For a brief shining moment, Richard Kelly looked like the next directorial boy wonder. His feature debut “Donnie Darko” was a nifty little headscratcher — until Kelly released a director’s cut which explained all the ambiguities away and seemed to indicate he had no idea what made his film so special in the first place. His most recent effort was the dreadful horror flick “The Box” that was most notable for Frank Langella having half a face, however his most notorious film to date is the 2006 effort “Southland Tales.”
A sprawling, messy disaster, the film was a post-apocalyptic tale that required reading the film’s related graphic novels and a high tolerance for pretension to sort out the myriad references Kelly was making in a film that added up to very little. It had a hostile reception after premiering at Cannes and subsequently tanked hard at the box office. But if anyone still cares about the film, it’s Kelly and he’s hoping to get an animated prequel off the ground (good luck with that).
Kelly recently presented the film at Kevin Smith’s Smodcastle in Hollywood, followed by a one and half hour conversation with the director where he reveals that his reach was farther than his grasp with “Southland Tales,” but that he’s still doggedly committed to mining that world.
“I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew. I knew that people wouldn’t understand ‘Southland Tales unless they read the graphic novels. And .5% of the people who see this movie are going to have read the books….But I still to this day feel like ‘Southland Tales’ is an unfinished film, and if it takes me until I’m in a wheelchair breathing oxygen, I’m going to figure out how to advance the graphic novels further — whether it’s trying to put them together as a low budget animated film, whether it looks like ‘Waltz with Bashir’ or it looks like one of ‘The Animatrix’ prequels… I still want to figure out a way to tell the entire ‘Southland Tales’ story over six chapters because I think it would make a lot more sense to people and I think people would reassess the entire film and what it is,” he said.
So just what will it exactly be about? You may want to take a deep breath and maybe some aspirin before reading this. “When you see the movie, you see that Dwayne Johnson is reading a script called ‘The Power,’ and there is actually excerpts of the script in the graphic novel. And you realize what the origin of the script is really all about, it’s this crazy analysis of the book of revelations. I’ve actually, to be honest, I’ve taken the graphic novels and in my spare time, I’ve written a screenplay based on the three graphic novels, which I know sounds a little confusing. Basically, I took the three graphic novels after having a few years away from them, and I streamlined them — I wrote a 120-page screenplay for if I ever make an animated film out of the graphic novels. And I would basically handle it as whenever Boxer is reading the screenplay, you go into his mind and you see the actors portraying the ridiculousness of what happens in that screenplay — with the baby, the farting and the earthquakes. The insanity of the screenplay within the graphic novel. There is a very specific plan I have to do that, if that day ever arrives when I can figure out how to bring it all together and make it visual.”
Yeah, we have no idea what Kelly is on about here either but even he admits the plot is ridiculously meta at the point saying, “It’s funny because I wrote scripts that I handed over to Brett Weldele to illustrate for the graphic novel, and now I’ve taken that graphic novel and adapted it into a new screenplay, which is streamlined and more coherent. So it’s becoming so meta that I don’t know what”s reality anymore.”
This movie will probably never get made in zillion years and one gets the feeling that Kelly is trying, somewhat desperately, to salvage a project whose scope got the better of him. We’d advise him to leave it alone and get on with his life because he we can’t imagine that anyone aside from himself and .5% of the people who actually sat through the movie really want to have the whole thing explained to them in an animated film. Additionally,the whole script-within-the-narrative conceit is not unlike “Tales Of The Black Freighter” within “The Watchmen” which even Zack Snyder wisely figured was best left out of his (otherwise turgid) adaptation. Hopefully no one will fund Kelly’s indulgence so save both him and us a lot of wasted time. [/Film]