[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/southland_tales_dvd_cover_2848.jpg]]

->''"[[ArcWords This is the way the world ends.]] [[CompletelyMissingThePoint Not with a whimper... but with a bang]]."''
-->--'''Inversion of a poem by Creator/TSEliot'''

'''''Southland Tales''''' is a 2007 ScienceFiction[=/=]BlackComedy film from director Richard Kelly, the follow-up to his 2001 cult hit ''DonnieDarko''. While planned as a mainstream breakthrough, things didn't pan out that way. The combination of a large budget and Sony's decision to shelve the film after lackluster showings in a handful of cities means that it's not likely to show profit for years to come. Nonetheless, ST did make some critics' year's best lists and has found a modest [[CultClassic cult]] on DVD.

Imagine if you will the skewed artistic sensibilities of Creator/AndyWarhol filming a Greatest Hits version of Creator/PhilipKDick's body of work, written with the esoteric denseness of [[Music/ThePixies Pixies]] lyrics, and you'll have something approximating the, er, ''experience'' that is Southland Tales. The film's cast is an eclectic group, led by names like Wrestling/DwayneJohnson, Creator/SarahMichelleGellar, Seann William Scott, and narrator Music/JustinTimberlake, while the secondary cast is filled with HeyItsThatGuy character actors and comedians, specifically ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' veterans.

The sprawling story is difficult to summarize (and considered intensely nonsensical by many) but here's a thumbnail version: after a nuclear attack in Texas, World War III has begun and the fuel supply of the United States is placed under strain, while the government becomes an authoritarian police state to combat the everpresent threat of terrorism. A genius inventor named Baron von Westphalen, a dandy who dresses like Liberace crossed with Ozymandias from ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'', joins forces with a [[StrawCharacter Republican presidential candidate]] to create a wireless power generator that uses ocean currents to transmit electricity via quantum entanglement. This wireless energy, dubbed Fluid Karma, is derived from a compound that's also an injectible drug allowing the user to "bleed" his or her consciousness through space and time, but you'd only know that if you [[GuideDangIt read the graphic novel prequels]]. The tidal generator appears to be sending out dense waves of fog, causing red tides, and oh yeah, ''ripping holes in the fabric of time and space''. Meanwhile, the police state has created widespread discontent among the population and, in a SelfFulfillingProphecy, created actual terrorists in the form of neo-Marxist cells dedicated to overthrowing the government agency responsible for monitoring the American population, [=USIDent=], spearheaded by the aforementioned presidential candidate and his wife.

And that last paragraph? That's all '''backstory''' delivered in the first ten minutes by Justin Timberlake, who's using Fluid Karma to narrate the story. The actual movie hasn't even started yet.

[[MindScrew Yeah, it's]] [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible that kind]] [[PutneySwopePanic of flick.]]

The "plot", such as it is, is a FourLinesAllWaiting series of vignettes about a loosely-interconnected group of people living in the southland and plotting conspiracies either for or against the police state, although along the way it morphs into a metaphysical odyssey about the apocalypse requiring more than a passing familiarity with the Literature/BookOfRevelation to make sense of, not to mention essential exposition available only in the graphic novel prequels. And even then, some things happen that have no rhyme or reason, though it's hard to tell if that's because Richard Kelly is a poor writer or if [[ExecutiveMeddling the studio made him cut large swatches of the movie out]] after a disastrous screening of a workprint version at the Cannes film festival. We just know that [[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405336/faq a FAQ]] is probably necessary for viewers. Though
[[http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/linkara/at4w/35427-at4w-southland-tales many tried]] [[http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Southland_Tales_2006.aspx and failed]] [[http://www.avclub.com/article/case-file-91-isouthland-talesi-10193 to make some sense]].

As of 2013, Kelly still considers ''Southland Tales'' [[MagnumOpusDissonance his proudest accomplishment,]] calling it his "misunderstood child". He's actively trying to create a definitive version of the story by restoring the deleted scenes and condensing the events of the graphic novels into an animated prequel (the script is available to read [[http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/southland-tales-richard-kelly-script here]], if you're interested). Only time will tell if his completed vision fares better than the original.
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!!This film provides examples of:

* AllThereInTheManual: Kelly wrote three graphic novels to set up the premise and characters. Unfortunately, they were poorly distributed and pretty much off the market by the time the movie came out. Having important information outside the movie and in the graphic novel is likely a major reason the movie did poorly. They're included as extras on the Blu-Ray.
* AlternateSelf: Boxer and Taverner's future selfs.
* AlternateUniverse: WordOfGod places the story in an AlternateUniverse. His prequel script directly namedrops Philip K Dick's ''TheManInTheHighCastle'', one of the defining works of the genre.
* AppliedPhlebotinum: Fluid Karma is perpetual motion energy generated by the tides, can be beamed to whatever uses it, and also can be made into an attempted SuperSerum and a narcotic drug.
* ArcWords:
** This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.
** We saw the shadows of the morning light / The shadows of the evening sun / Until the shadows and the light were one."
* AuteurLicense: This movie revoked Kelly's.
* BecauseDestinySaysSo: ''The Power'', Krysta Now's script, is actually a highly esoteric prophecy written under the influence of Fluid Karma. By the time he boards the airship, Boxer Santaros has taken heed of the cosmic signs and fully immersed himself in the role of Jericho Cane, to the point where he knows things about the plot ("The soul of a monkey would never survive the dimensional threshold") solely because he read the script of ''The Power''.
* BerserkButton: Don't tell Zora to get the fuck out of your ice cream truck and don't call her a "Cro-Magnon bitch".
* {{Blackmail}}: When Krysta Now mentions that she is sleeping with Boxer Santaros, Cyndi Pinziki decides to use this information to blackmail Boxer’s father-in-law, Republican candidate Bobby Frost, for money and demanding the passage of Proposition 69 (a bill that restricts [=USIDent=]’s powers).
* BiggerIsBetterInBed: Veronica Mung brings this up during the domestic disturbance act: "His fucking dick was 200 inches long!"
* {{Callback}}: "I'm/He's a pimp. And pimps don't commit suicide."
* CreepyMonotone: ''"Do you wanna fuck... or watch a movie?"''
* CrucifiedHeroShot: ''Used for many deaths in the film'', [[spoiler: until the majority of the cast dies at once in the Mega Zeppelin. And Boxer still gets to do it]].
* DecoyProtagonist: [[spoiler: ''And in the final minutes of the film no less!'' Thought Boxer was the hero? Wrong! It was really not-twins Taverner all along!]]
* DiegeticSwitch: In reverse. With Bai Ling dancing. In a megazepplin.
* FakeVideoCameraView: Subverted. The filmmakers gave a camera to an actual family to record their 4th of July celebration. That's true shock in the lady's face when she hits the camera with a squirt gun.
* FantasticDrug: Fluid Karma. [[ColorCodedForYourConvenience "Green, you dream. Blue, in an hour you feel new. And you can forget all about mellow yellow and agent orange, 'cause, hey, I'm giving you blood red.]] Do you bleed?"
* FluffyFashionFeathers: Krysta wears a pink marabou jacket in an early scene.
* ForScience: The reason The Baron and his executive staff toyed around with the space-time rift.
* FriendOrFoe: Abilene is scarred from a friendly fire grenade. [[spoiler: Taverner was the one who did it. This is surprisingly extremely significant to the plot, as Taverner can't forgive himself for it]].
* GambitPileup: Many. A couple lead to a IKnowYouKnowIKnow situation.
* GainaxEnding: If you're still somehow following the plot by the end, you won't be able to any longer. A passable knowledge of the Book of Revelations is needed to make sense of the majority of the plot and characters. Likewise, the graphic novels help to make the plot significantly more understandable.
* GroinAttack: Vaughn Smallhouse gets his balls tazered... twice!
* HeelRealization: Boxer on the airship. He seems more amused than anything else by it, however.
* HeroicBSOD: [[spoiler: What happens when Roland/Ronald remembers. It's not pretty.]]
* HighCollarOfDoom: Villainess Nana Mae Frost wears a black jacket with the collar turned up.
* HumanNotepad: The screenplay "The Power" explains, that as part of his job, Jericho had to tattoo a symbol from every world religion onto his body and, when the Messiah reaches maturity, the “winning” religion’s symbol will bleed snake blood.
* HummerDinger: The Treer Saltair.
* IdentityAmnesia: Boxer and Taverner suffer from this.
* JerkassFacade and HappyPlace: Boxer has a mix in ''Jericho Cane'', a loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules. He slips into being Jericho Cane when he has schizophrenic breaks [[spoiler:because he is a [[CloneDegeneration deteriorating duplicate]] of the actual Boxer Santaros]], characterized by talking in rapid gibberish and tapping his fingers.
* JustBeforeTheEnd: The movie is a big dystopia comedy-satire about the last three days on earth in Los Angeles.
* [[spoiler:KillEmAll: By the film's end, there are maybe three major characters still alive, and it's implied that the world ends because two of them won't stop holding hands... or it will be saved because of that.]]
* LastMinuteHookup: Vaughn Smallhouse and Cindy Pinzicki [[spoiler: right before the Megazepplin explodes.]]
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: The movie goes out of it's way to introduce dozens of characters exceedingly often. Unfortunately, it can't quite seem to decide which ones are supposed to be important...
* '''MindScrew:''' To this day, even ''the actors'' have admitted they have no idea what was going on.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Ronald Taverner, stemming from his tour in [[{{MyGreatestFailure}} Fallujah.]]
-->'''Pilot Abilene''': He could not forgive himself for what he had done to me.
* NameOfCain: Boxer Santaros's screenplay centers around a character named Jericho Cane (who he hopes to be able to play himself).
* [[spoiler: NeverTheSelvesShallMeet: This is the way the world ends.]]
* NonindicativeName: Confusingly, the song "Wave of Mutilation" plays in chapter V, "Memory Gospel", while the song "Memory Gospel" plays in chapter VI, "Wave of Mutilation". The ''phrase'' "Memory Gospel" originates from a conversation in chapter IV, "Temptation Waits", while the song "Temptation Waits" isn't in the movie at all.
* NoodleIncident: The film never explains what happened between Tavener and Pilot in Fallujah. [[spoiler: It's revealed in the comic and passingly hinted at in the film that while under the influence of Fluid Karma, Roland accidentally scarred Pilot's face with a grenade. He was listening to "All of These Things That I've Done," at the time, which is why Pilot psychically projects his musical number into Roland's head while he's unconscious.]]
* OhCrap: Dream and Dion [[spoiler:just before being shot by Bart Bookman on Zora's orders.]]
* TheOner: A magnificent example. Starts with Boxer and Madeline getting on the Mega-Zeppelin, follows Cyndi, then Serpentine, then Brad, then drifts past Smallhouse and Frost, then Madame Westphalen before stopping at Serpentine and the Baron dancing on the stage. Technically two shots, as there is a disguised cut while the camera follows Serpentine.
* {{Pastiche}}: Basically, the movie is one giant love letter to PhilipKDick, to the point where you practically need a [=PhD=] in PKD to figure out what the hell is going on. In particular, Southland Tales apes his FourLinesAllWaiting style of plotting, his sci-fi meets religion MindScrew nuttiness, his themes of identity and counterfeits, his gratuitous mixing of high literature and pop culture references, his MediumAwareness twists about characters believing fiction is secretly communicating to them, and an intense dislike of [[StrawCharacter the Republican Party]]. It also has explicit references to ''Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said'' by [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin having a policeman say, well...."Flow My Tears"]], and the last name of Seann William Scott's character being "Taverner".
* PlayingWithSyringes: The secret tests done on U.S. soldiers using Fluid Karma. Covered mostly in the graphic novels, but the movie shows what happens when these syringes get out into the general populace.
* PsychicLink: The Fluid Karma energy field transmits wireless electricity to anything inside its radius. Taking the actual Fluid Karma compound, which powers the tidal generator, makes the user into a "receiver" for the energy field[[note]]''Naturally, this is only explained in the graphic novels''[[/note]] and enables them to send their consciousness (which is really just electrical impulses) through space and time, including communicating with other people taking Fluid Karma. And, if Pilot Abilene is to be believed, you can even communicate with God Himself.
* ReadTheFinePrint: Baron von Westphalen says this to the Prime Minister of Japan (or a rival patent holder, depending on which version you're watching) after [[spoiler:cutting off his left hand.]]
* RuleOfSymbolism: Boxer's tattoos are symbolic representations of all the major world religions, and WordOfGod says that the tattoo that bleeds is the religion that "wins." [[spoiler:The tattoo of Jesus bleeds just before the Megazeppelin explodes.]]
** We might as well just admit that the entire film was built around taking this rule to its [[UpToEleven most]] [[EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory logical]] [[WhatDoYouMeanItsNotSymbolic extreme.]]
* SceneryPorn: The beachfront of UsefulNotes/LosAngeles.
* SexSells: When Senator Frost questions why one of the Baron's commercials has two [=SUVs=] "porking", Vaughn Smallhouse reassures him that "that's the European version".
* ShowWithinAShow: Krysta Now's script, "The Power," which she convinces Boxer that they wrote together.
* ShoutOut:
** WordOfGod stated the film is a "hybrid of the sensibilities of Andy Warhol and Philip K. Dick."
*** [[Creator/PhilipKDick "Flow my tears", the policeman said]].
*** Starla von Luft, who believes she's in a movie, shares her surname with an android actress in DoAndroidsDreamOfElectricSheep.
*** Psychic drugs allowing a shared consciousness was a central plot element of TheThreeStigmataOfPalmerEldritch.
*** Club Jenny, with its avant-garde musical acts and tasteless photos of nuclear bombs exploding, is basically Warhol's Factory.
** Almost all the chapters are allusions: ''Two Roads Diverge'' is an allusion to Creator/RobertFrost, ''Fingerprints'' likely to Music/LeonardCohen, ''Temptation Waits'' to Music/{{Garbage}} and ''Memory Gospel'' to Music/{{Moby}}. The final chapter is called [[Music/ThePixies Wave of Mutilation]]. ''The Mechanicals'' is named after an improv group that Kelly took a liking too and who had bit parts in the film.
** The corrupt senator and his running mate are named [[Creator/RobertFrost Frost]] and [[Creator/TSEliot Eliot]].
-->[[Creator/TSEliot "This is the way the world ends."]]
** Possible parody of ''LeftBehind'': The character of Fortunio Balducci, the Baron's [[TheMole Mole]]. WordOfGod confirms that, following the Book of Revelation, Fortunio is the False Prophet. His counterpart's name in ''Left Behind''? Leon Fortunato.
** Scenes from KissMeDeadly are played throughout the movie, a noir from the 50s about a briefcase full of nuclear material lost in Los Angeles. Kelly said the film was a major influence, to the point where Boxer Santaros drives the same car as that film's main character when he leaves the Frost mansion.
** Soberin Exx states that [[spoiler: once they found the dimensional threshold/gateway to heaven, they launched monkeys into it.]] This takes place in a chapter/episode/whatever titled "Wave of Mutilation", a reference to the Pixies song. Also on the same album? [[spoiler: "Monkey Gone to Heaven", about a man who controls the ocean, and also mankind's place in the universe.]]
* ShyFingerTwiddling: Boxer Santaros does this a lot [[spoiler:because he is having constant schizophrenic breaks into the character of Jericho Cane.]]
* SpaceWhaleAesop: "Veterans! Don't commit suicide, because [[spoiler: you may be sci-fi Jesus.]]"
* StylisticSuck: What the theatrical cut doesn't really make clear is how awful ''The Power'' is. The "no bowel movements" thing is only the tip of the iceberg. An extended version of the ridealong scene from the Cannes cut goes more into detail about the messianic baby with nuclear farts that cause earthquakes. What the theatrical cut makes ''doubly'' unclear is that the infamous line, "Pimps don't commit suicide", is actually dialog being recited from this (really, really bad) script.
* TagAlongActor: Boxer with Taverner. [[spoiler:It doesn't end well.]]
* TimeParadox: [[spoiler: Sixty-nine minutes before the original Boxer Santaros and Roland Taverner went through the time rift at Lake Meade, duplicates of them appeared in the desert. Serpentine then blew up the originals, killing Boxer Santaros ''before'' he could go through the rift, while leaving his time-displaced self still alive and creating two identical versions of Roland Taverner, shattering the laws of causality.]]
* ThisIsForEmphasisBitch: "The fourth dimension will collapse upon itself... you stupid bitch."
* TrashLanding: An open dumpster is padding Taverner's rooftop fall.
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The story is set in 2008, but everything looks quite futuristic. Justified, as WordOfGod places the story in a [[AlternateUniverse Tangent Universe]].
* ViewersAreGeniuses: The film is drenched in references to literature and politics that range from punishingly obvious to downright impenetrable. Everyone watching the film can tell that it's certainly supposed to be about ''something'', but what the hell is actually going on or what it's all supposed to mean in the end generally baffles most audiences. Ultimately the director certainly had a lot of faith in the audience that they'd be able to follow his thought processes. Or he just intended to make a longer film with more explanation, or thought more people [[AllThereInTheManual would read the prequel comic]]. Though the longer cut at Cannes got similar, if not even more negative responses than the final cut.
* VillainousIceCreamTruck: Used for illegal trading of handguns and ammunition. Later it helps to end the world.
* TheVonTropeFamily: Baron Von Westphalen and his mother Inga are of German descent. There is also Starla Von Luft.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: We never learn who launched the nuclear attacks in Texas.
* WeAREStrugglingTogether: The Neo-Marxists.
* YouKeepUsingThatWord: "Pimp" is constantly used in a way that suggests it means something like "badass" with no explanation.
** TruthInTelevision: The word "Pimp" has been used in exactly that manner for years, especially on the East Coast.
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->'''Pilot Abiliene''': ''[[OpeningNarration They say the path down the road not taken concludes with a stairway to heaven. The gates would not open for another three days, and Boxer Santaros was searching for the key.]]''
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