Richard Kelly Wants To Return To Southland Tales

Southland Tales

by Ben Travis |
Published on

In the early 2000s, fresh-faced filmmaker Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko – which was universally beloved, and instantly hailed as a cult classic. Then, he went on to make Southland Tales, which… well, it wasn’t quite so popular. Slammed at Cannes, majorly re-cut, and eventually released to baffled reactions, Kelly’s out-there satirical apocalyptic sci-fi mystery remains a total curio – an epic, muddled mash-up of disparate elements with a fragmented narrative that’s near-impossible solve, particularly without a set of three prequel graphic novels.

But there remains something oddly compelling about Southland Tales – and Kelly himself still has unfinished business with it. With the film hitting streaming service MUBI, the director conducted a live watch-along on Twitter, and had some interesting things to say. First up, the film has been given a 4K restoration – not just of the theatrical version, but also the original Cannes edit. “The 158 minute Cannes cut is rough with many unfinished visual effects. It will be released for posterity..." he Tweeted, adding: "but my focus has been on preparing the epic Version 3.0 of Southland Tales.”

Yes, Kelly has bigger plans – he wants to take the material covered in the graphic novels and use it at the basis of another Southland Tales movie. “Southland Tales is a six-chapter saga. The existing film covers the second half. I wrote graphic novels with @brettweldele that cover the first three chapters. I have completed an ambitious new script that uses the novels as a blueprint for an ambitious new film,” he wrote. “My hope is to direct a new Southland Tales prequel film using a hybrid of animation and live-action. This new film could be released in tandem with an expanded version of the existing film with significant new content.”

“If it happens... the animated portion of the new film would cover the 2008 events over the three days beginning on June 30th, when Boxer Santaros [note: that’s Dwayne Johnson’s character] wakes up in the Nevada desert w/ amnesia... and then embarks on a journey through Las Vegas before returning to LA. The live action sections of the new film would bring to life sequences from THE POWER, the bonkers screenplay within-the-film written by Boxer Santaros and Krysta Now [note: that’s Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character]. THE POWER takes place in the year 2024 and has significant importance to the story told in 2008. The evolution of VFX and animation techniques will hopefully allow the complete vision of Southland Tales to see the light of day. The script is ready and the assets secured. Thank you to everyone who has supported this film – it will always be my most beloved.”

So there we have it – Richard Kelly’s head is firmly still caught up in Southland Tales, both in sprucing up the existing material, and expanding its confusing, convoluted world in an additional movie. If it happens, could the whole project emerge as a misunderstood masterpiece? Or is it destined to remain a noble, fascinating failure, clearer in the mind of its maker than it is on the screen? Here’s hoping Kelly at least gets to have a go, and see what he comes up with next.

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