Southland Tales

and I finally watched Southland Tales last night on DVD. I was aware that the film had a *majorly* polarizing effect on reviewers, who either loved it or hated it, and I was also aware that the few friends of mine who had commented on their experience with the film had uniformly despised it.

Imagine my surprise when I really enjoyed it.

The film reminds me in many ways of Wild Palms, the six-hour miniseries from 1993. Near-future dystopian sci-fi, with heavy messianic overtones, drenched in a deeply mythic West Coast apocalyptic vibe. The sense that more is occuring than you’re being shown on screen, and that the filmed portions dip you in and out of a vast array of wider tales — each with their own protagonist, and each equally expandable into their own film. The presence of connected texts (graphic novels in the case of Southland Tales, the comic strip that ran in Details magazine in the case of Wild Palms, as well as the later “Wild Palms Reader”) clearly communicating the depth of a wider world, against which the film briefly brushes.

Other films have hit me the same way: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, absolutely. Kelly’s Donnie Darko as well (hardly a suprise).

Was it odd and at times incoherent? Yes. And I found it fascinating.

As said as the credits rolled: “I’m not sure if I’d ever recommend that to anyone.” The reactions vary so widely, that there is almost no gauge of judging whether someone will love or hate the film. All I can say is this: If you grasp what I’m getting at in the above description, I think it’s worth your time to check it out.

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