The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, November 18-24

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Southland Tales (2006)
Directed by Richard Kelly
At one point in Kelly’s still-confounding dystopian fantasy epic, socially conscious porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is seen watching the 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly. The influence of Robert Aldrich’s classic film noir is obvious in Kelly’s film, with its similarly apocalyptic surface. But noir is also deeply embedded in its dramatic DNA. Not unlike famous gumshoes like Mike Hammer and Sam Spade, amnesiac movie star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and cop Ronald Taverner (Seann William Scott) are both trying to solve mysteries: a missing past in Boxer’s case, a missing twin brother in Ronald’s. Both, however, find themselves at the mercy of forces—political, personal, scientific, industrial—not only beyond their grasp, but actively trying to bend them to their competing wills. Such a feeling of hopelessness in an incomprehensible world was the despairing lifeblood of many a noir from the mode’s 1940s and 50s heyday; Southland Tales locates a similar pessimism in the post-9/11 age, with paranoia everywhere amidst a media-saturated landscape. For all its political satire, high-toned literary and Biblical references, lowbrow sex jokes, and grand sci-fi spectacle, the troubled heart of Kelly’s film maudit lies in Dwayne Johnson’s confused stares and twiddling fingers, with only a levitating ice-cream truck and a reconciliatory meeting of the self offering a pathway to… well, some kind of salvation, maybe. Kenji Fujishima (November 23, 7:30pm at BAM’s “Turkeys for Thanksgiving”)

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