Some of the opening scenes of a strange and memorable movie. A recent profile of the writer and director, Richard Kelly is “The World Ends with a Handshake: Unraveling the Apocalypse of ‘Southland Tales'” by Abraham Riesman.
FORTUNIO is watching TV in the beach house.
Operation CUE, the Atomic Test Program of the Federal Civil Defense Initiative, as seen by Joan Collin, reporter.
I had to see Operation CUE through many eyes, not only my own. But as a reporter through eyes of the average American man and woman.
FORTUNIO changes the channel to a talk show hosted on a beach by an attractive woman.
I’m Krysta. Krysta Now. And we are live in Malibu with my guests today. Shoshana Cox. Sheena Gee. And Deena Storm.
The camera pans to each woman as they’re introduced, and they give a small, smiling wave. KRYSTA speaks to the camera.
Join us for an in-depth discussion of the penetrating issues facing society today. Issues like: [as each issue is announced, it scrolls past, left to right, on the chyron below. Each issue is announced with a weighty, portentous pause.] Abortion. Terrorism. Crime. Poverty. Social reform. Quantum teleportation. Teen horniness. And war.
KRYSTA turns from the camera and now speaks to her guests.
Now we all made decisions in our youth to start doing porn, I think that it’s time we turned the mirror on ourselves…
We are now off the TV, and looking at some stairs, the kind you expect in an expensive California beach house: spare and elegant, a fitting part to a house that’s like a combination buddhist temple and art exhibit you won’t understand. KRYSTA NOW does a languid walk up the stairs. Some police and spies cannot help but look about a room in the manner of their profession, searching for points of interest even when they’re off-duty or retired, and KRYSTA cannot help but walk up the stairs with a bored, languid horniness, as if she’s on-camera and on her way to an orgy, even when no one’s watching. Except us.
Back to KRYSTA’s program on TV.
And once you get on the bang bus…you never get off.
You know what? The bang bus should be banned. It’s totally unethical. Even within the parameters of porn. Do you like to get slapped to the ground and fucked?
Ugh. Too violent. Violence and porn should not mix.
KRYSTA NOW (on TV)
You know what? I like to get fucked. I like to get fucked hard. [COX, GEE and STORM concur with uh-uhs, yeahs, and a charge of champagne glasses]
KRYSTA is still at the top of the stairs, exasperated that not FORTUNIO, no one, is looking at her right now.
KRYSTA NOW (on TV)
But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Violence is a big problem in our society today. And I will not support it. That is the primary reason I won’t do anal.
I didn’t know that.
FORTUNIO has known for a while that KRYSTA’s behind him. He talks to her with his eyes in her direction, but without turning around.
Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible…without feminine upheaval.
Go ahead and make fun of my prophecies all you want, Fortunio.
KRYSTA walks from the stairs, past him, looks out a window, then does a dramatic swivel.
But deep down inside…every one wishes they were a porn star.
FORTUNIO gives a sarcastic “Sure” with his lips.
We’re a bisexual nation…living in denial. All because of a bunch of nerds. A bunch. Of nerds. Who got off a boat in the 15th century and decided that sex…was something to be ashamed of. All the pilgrims did was ruin the American orgy of freedom.
FORTUNIO has a funny reply to this, but he doesn’t get to say it…BOXER SANTAROS ascends the stairs, a determined, slow announcing clop, as if he’s ascending a rope by hand that he climbs with certainty. FORTUNIO’s thoughts turn to what seem like secrets, but what they are, we can only guess. Perhaps: when will KRYSTA and BOXER figure it all out?
You’ve been lying to me.
KRYSTA places her hand gently on BOXER’s face.
You have to trust me. [in a whisper] I’m here to protect you.
There are people out there…who want to destroy you.
Another scene, a little later:
ROLAND TAVERNER knocks on the door. FORTUNIO gets the door and gives the wave in, as if he’s been expecting this guest.
Officer Roland Taverner.
Extends hand. FORTUNIO gives it a warm, assured clasp.
Of course you are. How you doing man? When’d you get back from the desert?
Uh…don’t exactly remember.
[in a whisper] That’s okay. [low, but not a whisper] That’s okay. You’re okay. [gives friendly slap to ROLAND’s arm.] Let’s go upstairs.
ROLAND is now upstairs in the room with the TV we saw in the last scene, with BOXER, FORTUNIO, and KRYSTA. BOXER says his lines now as if he’s unfamilar and uncomfortable, as if he’s being fed them via earpiece while saying them. There’s no sign of an earpiece.
This is…an epic…Los Angeles crime saga.
ROLAND is more certain in his lines, but it feels he’s also playing a role. We have the uncanny sense of both men playing roles, both worried about being found out, and yet neither sees the other obviously playing a part.
And you’re researching your role…to play a cop? You want to do a ride along?
Yes. Exactly. But I’m also directing. It takes place in the near future.
Scientists are saying the future’s going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted.
ROLAND gives a nervous hmmm. FORTUNIO knows something that is making him want to crack up, but he doesn’t reveal it.
BOXER continues the strange delivery of his exposition, again as if he’s being fed these lines from somewhere else, with the empahsis falling at random.
The basic CONCEPT…is this. I play an LAPD cop…who isn’t…who he seems. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic…who has a supernatural gift. He sees things. And he senses a change [now a whisper] in the city.
Crime suddenly skyrockets for no apparent reason. The world…is coming to an end. [KRYSTA turns to BOXER] And he’s the only one who can see the truth.
ROLAND says the next line with sincere feeling – he actually wants the answer to this question.
What’s the truth?
BOXER gives a smile that starts out nervous, then breaks into something wide, as if he’s been asked to do this for the cameras for the first time.
My character? He realizes. That the apocalyptic crime rate…is because of the global deceleration…THE ROTATION…of the earth…is slowing down…at a rate…of…point zero…zero zero…[KRYSTA now mouths each zero in time with BOXER]…zero zero zero…zero. SIX. MILES PER HOUR each day. DISRUPTING the chemical equilibrium in the human brain. Causing. Very. Irrational. Criminal behavior.
ROLAND, again, says the next line fully. He again actually wants an answer to this.
How does he…stop the global deceleration?
FORTUNIO still knows something that is making him want to crack up.
Oh he can’t stop it. THERE IS NO STOPPING WHAT CAN’T BE STOPPED. ONLY GOD…can stop it.
But the New York Times…said God is dead!
FORTUNIO tries to pretend to look interested in all this.
So, in the end: I die. In a very tragic downtown shootout. While whispering my theory to doctor Muriel Fox. The oceanography. Disaster specialist.
The oceanography disaster…specialist. [whisper] Sweetheart.
KRYSTA slumps back, not satisfied.
My character…his name…is Jericho Kane.
ROLAND manages to slip into character. Anything is easier than trying to understand what’s going on.
You’re gonna have to wear a bullet-proof vest.
This blog would re-visit this strange and memorable movie for a much longer and in-depth look in a later post, “Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales: A Maze of Death”.
(Stills and dialogue from Southland Tales Copyright The Samuel Goldwyn Company and associated producers.)