything that I’ve seen since Terminator 2, and sent chills running through my spine that didn’t stop until about 15 minutes into Part IV of the film. As soon as you see what happens in Abilene, Texas on Fourth of July weekend 2005, you’ll know that Richard Kelly isn’t kidding. He might throw in funky-haired scientists, lesbian neo-marxists, and ditsy porn stars who think they have a say in important issues like the war in Iraq, abortion, and “teen horniness,” but that’s all for show.

What’s really lying underneath all the style is a film that really shows the naivety of America, one that is blinded by black and white politics and the yearn to be a star. When the fate of the film is decided by a handshake, and Kelly’s vision of the future comes full circle, we truly feel that, as Krysta Now gloriously claims in the film’s first part, the future is far more futuristic than we ever imagined. This film is Kelly’s Pulp Fiction, and it will be hard for him top it.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 23, 2006, 12:12 a.m. CST


    by JediShaft

  • May 23, 2006, 12:18 a.m. CST


    by chaplinatemyshoe

    you know considering that everything coming out of cannes has richard kelly embarrassed as hell about how bad the movie played, i'm gonna cry plant. and not a very subtle one either. poor richard kelly...

  • May 23, 2006, 12:19 a.m. CST

    that said...

    by chaplinatemyshoe

    i'll see the movie anyway. it looks gloriously bad. however, the early reviews compared it disfavorably to starship troopers and more on par with mars attacks and 1941 which probably has more to do with the directors and cast involved than the subject matter.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:20 a.m. CST

    second, btw

    by chaplinatemyshoe

  • May 23, 2006, 12:20 a.m. CST

    Sounds like the script just needed a solid re-write.

    by Winterchili

    There's so much that sounds cool about the plot and even a lot of the character, apparently though it just wanders like hell and doesn't make sense.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:24 a.m. CST

    "got a soul...

    by CJA

    but I'm not a soldier." Could be wrong but that sounds like a chemical bros. track. Theres already a chunk of people out there who will claim this genius sight unseen. I hope they're right, but from what I've read from kelly it sounds like he has felt pressured to appease the Darko crowd and make something decisively non-linear and of the wacky. Lets just hope its not a wank.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:32 a.m. CST

    Fucking Wacky.

    by ALUCINOR11

    Sounds awesome, people suck, what more can I say?

  • May 23, 2006, 12:33 a.m. CST


    by spiderinside

    ...the line "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" is from a track by the Killers. I think it's called "All These Things That I've Done." Not sure, but I know it's track 5 on the album.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:40 a.m. CST

    Starship Troopers is fuckin great.

    by chickychow

    Who calls that a failed attempt at black comedy? the movie is hysterical and Verhoeven knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:41 a.m. CST

    The crowd at Cannes hated the film

    by blackstormy

    but never trust 'crowds,' of any sort. I'm waiting to see what the EBERT says.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:43 a.m. CST

    Todd McCarthy seemed to like Donnie Darko ...

    by dregmobile

    yet still trashed this film. I guess you can't decide until you see it ...

  • May 23, 2006, 12:45 a.m. CST

    It's Brandon Flowers, dude.

    by LordEnigma

    Seriously, music, totally lost on so many geeks. So Timberlake lips syncs to the Killers song; "All the things that I have done." Very interesting, and I hope that alone does not make me want to leave the theatre. Since Flowers et al. deserve to be in a film over Cameron Diaz' boyfriend. Ugh. Absolutely atrocious news, but a brother will deal. A brother always deals.

  • May 23, 2006, 1:39 a.m. CST

    Will give BJ for an early screening.

    by Veraxus

    God I want to see this so bad. Only Tideland churns my loins more than Southland Tales.

  • May 23, 2006, 1:44 a.m. CST

    DONNIE DARKO did suck ass

    by zikade zarathos

    Christ on a pogo stick I will never get the love for that movie from people of my generation. One of the most superficially "deep" films I've seen in the last twenty years -- not a single frame felt honest. I think it proved my point when the very next thing he did is write the atrocious, coked-up-hack scribblings of DOMINO.

  • May 23, 2006, 2:07 a.m. CST

    Donnie Darko was SH%T

    by Sithlord_999

    ...and who gives a shit about Kevin Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, Cheri Oteri, and Marilyn Manson???

  • May 23, 2006, 2:47 a.m. CST

    Here comes the inevitable "Donnie Darko sucked" grumble

    by chaplinatemyshoe

    Okay. It's not the greatest movie of all time. It's certainly not the best movie about time travel. But it's better than The Jacket or The Butterfly Effect, and it certainly showed Kelly has promise. But the problem as I see it is he went from a making an interesting little cult film to being dubbed a genius and given carte blanche to pretty much do whatever the hell he wanted. Got to take baby steps. A huge flop like this early on in can be a real career killer.

  • May 23, 2006, 2:51 a.m. CST

    BLACKSTORMY...Here's what Ebert wrote:

    by chaplinatemyshoe

    "The greatest disappointment so far this year is an easy choice:

  • May 23, 2006, 3:32 a.m. CST

    Donnie Darko didn't suck

    by deanamatronix

    It's by no means perfect, but it's far from deserved of the hatred some people hurl at it. The director's cur of DD, however, was a stinking pile of crap. The pacing was absolutely destroyed to the point where I reached a point in the film and thought 'JESUS CHRIST, I'm only HERE?!' If Southland Tales is 161 minutes in it's theatrical release, I will worry.

  • May 23, 2006, 7:23 a.m. CST

    Donnie Darko directors cut sucked ass

    by tripp5

    i prefer the much more trim, less flashy "theatrical" cut...tho it never really played theatres...anyway

  • May 23, 2006, 8:12 a.m. CST

    Really looking forward to this.

    by brycemonkey

    Donnie Darko doesn't really work on all levels but is good enough to stand alone. Just goes to show you that a flawless story isn't the be all and end all of a movie. Hmmm, sounds like the above review...

  • May 23, 2006, 8:28 a.m. CST

    DONNIE DARKO is too popular now

    by godoffireinhell

    which is why it has become cool to hate on it. Because of its popularity it is also being watched by lots of people who were never in its intended target audience. It was a mind-bending experience to discover that film back in 2001 but now I see emo kids with DARKO shirts running around campus and that makes me almost ashamed I own the DVD.

  • May 23, 2006, 8:32 a.m. CST


    by godoffireinhell

    Critics are STILL slamming that movie? I could sort of forgive them for not getting it back when it came out but for chrissake ... It's easily the best of Verhoeven's English language films, it's savagely intelligent, it works on at least a dozen different levels, it's brilliant REAL science fiction and when I watched it again a few days ago it struck me that the special effects in it not only hold up very well, they are actually much better than a lot of the effects we see in theaters every week in new releases. One of the if not THE BEST movie of the 90ies.

  • May 23, 2006, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Looks like Harry is trying to start some good buzz

    by exie

    I have talked to 2 people I trust who saw this in Cannes and both have said it is a disaster.

  • May 23, 2006, 9:10 a.m. CST

    "it makes Magnolia feel concise. "

    by Shan

    This is not a selling point!

  • May 23, 2006, 9:18 a.m. CST


    by brycemonkey

    Right on, dude. I think SST holds up really well (a bit cheesy in the 3rd act) but on the whole a neat sci-fi action flick. For sure one of Verhoeven's best and great propaganda. Gotta love that... I also agree on DD btw

  • May 23, 2006, 9:59 a.m. CST

    donnie darko was merely alright

    by reckni

    Swayze was good, so was the trippy rabbit.

  • May 23, 2006, 10:31 a.m. CST

    Starship Troopers is great

    by performingmonkey

    Do not mock it. People rip into it because of the name and because it isn't serious. But I haven't seen a movie on that scale since...since ever. If someone had told me at the time that this was going to be better than the SW prequels I would have laughed at them, long and hard. But it's the truth.

  • May 23, 2006, 11:25 a.m. CST

    Mixed feelings

    by moviemaniac-7

    I'd love to love this movie, but so far I've heard mixed reports. Please don't let it suck. It's with the Fountain one of my most anticipated films of this year. Superman? Meh, I'll see it. DaVince Code? Fuck you. This is the movie that I will see for sure.

  • May 23, 2006, 11:52 a.m. CST

    I don't know....

    by vinceklortho

    I'll definitely wait and give it a chance in the theatres just because you can't trust anyone, but I certainly heard one unanimous thing about Cannes this year was that Southland Tales was, by far, the biggest disappointing mess of the festival. Even some reviewer, who claimed Donnie Darko was the best movie of this new millenium(??) said that she walked out of it....Can't blame Harry for trying to defend his friends, but...let's wait and see. Oh, and I heard Volver was by far the leader for the Palm D'Or. Heard that was amazing. I'm more psyched for that and Fast Food Nation. But, then again, this is that "foreign" movie crowd who absolutely flips for any Almadovar movie.

  • May 23, 2006, 12:17 p.m. CST


    by brycemonkey

    Amen. Now who wants to see the Roughnecks machine gunning Jar-Jars to peices? "Kill em all!"

  • May 23, 2006, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Starship Troopers is a classic of the genre

    by Brock Samson

    Really, it's a hell of a sci-fi flick and much smarter than the people who slam it give it credit for. The soudtrack is awesome as well. As for Harry's love of "1941" and "Mars Attacks!", two of the worst films from their respective directors, well, lets face it Harry has awful taste.

  • May 23, 2006, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Darko is full of crap, Starship Troopers kicked ass!!

    by Teamwak

    There, I said it. Also Mars Attacks rocked too!. will probably still watch it on DVD.

  • May 23, 2006, 1:38 p.m. CST

    Sign up to fight Bugs!

    by Drexl

    Starship Troopers is one of those movies that I will never grow tired off. It's a hilariously well-made sciencefictionflick, a modern day satire and has some of the best effects work ever seen. I love Mars Attacks! too though. That movie feels like it was made just for me. I love the deranged Ed Wood-like quality of it. Here's hoping Southland Tales is decent. I don't love Donnie Darko (somehow, I find it a difficult movie to get through) but I own it on DVD and find myself revisiting it quite often.

  • May 23, 2006, 11:58 p.m. CST

    I plan on seeing this no matter what.

    by Led Gopher

    I know there is the big bandwagon everyone is on loving DD and that just about any emo kid out there swears by the movie. I also know that the choice of casting seems a little odd, but I really have faith in R. Kelly, the director, not the rapper. I really just want to see this in the theaters to see if it holds up to DD and all the hype. If it sucks, it sucks. If it doesn't, then great. It really just matters what you like and what you want to see. If you hated DD, then don't see this. Whatever.

  • May 24, 2006, 3:16 p.m. CST

    The one thing I take comfort in...

    by moviemaniac-7

    It's that the press and I rarely agree on these kinds of movies. Fight Club, Blade Runner, etc. have all been trashed on initial release. When I read the script review of Southland Tales many moons ago, I feared that Kelly wrote down every cool idea he had ever had and tried to put it into one movie. (Can't blame him - DD wasn't a big financial success and if this one tanks, his career could be over, despite his talents; maybe he wanted to put everything on screen that he had in his head...)

  • May 25, 2006, 12:59 p.m. CST

    TIme travel

    by Belledonna

    lets see-DD came out in Sept 2001-looks like we might see ST in Sept 2006-a 5-year haitus. I guess it had better be good

  • March 7, 2008, 9:13 p.m. CST


    by smutpeddlar

    blah ha ha hardyhaha rubbish,utter rubbish