The Indispensable Weirdness of Southland Tales: How It Happened #SciFi Sunday

Richard Kelly’s follow-up to Donnie Darko is one of the strangest movies ever made. It’s called Southland Tales and it’s a visionary near-future pop-comedy musical that stars Stifler, The Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that guy who had dinner with Andre, Avon Barksdale, and a bunch of moderately funny former SNL cast members. The whole shebang is about 3 hours long, not including the comic book prequel series. Within its bursting narrative one encounters time travel, J. G. Ballard-style automobile fantasies, prophecy, PTSD hallucinations, apocalyptic monologues, free energy conspiracies, doppelgängers, and dirigibles on fire above Los Angeles.

For all it’s incomprehensible convolutions, it somehow feels like an indispensable piece of post-9/11 pre-Obama pop art. It  absolutely couldn’t exist before 2001 or after 2008.

And while Richard Kelly doesn’t seem to understand it any better than anyone else, the AV Club now has an oral history of just how this indispensable post-9/11 vision. Here’s more from the AV Club:

I’m like, “Wait a minute, what if they’re actually the same person?” And he was like, “What?!” “What if they’re the same person? That’s the twist.” And so, from there I had to reverse-engineer that twist into the story. And tie it back to Boxer Santaros. And then that kind of tied everything together, with the time rift in the energy system of this alternative fuel system, and the whole thing started to kind of make sense in my mind, this big, sprawling, interconnected story, that tied in religion and politics, and Orwellian surveillance and the impending election of 2008. It all started to sort of make sense as this big grand systemic narrative in my mind. Once I solved the mystery of the twins, everything fell into place. And I just kept building in layers of the story. I figured, “Let’s just swing for the fences.” And it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

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