Monday, August 17, 2009

A Tale Of Two Cities

Southland Tales
Directed By Richard Kelly(2008)
Dr. Linda Lao: Perpetual motion machines are machines that are supposed to disobey one of the laws of thermodynamics. Unknown: You're just reading a bunch of stuff you read off the internet.There are a lot of things I really do sincerely enjoy about this movie, it's funny, visually engaging, and a truly unique experience, that being said, it was also clumsy and convoluted as all hell.A lot of the "story" and especially back story is almost kind of irrelevant to the plot, but it's there, as are the references to the book of Revelations which kind of become the plot. There is a lot going on here, lots of characters (its an ensemble piece), lots of story lines, and more then one level of allegory working here (Revelations is just the most in your face).There's also references to pop songs in the chapter titles, dialog, and the soundtrack (even a dance number with Justin Timberlake doing a hallucinatory karaoke version of The Killers), as well overt, albeit, kinda tacked on references to Donnie Darko's Philosophy Of Time Travel, Philip K. Dicks "Flow My Tears The Policeman Said"(a so-cal story about a celebrity slipping into another dimension), alternative Energy, post-Patriot Act government surveillance, improv actors, terrible yet prophetic sci-fi scripts, and porn stars, all get their walk on roles, set against a dystopian but still sunny future Los Angeles. It's messy and absurd and ridiculous, with dialog like the Rock's "I'm a pimp...and pimp's don't commit suicide" line, not quite working out as the hilarious, ironic, and iconic gem, it was designed to be. Still it is a one of a kind sci-fi/comedy and that is what I took away most from this. I might have laughed at the film as much as I did with it (mind you rarely out loud), but it laughs at itself a good deal to (look for the pop art giant toilets). It's not for everyone, the plot I know will irritate people looking for a mind bending and taught twist from the Donnie Darko guy, will get more of an attempt to cross Philip K. Dick and The Big Lebowski with a helpful sprinkling of The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai, which though not nearly successful as those, does have a charm of it's own. "Southland Tales" is like a friend at a party who livens up and becomes more and more interesting as he simultaneously becomes more drunk, disheveled, and obnoxious, it won't end well but there will be a story to tell the next day. The plot involves a parallel reality where a nuclear device was detonated in Texas, and the border's between states has been shut down. There is an experimental new source of energy called "Fluid Karma", which also serves as a potent hallucinogenic drug. There are is an action film star married to the daughter of a prominent Republican politician, who has lost his memory and is writing an awful science fiction script for himself to star in where, "My character, he realizes that the apocalyptic crime rate is because of global deceleration. The rotation of the Earth is slowing down at a rate of point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero six miles per hour each day, disrupting the chemical equilibrium in the human brain, causing very irrational criminal behavior".He is suddenly living with an aspiring porn star named Krista Now ("Well, it's all about now, 2008, not next week, not tomorrow. If you wanna fuck me, you can fuck me... now"). There is a police officer with a group of vaguely subversive "Neo Marixist" comedians (all played by comedians from SNL and Mad TV respectively), who also has amnesia.An election is coming, and it coincides with the expansion of "Fluid Karma" stations, like those of the California coast, which work based on a theory the exorcist from Poltergeist informs us is called "Quantum Teleportation"."The ocean is a perpetual motion machine. Fluid Karma is a simulation of the principles you see working right here. As long as the waves continue to crash, Fluid Karma will exist....Uh, Fluid Karma works via the principle of quantum entanglement. Particles thus entangled will behave identically."There is some collusion between the mad scientist who has created the alternative energy, played by Wallace Shawn (of My Dinner With Andre), and the Republican forces. There are two men whose handshake is supposed to destroy the universe. There is a single dance and a single musical number. Yes there are midgets, and there are attempts by the characters to take an ATM machine to Mexico, and there is a commercial advertisement where one hummer mounts and humps another hummer. Not everything here makes sense by the end, but it somehow feels right, maybe more particularly of Southern California than anywhere else; it's absurdity, obsessions, irony, paranoia, advertisements, and overreach are as indicative of modern life here as palm trees and earthquakes. This is Robert Altman's "ShortCuts" broadcast from the 4th dimension.Boxer Santaros: Do you ever feel like there's a thousand people locked inside of you? Roland Taverner: Sometimes. Boxer Santaros: But it's your memory that keeps them glued together. Keeps all these people from fighting one another. Maybe in the end, that's all we have. The Memory Gospel. In the days where text-book minimalist chase thrillers with vague hints of existential terror ala "No Country For Old Men" are awarded for best picture, it's refreshing to see a director really try to make something different and ambitious, even if he fails. A ridiculously ambitious flop which cannot possibly communicate all it tries to is more interesting to me than a highly polished text-book film, which does everything I would expect proficiently. There's an enthusiasm in this movie that eventually gets the better of it, but there's just so much going on visually and conceptually that it's possible (not easy), to get past it's short comings, which either dooms or ushers it lovingly into new cult classic status. Perhaps I'm attracted to this because it's a high concept "The Room" or a low-brow sitcom basterdization of William Gibson. For better of for worse, I liked it. In a lot of ways its the opposite of Donnie Darko, ensemble to insular, absurdist to melancholic, vibrant to shadowy and most assuredly obnoxious to emotionally stirring. And regardless of it's flaws it's manages to creep back into my thoughts again and again, the hallmark of a good film in any genre. Boxer Santaros: Oh, he can't stop it. There is no stopping what can't be stopped.Only God can stop it. Krysta Now: But The New York Times said: "God is dead." Boxer Santaros: So in the end, I die in a very tragic downtown shootout while whispering my theory to Dr. Muriel Fox, the oceanography disaster specialist. Krysta Now: Astrophysicist! Boxer Santaros: The oceanography disaster specialist... sweetheart.My character - his name is Jericho Kane.

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