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.