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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movie Watch: Southland Tales

As a rather big Donnie Darko fan, I was pretty interested in Southland Tales when I first heard about it, but then it fell off my radar. We got around to it this weekend, and the end result is almost sadly what I would have expected.

For the unfamiliar, Donnie Darko is the story about a high school kid who mysteriously survives the destruction of his house through a rift in time. Or at least that would be one interpretation of the plot. The wildly surreal movie never quite puts its finger on what is going on (although the new director's cut adds more context), but that is part of the movie's charm. Darko works for me because while the plot is woven around this really odd premise - the core is still about one kid's conflict with the rest of the world, fitting in school, dealing with his family and pretty much a lot of human stuff we to which we can all relate.

Southland Tales uses a lot of the same concepts but transports it to a national level and paints a surrealistic version of a biblical apocalypse onto southern California. It is basically Donnie Darko with a bigger budget and larger scale. And while, like Darko, it isn't for everyone, there is actually a lot of culture commentary and Lynch-esque sequences to entertain your eyes and brain for a decent portion of the movie.

But with its size and dept, Tales finds it harder to shrug off the feeling of being overwrought and slightly pretentious. Fans of a Mulholland Drive kind of thing should probably give it a try - but in a lot of ways the movie is a pretty hard sell. I recommend it, because I think its fun and unique, but even I felt the two and a half hour length droned on a bit too long without giving much satisfaction in the end.

Watch Darko first, and if you like it - rent Tales for an afternoon viewing sometime.


Greg Tannahill said...

Did you read the Southland Tales comics first? I wasn't aware of their existence when I first watched the movie, and was thus a little confused by some of the plot elements in the film. The story is actually quite clever with the backstory included, I think - certainly the scene with "All These Things That I've Done" makes more sense - but I can't really approve of making someone go out and buy three graphic novels before they can watch your film in the way it was intended.

Josh said...

Had no idea, but that dose seem to fit. The movie has a kinda anime quality to it, plotwise, which would makes sense there.