Southland Tales prequel

In 2006, Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly premiered his second feature film, Southland Tales, at the Cannes Film Festival. The audience did not react warmly to his hugely ambitious movie, and the film was drastically re-cut before hitting theaters in late 2007, when it failed to make much of an impact. But among film fanatics, the movie has been a much-argued-about talking point for more than a decade.

Kelly has only directed one other movie since then (2009’s The Box), but he recently revealed that he and his team have completed a 4K restoration of the infamous Cannes cut of Southland Tales, and that he still intends to direct a Southland Tales prequel which features both animation and live-action. Read his latest update below.

The Film Stage pointed out that yesterday, Kelly live-tweeted his movie as part of a viewing party on the streaming platform MUBI. During that event, he explained that he has completed “an ambitious new script” for a prequel movie that he hopes to direct.

Southland Tales defies easy description, but it is easy to understand why its blend of time travel, satire, political commentary went over many people’s heads upon its release, including mine – I fully admit to not “getting” this movie when I saw it around 2008 or so, but these new comments have me curious about rewatching it.

While it doesn’t sound like this is a done deal quite yet, this isn’t the first time Kelly has talked about expanding the story he began all those years ago. In 2010, he told Kevin Smith on a podcast that he had plans to use animation and live-action 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.”

“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 [Santaros] 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.”

Those comments were from 2010, but Kelly’s recent tweets make it seem like he has now completed a whole new draft of the script. Here’s a clip of Johnson’s Boxer Santaros explaining the premise of The Power, the movie-within-the-movie that Kelly plans to visualize:

The Film Stage also points out that last year, Kelly showed the Cannes cut of Southland Tales at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and he intimated that he was having discussions with an unnamed studio to potentially be the home for his vision:

“I still want to finish it, and there is a new studio in place to finally do a new, hopefully expanded and complete version of the film. There are animation techniques, a lot of new visual effects technology, and we’re in the age of the streamers. There’s new ways to digest narrative.”

Could MUBI be the company he’s referring to? It’s unclear if they have the budget necessary to fund this project, but either way, it seems like some momentum is building for this. And while I wait for his finished version to hopefully come out one day, I’m going to be hunting down those graphic novels, rewatching the theatrical version, and reading yesterday’s tweets to get even more insight into this crazy-ass movie.

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