Wednesday, March 22

Special Events ArchiveBoston Underground Film Festival 2017

Southland Tales

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Director: Richard Kelly
Screenwriter: Richard Kelly
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amy Poehler, Seann William Scott
2007 | USA | 145 min

An amnesiac action star attempts to produce his end-of-times script with the help of a psychic ex-porn star and a cop embroiled in a vast conspiracy.

On Independence Day 2005, twin nuclear attacks on Abilene & El Paso, Texas, kicked off World War III, triggering catastrophe, mass hysteria, and societal collapse. In the wake of the chaos, the PATRIOT Act was given new authority to broaden surveillance over citizenry, to censor the Internet, and to require fingerprint verification for computer & bank account access. As an impish Greek chorus leader of sorts, an Iraq war vet played by Justin Timberlake intones a cheeky inversion of T.S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men”: “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a whimper but with a bang.”

So sets the stage for 2008: Terrorism is omnipresent, national security even moreso, and the military industrial complex is more or less a lifestyle brand. In the midst of it all, amnesiac action film star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is on a mission to produce his end-of-days magnum opus, “The Power”–which may or may not foretell the actual end of days–with psychic ex-porn starlet-cum-reality-TV-star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who is all about the now and not about the later and, oh, also has a new hit single called “Teenage Horniness is Not a Crime” and is looking for marketing advice to launch her new energy drink.

With some character development help for the script from Hermosa Beach cop Ronald Taverner (Seann William Scott)–who is inextricably tied to a vast conspiracy and has an (alleged) twin named Roland who is a racist cop–Boxer doesn’t yet realize both their places within a massive Neo-Marxist conspiracy and how his prophetic script relates to the inventor of “Fluid Karma,” an inexhaustible source of energy powered by ocean currents, which is literally shredding the spacetime continuum because it operates on quantum…science. And there’s also this presidential campaign going on …actually, this film is impossible to summarize or describe because there’s so much more going on here than you can fathom.

As Richard Kelly’s lauded first film, Donnie Darko, also celebrates an anniversary this year, we feel a duty to call attention to Kelly’s misunderstood and much-maligned sophomore effort. Simultaneously a product of and ahead of its time, Kelly’s visionary Southland Tales augured a near-future ten years ago that feels as incomprehensible as the global reality of 2017.

– Nicole McControversy