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August 29 2006

My Southland Tales remarks were taken out of context says Richard Kelly. The director clarifies an interview he did with Hotdog Magazine where he said the movie would be cut by an hour. The story got picked up first by Female First and then later by the likes of SciFi Wire and other sites.

Wow, that's really bad. Really really bad.
Oh. That..... sucks.
Less Sarah = less good in my books. If America might not see it, what hope is there for the rest of us? This article is not fun at all.
There have been many contradictory reports about the future of 'Southland Tales' and as is often the case in these situations, the media are trying to put a negative spin on everything.

Discussion taking place on the forum at richard-kelly.net suggests that contrary to the way it is now being presented, this comment was made by Kelly in the immediate aftermath of the Cannes screenings when the film had failed to pick up an American distributor and had been subject to a lot of negative reviews by American and British critics.

A distribution deal is now in place and although Kelly is in the process of re-editing it seems the film is still likely to clock in at around two hours and this report is somewhat less than accurate.
I remember the interview and comment from that time (Cannes). Like you say, dashboardprophet, it's very old news that some obscure site just recycled, and now it's all over again. I don't mean that as a dig at you, unreality - Sci-fi wire should know better.

The only recent real news on Southland Tales is good news that the second prequel graphic novel is at the printers, and should be available some time in September.
The original source does come from Hotdog magazine which whilst being an excellent mag (any remember Neon? - oh so good), probably conducted the interview around the time of Cannes. So this at least a couple of months old. I think I'll put some sort of disclaimer on the subject line.

ETA - Which I did.
Yeah, I spoke to the person who covered Serenity at Hotdog whilst in Edinburgh - they're good people.

Also, Donnie Darko had significantly cuts in it's theatre release from the original festival cut back many years ago. Later on they released the 'directors cut' version on DVD - and it was quite widely critised for being overly long and missing the subtley which made the film interesting.
Fair enough. To be honest, I haven't been really been following what's been going on with the film that closely. I'm glad the real news is probably better than this.
That sucks. Hopefully there will be a director's cut on DVD so we can see the film as intended.
eek....i hope you are right dashboard. that would be a real shame. even if the movie ends up sucking, i hate this idea that its original reception could drastically alter a film before the public is given a chance to see and judge for itself. i have been very excited for this film...and i hope it retains its epic feel.
A silly notion: Kelly could cut it into two films, a la Kill Bill. One movie wcould be all SMG, one would contain the rest of the footage. And the rest of the rest of the cast's body parts.
I loved Neon magazine, never missed an issue. HotDog tried and failed to replicate its glory.
That's really terrible. Donnie Darko is one of my favorite movies, and I was extremely excited about seeing the full cut of Southland Tales. I hope that Mr. Kelly finds someway to show his original cut to U.S. audiences.
Over at CHUD there's an update today from Richard Kelly, saying the above quote is indeed old and out of context. He says his revision of the film is going great, and that the movie will be released with his cut, not someone else's.
Here's the post from Kelly's blog that CHUD references.

If nothing else, it's a reminder you shouldn't believe everything you read at the Sci-Fi Wire.

[ edited by unreality on 2006-08-29 20:50 ]
I don't think it needs to be a major issue. Surely if Kelly just cuts the film to make it slightly shorter and easier for a mainstream audience to follow, he can always release a director's cut at a later point. I suspect that's probably what will happen.
Well to ensure fair and balanced news coverage, I've rewritten the subject line completely to show what the score is at the moment.

Sites picking up old news 1 Credibilty of the Internet 0.
It is interesting to note -- here, but also moreso elsewhere -- how divided some people were on this so-called news.

"That's horrible!" some people say. "The artist's vision should be paramount. There should be no editing he doesn't approve!"

"Well maybe," say the others. "But his earlier film was much better because of the edits he was forced to make. The director's cut is just not as good a film."

I haven't seen the director's cut of Donnie Darko -- only the theatrical release -- and I really don't know a whole lot more than the very basics on this movie. But I do think it opens up an interesting can of worms for discussion: should an artist's vision be compromised if it makes the art better?

True, it's maybe not a discussion to have here -- we're not talking about an edited version of Serenity or Wonder Woman, after all -- but it's an interesting topic nonetheless.

[ edited by unreality on 2006-08-29 22:19 ]
I don't actually get what the huge deal is. More often than not, movies ARE cut and edited before release and this doesn't necessarily make the results a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it makes a better and more focused film and judging by the Cannes reviews, a better focus is something the film does need.

I am a huge fan of Donnie Darko and really appreciated seeing the uncut version, however, I liked the cut version better. It was simply tighter and had a better flow.
Editing good. T.S. Eliot had Ezra Pound go through his stuff and cut cut cut. IMHO, Ezzie missed a few spots in The Waste Land, which started with four of the best lines of poetry I've ever read, then proceeded rapidly downhill (again, IMHO). I hope Richard Kelly fully achieves his artistic vision with Southland Tales, then hands it off to whoever turned Donnie Darko from an interesting film into a great one for one more round with the scissors.
A director's cut means the original vision, not the better vision. If Donnie Darko benefitted from cuts, then Southland Tales might be the same. Everyone has to edit. Editing is not cutting out the bad parts, it is refining and streamlining so that the bad parts are made better and the good parts are highlighted.
WHEREAS I bought all 7 seasons of Buffy on DVD, and
WHEREAS I think think it's the best show ever, and
WHEREAS I admire the episode Innocence so much that I actually wrote a 39-page structural analysis of it just for my own edification, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that I ain't hatin'. There's just one flaw with that episode, and interestingly enough, it's similar to the flaw that made the Donnie Darko director's cut worse than the original.

Both Whedon & Kelly came up with answers to questions that were best left unanswered. In Kelly's case, the sci fi explanation for what was happening to Donnie removed the intriguing ambiguity over how much of what he was doing was heroism and how much was mental illness. When you eliminate any doubt as to whether the man in the bunny suit needs to be shot in the eye, it's just less . . . well, it's just less. The first time I saw the movie, I was gripped by the question of whether Donnie had saved the world or killed an innocent when he shot that guy in the eye. When I watched the director's remix, I knew he had to die to save the world, and it just sucked to be the man in the bunny suit.

Likewise, I respectfully contend, Whedon should not have explained why the gypsy curse removed Angel's soul if he experienced a moment of perfect happiness.

Jenny: But why, Uncle, why?

Uncle: We wanted Angelus to suffer a fate worse than death. Staking was too good for him. Someone found an old curse called "The Despair of the Damned," something to make a demon suffer for his sins as long as he walked this earth. It sounded like just the thing.

Jenny: But why make it so Angel would lose his soul if he experienced a moment of perfect happiness, Uncle?

Uncle: Why make it so vampires can't tan? It's a curse. Curses are not like computer programs. They're not entirely logical. They have their own rules. We don't make them. Besides, what were the odds that a demon who'd committed mass murder numerous times, and got a soul just to make him feel guilty about it all, would ever experience a moment of perfect happiness? I, personally, have yet to experience a moment of perfect happiness. Don't tell your aunt.

(Or something like that, albeit less sucky.)

The gypsies were grieving, angry and scared. Of course they didn't consider every contingency. Sometimes it's better to have characers point out the illogic of part of a story rather than try to resolve it, to acknowledge the reasonable questions, rather than answer them.
Pointy, I have to disagree about Innocence, though not the thought itself. I agree that explaining something is sometimes the worst idea. I did not see Donnie Darko, but Highlander comes to mind instead. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing.

With the curse in Innocence, however, I think Joss explained just the right amount. As humorous as your interpretation of it was above, I have to totally disagree with it. The idea that the curse was not supposed to be justice, but vengence, pointed up the fact that people who look for revenge are often illogical, self-destructive and uncaring of the consequences their actions have on innocent bystanders. I think that is an excellent point to make.
Thank you, newcj! Shout out to my home state of Garden!

I agree that "the fact that people who look for revenge are often illogical, self-destructive and uncaring of the consequences their actions have on innocent bystanders" is "an excellent point to make."

But . . .

Wouldn't a scene like the one I sketched above, fortified by Jossy wit, have made that point anyway? In my fanfictional version, too, the villagers go for vengeance without considering the consequences. But I prefer the point to be dramatized, not argued. Same point, differently made. To be Esponsonian, I would have the villagers' actions be portrayed as character-based (angry/grieving/frightened/feeling death is too good for the killer of their favorite daughter), not idea-based (vengeance, not justice, was their aim). Show the motivation for their actions, rather than have one of them state a rationalization.

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-08-31 17:19 ]

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-08-31 17:21 ]

[ edited by Pointy on 2006-08-31 17:21 ]
Maybe I am misunderstanding, but the action was already being dramatized in how Angel's (un)life and flashbacks were playing out. The argument between Jenny and her Uncle just underlined why the people had done what they had and gave a nice illustration of the clash of the newer, younger idea of how one should react to being wronged, seeking justice, to the older, more traditionally accepted reaction of seeking revenge. (It also got Joss out of an illogical corner he had painted himself into.)
You are not misunderstanding, I am unclarifying.

I'm only talking about the scene twixt Jenny and her uncle.

Instead of having the two characters have what boils down to a philosophical argument about justice v. vengeance, I would have them illustrate two points of view: how things look in the thick of a crisis versus how they look decades after the fact when the fine print turns out to be really, really important.

The POV approach focuses on dramatic things -- the emotions and mental state of the villagers in their moment of grief. The philosophical approach enunciates a conflict of principles. The problem with the philosophical approach is that Joss basically had to make up a principle of vengeance for the uncle to enunciate.

The POV explanation -- essentially, "It seemed like a good idea at the time" -- is one every viewer can relate to. It also resonates a bit with the way that Buffy's "rash" decision to sleep with Angel lead to dire unintended consequences.

The philosophical explanation -- the villagers preferred vengeance to justice, even if it meant a lot of people might get killed -- is much harder to relate to. Yes, people often seek vengeance without considering the consequences, but they do that for emotional, not philosophical reasons. They do it precisely because they don't think things through. And the scene as Joss wrote it implies that they did think the curse out thoroughly and decided to ignore the consequences.

As for getting out of the painted corner, I think the POV explanation does the job, too.

(And I think the illustrative flashbacks of Angelus's first ensoulment occur in Becoming Part one.)

Lunch over. Must work. Will reply to any other posts after midnite.

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