Peter Greenaway once said that if you want to tell a story, write a book, but do not make a movie. He may wanted to say that just telling the story is a waste of film media, as there are more possibilities to enrich consumer’s life through it. It is a simple fact that the film is a combination of several different artistic directions together, namely literature (script), fine arts and photography (cinematography, film visual, scenery, effects, costumes), music or choreography (dance in musicals, martial arts), etc. In short, the film is a complex piece of art attacking your senses on all fronts… and while watching Southland Tales I was realizing it more than ever before.
Thanks to this film Richard Kelly can be placed next to Greenaway and David Lynch, whose perception of film media is very similar to Greenaway’s. I would even dare to name Southland Tales Kelly’s Lost Highway. But in his work, Kelly went a bit further and created a sort of monstrous popcultural plaything in which a lot of thoughts and references come together (whether on other films or on the Bible… even on actual political situation in our real world), and which I boldly claim to be the mirror of contemporary film art.
With its genre neutrality it comes close to Asian cinematography – it’s a satire, comedy, drama, a musical movie (with one purely musical number), parable, and much more, and it’s fascinating how it all keeps together… and even it does not seem to make a perfect sense at first, it actually does if you get the job done and read the comic book in which you’ll find first three chapters of this epic Los Angeles drama. Yeah, you are reading correctly, the first part of the story is a comic book also by Richard Kelly. So the film starts with chapter four and can be partially understood even without the knowledge of a comic, but really only partially. You can solve the main story line, but still there will remain plenty of unresolved questions. So if you want a film you can watch only once that will simply entertain you for two and a half hours, you better avoid Southland Tales, but if you are willing to explore the film with every next view and to go after all the details and references, I guarantee you that this film will reward you with complex cinematic experience. And what is it all about? It’s about a lot of things… and some of them are quite important. Just watch it and you’ll see. And maybe you’ll love it as much as I do.
If what Castaneda and Doctor Strange are saying is not a pile of rainbow colored bullshit and there really is more than one reality, then in the end of 2016 our reality just had to get on the list of dystopian alternative realities not so much different from those in which the heroes of the Hollywood films are unfortunate to get into and for the rest of the movie are trying to get out, simply because these realities just damn suck. When we were watching Marty McFly in the second installment of the Back to the Future franchise at the 90s as he walked through dystopian California which was so bad it looked like Detroit, who would have guessed that at the end of the Year of the Fire Monkey the Americans will elect Donald Trump as their new President – a guy who is a funnier (and unfortunately real) version of Biff Tannen, Back to the Future’s main villain. Yeah, at that moment the shit just got real.
Normally I don‘t care much about politics, but even so I was pretty surprised by winning of that Yankee hot head with the phason of retired Las Vegas electric bull rider. I quickly recalled one of The Simpsons episodes in which Homer encounters President Trump.
That’s an episode from year 2000! What does it mean? It means that we found ourselves in reality where cartoons can become a chillingly real. “That’s good, dude, look, they’ve got President Trump in it,” we could say with a smile from ear to ear when we were sitting in front of the TV, sixteen years earlier before the 45th US presidential election, and watching that The Simpsons episode called Bart to the Future. Yeah, its title clearly refers to that Back to the Future movie. See? Things seem to be coming full circle.
To sum it up – obviously we live in a reality that could also work as a prequel to that dystopic America in (as my grandmother likes to say to everything that deviates from the tendencies of traditional Italian neorealism) fantasmagoric comedy Back to the Future II. At the same time, a thing that used to work as crazy joke back in 2000 in the famous cartoon series in which everything is possible, has become real. And I mean – everything is possible in The Simpsons, right? So the creators could as well state aliens Kang & Kodos as Presidents in that episode, or Mel Gibson’s Viking alter ego named Bjorn… or even Paris Hilton’s chihuahua could be a President in this one as well. Anyway, for The Simpsons creators President Trump was still more funny against all these wild possibilities so they’ve put him into it eventually. And this cartoon joke is true for more than one year now, from time to time it is still funny but generally most of grandpa Trump’s clumsy manifestations are rather disturbing.
More and more, however, I tell myself that perhaps in this reality everything is possible – or at least anything Hollywood movies and cartoon series are about. I suppose I should start watching The Simpsons again to know what my children will grow up into in the next ten or fifteen years.