These days, films maudits can be recouped as misunderstood masterpieces within the span of about five days. The indieWIRE news briefings and blog posts reporting the boos and hisses at their initial festival screenings are summarily followed, about seven or so days later, by (relatively) more considered think pieces, from those reliable festival pros who counter the bad buzz and dare to speak the truth. Word spreads so fast nowadays that all these reactions get processed together into one mealy critical mash, and the actual movie gets lost. For general audiences, the proof will always be in the pudding (when the film comes out, they’ll either like it or hate it, divisive critical community be damned); for cinephiles, these fought-over films become locuses of redemptive self-actualization, as with The New World, or cults in the making.
This latter category is the more dubious—and self-defeating—as one can’t create a cult movie from scratch. As the word implies, taste for the film has to be cultivated, whispered about, passed around, before it’s designated as some sort of lost, grand entertainment. Likewise, a successful, or even watchable, cult movie cannot be made with the intention of being such—the level of self-consciousness in its form would falsify and negate all of its traits and intentions. And those signifying cult markers would cancel themselves out: direction too predicated on calculated idiosyncrasy, performance boxed into certain stylistic parameters. Woe to the filmmaker who starts to believe his own cult.
Which, of course, brings us to Richard Kelly…Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of Southland Tales in its entirety.