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SOUTHLANDER

Suggesting the Odyssey as retold by Raymond Chandler on whippets, Steve Hanft’s winsome digital video fantasia is just bad enough to be great. Chance (Rory Cochrane) is a hapless musician questing after his stolen synthesizer, the über-rare 1969 Moletron. As he pursues it through the freakish underbelly of Los Angeles, the folks he encounters get curiouser and curiouser. There’s electro-folkie Beth Orton as a slinky "dub-pop" siren; there’s Welcome Back Kotter’s Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as a hot-headed, tennis-playing funk legend; there’s Hank Williams III as a psychopathic junkyard grease monkey. And there’s Beck, many of whose videos Hanft has directed, playing himself in a substantial cameo.

The story line is shambling, and some (willfully?) bad acting creates a strangely fitting sense of dislocation. But Hanft’s off-kilter flights of fancy — a technophobic avant-garde musician’s hillside cocktail party; a barren room’s morphing into outer-space for a performance by an Afro-fusion jazz band (featuring the late Ornette Coleman drummer Billy Higgins); a coke-entranced, snow-kissed slow dance set to æthereal synthesized trills — are visually captivating in their way. Performances by Beck, Orton, and Williams are gravy. (85 minutes)


Issue Date: September 19 - 25, 2003
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