There is Boxer Santaros, movie star missing in action who has forgotten he is married to the daughter of Nana Mae Frost, one of the most powerful women in the country, head of the surveillance organisation US-IDent, and there is former porn star Krysta who has reinvented herself as media presence Krysta now with whom Boxer has written a screenplay foretelling the end of the world, and there are twin brothers Roland and Ronald Taverner, one of whom has replaced the other in a plot involving neo-Marxist anarchists intent on subverting the upcoming election with illegal thumbprints, and theirs are only a few of the Southland Tales.
It began three years before, on the afternoon of July 4th 2005, a day of barbecues and bouncy castles, of Stars and Stripes and water pistols and cartwheels under a rising mushroom cloud as two cities were wiped of the face of the Earth in simultaneous nuclear strikes in Texas, El Paso and Abilene, the subsequent war changing how America operated abroad and at home and having repercussions across the world.
The planet’s resources dwindling at an ever accelerating rate and the war machine running out of gas, a new power source was required: Fluid Karma, a renewable energy drawn from the perpetual motion of the oceans and broadcast via quantum entanglement, a swirling vortex in the sky developed by Baron van Westphalen whose family control the global technology conglomerate Treer, closely aligned with the military-industrial complex, looking to a future drawing ever closer but unable to truly see or comprehend its shape.
The second film from writer/director Richard Kelly, Southland Tales is not short on ambition, a sprawling, multi-layered satirical political science fiction thriller comedy musical of interwoven strands, a soft-focus dream of blown-dry hair, blackmail, bullets and doppelgangers woven around a tattooed amnesiac and a man whose reflection has a suspicious and disturbing lag in its movements.
His debut the nihilistic nightmare of Donnie Darko which eventually became a cult hit after its Sundance premiere and indifferent box office returns on its subsequent wide release, Southland Tales was equally a film ahead of its time, boasting a seventeen million dollar budget and a major distribution deal but devoid of any concession to mainstream sensibility despite the stellar array of talent assembled.
Led by Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Miranda Richardson, Christophe Lambert and Mandy Moore with supporting roles for The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn, Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubinstein, Little Miss Sunshine‘s Beth Grant, The Crow’s Bai Ling and Twin Peaks’ Rebekah Del Rio, all commit fully to Kelly’s singular vision of a world askew, a revisitation of the theme of the tangent universe of Donnie Darko.
Where that film could be considered to be about predestination and the inevitability of fate, to attempt to avoid it unravelling the fabric of spacetime, while The Box, Kelly’s later adaptation of Richard Matheson’s short story Button Button, was a trigger to the terrible consequences of free will, Southland Tales offers hope in the form of an informed choice, the chance to break a cycle even if the cost is huge sacrifice.
Presented as a double Blu-ray by Arrow with both the theatrical cut and the significantly longer original edit as screened at Cannes, Southland Tales features a commentary by Kelly, archive special features and a new three part documentary covering pre-production, filming and the release and reception of what Kelly still regards as an unfinished work, a situation which he accepts philosophically: “It had to be this way.”