Southland Tales

Southland Tales ★★★★½

(Cannes cut)

"All the Pilgrims did was ruin the American Indian orgy of freedom."

People when praising Southland Tales often talk about how it is prescient, but part of what remains so valuable about it was what has always been: how agressive 2006 it all is from The Killers to The Rock at his wannabe Schwarzenegger peak having sex with Buffy while Stiffler ascends to heaven while as much fictional variation on Bush II era stuff can be throw away at the screen to see what it sticks. All three Kelly features are pop historical phantasmagorias set around the twlight of the last three major Republican presidencies and obsessed with finding cosmic fiction ways to process national trauma. The one very up to 2020 detail which runs through all three is how they subtle play around with cold war nostalgia. If it feels  so ressonant today is that because we kept most of the very worst tendencies from the mid 00s very much alive (I doubt Kelly could ever imagined the middle west war would still be an ongoing concern 15 years later) and learn absolute nothing (clue dems pretending GWB wasn't a war criminal) while doubling down in the informational overload that was one of Kelly's greatest perceptions. Stiill, it is as 2006 as it gets, and form with Scott's Deja Vu and Lee's When the Leeves Broke, a sort of unnofficial trilogy on historical wounds of US public life of the era and ways to represent, process and react against them (no one could know at the time how much that was the last grasp of certain form of populst Hollywood cinema which all of those are even if only one of them played in a multiplex). It is half Grant Morrison Vertigo minisseries and half sketch comedy TV, a quarter of it is probably a total dud and it moves very awkwardly between its panoramic scenarios, yet Kelly keep stumbling in incredible images and a doomed feeling that covers near all the misteps. It is trial and error all along the way, true explanatory which probably why a lot of people is very willing to cut it some slack for its obvious flaws. This is the third time I saw this (first since around 2012 or so), and I always get surprised at how for all the jokes and flat scenarios the main drama thrust remains weightier, both the larger picture of moving towards a doomed precipice and the smaller Johnson/Gellar story (her performance does a lot of the heavy lifting,really one of the best ones from a mainstream movie from this period, although his confusion throughout is impressive and his tendency to smirk through the drama is for once put to great use). The mix of gloomy statement and optimism, of possible connection and healing fiction really is rewarding, Kelly's greatest achievement.

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