If I cut two or three paragraphs from the middle of this Southland Tales review, tossed in some random sentences from other articles about this film and others by writer-director Richard Kelly, burst into song about two-thirds of the way through and didn't reveal what the movie was about until near the end, you might get a very good sense about my experience of watching Southland Tales. The difference is that you would probably give up on reading that review quickly and not wait for the payoff, but Southland Tales managed to captivate and hold my attention despite the fact that I sometimes felt lost or confused.
Richard Kelly's long-awaited second film (Donnie Darko being the first) premiered at Cannes in 2006 to a number of unfavorable reviews, including complaints that the movie was difficult to follow and structurally a mess. Since then, Kelly removed about 20 minutes of footage (involving Janaene Garafalo and Kevin Smith's characters) and added special effects that he felt the movie required. The new cut, which will hit theaters in November, premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin at a "secret screening" on Saturday night. The recut film may still be difficult to follow and occasionally difficult to enjoy, but audiences who are willing to pay close attention and focus on the world of the film for more than two hours are rewarded by something extraordinary.