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Richard Kelly Takes Us on a 'Southland' Trip

20 Feb, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Southland Tales director Richard Kelly

Movies that make about half a million dollars at the box office don't generally go on to sell millions of copies on DVD, including those attributed to a director's cut. Most movies of that size don't even get a director's cut.

But Donnie Darko isn't most movies. The 2001 film (available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), stars a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal as a teenager who sees such disturbing images as a giant bunny rabbit that tells him the world is going to end in a month.

It was a flop upon release, despite being co-produced by and co-starring Drew Barrymore and garnering critical acclaim. Then the DVD came out. Then Web sites devoted entirely to the movie started popping up. Then it hit IMDb's top-rated movies, where it still resides at No. 117.

Writer-director Richard Kelly's film blended teen flicks, metaphysical theory and mind-bending thrillers a la David Lynch into one of the 21st century's first bona fide cult films.

Now he returns with Southland Tales, another film with big stars that flopped theatrically (grossing $275,380 domestically) despite featuring such stars as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Justin Timberlake, Seann William Scott and Jon Lovitz.

The film, set in a “futuristic” 2008 where a nuclear blast has irradiated part of Texas, follows an action star (Johnson) with amnesia who becomes entangled with a porn star (Gellar) refashioning herself as a TV pundit. Meanwhile, a cop (Scott) and his twin brother, captured by Neo Marxists in Califonia, hold the key to the end of the world.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings the film to DVD March 18 at $24.96. The DVD includes the making-of featurette “USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland,” as well as the animated short, “This Is the Way the World Ends.” The director answered a few questions about his film and the reaction it received.

HM: What's the typical reaction you get from people after they watch Southland Tales?

Kelly: Usually it's sort of like whoa, I need to think about what I just saw and get back to you. I get all different kinds of reactions. It's a big, elaborate tapestry of a film, and it's a lot to digest in one viewing. If anything, I hope that it's a movie people sit with, and if it doesn't completely connect, specifically on DVD, it's easy to rewatch. It's much more amenable to multiple viewings.

HM: The reaction to Donnie Darko was something like that of an old midnight movie — it's just not the kind of thing you typically see anymore. Did you ever expect the reaction to Donnie Darko to be quite what it was?

Kelly: I'm just grateful that people are paying attention. I'm really lucky to get to do what I do. It's frustrating to make a film and then have there be no one really interested in it. With [Southland Tales], there's just not a lot of people who've seen it yet. … This is finally the chance for the film to reach a wide audience.

HM: Does the making-of featurette “USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland” reveal more details and answer questions left by the narrative, or is it more on the production?

Kelly: I think it's a little bit of both, with a lot of interviews with the cast, different interpretations of what people think the film might mean, but also a lot of great making-of stuff. … There's a lot of bonus material that still exists that if there's a longer cut down the road, there's room for a lot more.

HM: What can you tell me about “This Is the Way the World Ends?

Kelly: That's an animated short directed by my cousin Dee Austin Robertson and written by his friend Raymond Mansfield. They did this amazing piece of animation actually inspired by Southland Tales. When I saw it I realized I wanted to use it in the film. It's sort of the Neo Marxists … broadcasting this animated film that serves as a computer virus. … On the DVD it's presented in its entirety.

HM: I didn't see deleted scenes listed as a special feature of this DVD. Is there extra footage that could make another DVD release down the line?

Kelly: There's a whole bunch of deleted scenes and some I might reinstate in a longer cut. I decided I wanted to wait and hold off on showing people that. I'm still not entirely sure exactly how much of it I would put in a longer cut, so I wanted to hold off on that material and not expose it yet.

HM: As long as we're on the subject, could we see another DVD or high-def disc release of Donnie Darko? What about a sequel?

Kelly: I'm working on a Blu-ray right now. I might be wrong, but I think there's a Blu-ray Disc scheduled for December (from Fox). At some point there will be a Blu-ray of Southland Tales.

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