Southland Tales

Directed by Richard Kelly.
With Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
France/Germany/US, 2007, 35mm, color, 145 min.
Print source: Swank

The War on Terror has entered Syria. Police are authorized to shoot anyone even suspected of terrorism. The Patriot Act has expanded so far that all Internet action is monitored by a government spy facility. Much of it is censored. Fingerprints are needed to access computers. Electoral politics have been reduced to television advertising. Not only does so much of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales seem eerily prescient, but his film, critics such as J. Hoberman and Steven Shaviro argue, exudes an Internet-inspired aesthetic. It’s comprised of a wild mash-up of allusions and appropriations; technological windows within windows in a computer-screen-esque aesthetic; its characters function as embodied avatars; the narrative is nonlinear and almost incoherent, even as events interpenetrate and feed back on each other, constantly connected. Southland Tales suggests that we are now no longer merely paranoid about the Internet—we can only feel paranoid by means of the aesthetic and temporal characteristics of the Internet itself. Years before an egregiously dishonest Twitter troll was elected President of the United States, Richard Kelly suggested: There is no longer an “outside.” We’re caught in the Net, and we’re not getting out. 

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The Early Internet in the Paranoid Imagination

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