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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nothing an eight ball, a porn star and a tattoo parlor can't handle.

Last night I took in another viewing of Southland Tales. This time, it was on DVD and I had a friend with me: Nick. I still distinctly remember him coming over to my place four years ago with his copy of Donnie Darko, wanting to watch it with me. Now I was returning the favor since he missed seeing Southland Tales when it was out in theaters.

I can't think of another time when I saw a movie for the second time and had a distinctly different interpretation of it. I enjoyed the movie after my first viewing, but just like when I saw Donnie Darko for the first time, I wasn't sure what all exactly happened. This time, I felt like somebody hit me over the head with a Nerf bat over and over again. Rather than be annoyed by this jarring nature, I must say I liked the movie even more.

If anything, I found the movie to be about people claiming to want major social and political change, but their own greed undermines everything. The one character that isn't greedy (and more importantly, forgives himself) is the savior. Pretty powerful stuff and definitely a weighty topic in a movie filled with a lot of information. I still can't exactly pinpoint what all everything means, but I say almost the same about Donnie Darko. I'd love to watch this again. And again.

The deal is, saying all this very openly seems to elicit the sounds of crickets in response.

Between my first and second screening of Southland Tales, I've heard a few more stories and anecdotes about another director who makes polarizing movies: David Lynch. Lynch is no doubt an influence on Richard Kelly's movies, and I hope Lynch's experience is a sort of guide for what is to come with Kelly's career. Lynch has had a number of his films be trashed by critics and have small box office returns. But Lynch is very much of the attitude of films having a strong emotional impact on the audience: good or bad. Better to feel something -- including immense hatred for a movie -- than feeling nothing at all.

What's been interesting to experience is how, until Southland Tales had a set release date, I had only heard people praise Kelly's work. Once Domino (a film he co-wrote) came out, the gloves started to come off with some vocal people. Once Southland Tales arrived, it was like 1995 all over again with the kind of responses Mallrats received. It's as if people took pleasure in just dismantling and cold-shouldering something rather actually trying to understand it.

But as I've seen and said before, the true success of any movie is that it gets made and is available for people to watch. That might sound like some low-budget T&A flick is in the same league with Citizen Kane, but that's not necessarily what I mean. What I mean is, looking beyond what the press writes about a movie and how vocal people are about it negatively on message boards and blogs, the movie stands alone when it's on a shelf in a physical store or on a virtual shelf for rent or sale. The viewer chooses to watch or not watch, and if he or she does, the opinion is that person's.

My hope is, with other people taking in another viewing of Southland Tales, maybe they will realize there's way more to this movie than one can take in a single screening.

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