Nathan Rabin wrote up a great exploration of Southland Tales back in 2007, when it played in one theatre, or so it seemed. Which may explain why I haven’t seen it until now. However, I finally got a chance to watch it yesterday, and it was pretty much exactly the kind of film I expected. You can almost see where the original script was going, and somewhere in there, are 2 films ready to be made, if they could only be seperated.
The film is stuck in my head–the images, some lines, the bad dialog, the campy tone–and it simply won’t leave. I’m OK with that, though (more than I am with Justin Timberlake’s voiceover), because the things that stick out are so weird they deserve to be there. At the very least, this is an engaging piece of art, and at best a disaster. But the kind of disaster that lets me reflect on my own disasters and what drew me to those lengths. For example, there’s a NaNo from 2007, which has so much crap in it, that it couldn’t ever be edited down, or revised to fit it all. There are two stories posing as one because I had to put everything down at once, in a month. Kelly worked on this one for 5 years. We both deal with time travel, and talk about destroying worlds. I can imagine how hard it could have been to keep this all straight in his head. No wonder he needed 3 prequel graphic novels to set up the story.
I shoved my draft into a corner, and let it sit, and I’m not sure you can do that with films. That’s one of the lures to novels and short fiction for me, the pace isn’t as frentic as filmmaking, and the Dark Materials used to create a written piece are so different than the ones required to make a film. I can see my failed novel attempt clearer now than I did then, and that’s a mystery of art–distance and time can make it gain focus, elevate it to heights, or at least recontextualize it to a period of time that makes sense. Flops, as the length of Rabin’s column suggests, need time to air out, regain context, and be seen as the successful creative acts that they are.
But there should always be room for things like NaNo and like this, which don’t take that kind of time. Its the starts that keep art going, but the finish lines are what matter the most. Patience, is the lesson I’m still learning. I’ll be hanging on to the Netflix dvd of Southland Tales a few extra days, just so I can watch it again.