Lana Del Rey’s New Short Film ‘Tropico’ Is So Bad It Might Be Good

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Lana Del Rey’s songs have always sounded like a groggy soundtrack to a campy art house movie, so the logical step for her was to actually make a campy 27-minute art house movie. She has been making heavier and longer and more bloated videos of her year-old songs from Born to Die: Paradise Edition as if she’s slowly releasing hostages. She’s saved her biggest victim for (hopefully?) last, a three-headed monster comprising her tunes “Body Electric,” “Gods and Monsters” and “Bel-Air,” which have been turned into a 27-minute-long short film, Tropico.Well, here it is, released on Vevo Thursday. It’s directed by Anthony Mandler, who’s set to make his first feature film, Tokyo Vice, based on the book by Daily Beast contributor Jake Adelstein, with Daniel Radcliffe in the starring role. 

If you can get past the first hokey narrations (“And there was light. And John saw that it was good.”) you’d be shown a triptych of hazily saturated images. The first is something like a washed out painting of Del Rey’s Garden of Eden, set to “Body Electric,” which sports silly lyrics like “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend.” Voila! The video’s version of Garden of Eden has in residence John Wayne, a unicorn, and, of course, Elvis, Marilyn, Jesus, an albino Adam, and Del Rey as Eve.

The second is the paradise lost, and Del Rey’s Eve, with Adam in tow, is reincarnated as a stripper—but an angelic one—in L.A. (Which, we’re told by her, is the city of Angels. Better make sure we don’t miss that.) Cue “Gods and Monsters”: “In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel, lookin’ to get fucked hard.” If you haven’t noticed yet, the film’s original sin is its persistent literalness. So you get Eve tipping off Adam that she’d be hosting a bunch of men loaded with cash, and Adam’s gang promptly robs them. Next act.

You lose paradise, you gotta regain it. The song “Bel Air” is Del Rey’s image of Eden 2.0: “Roses, Bel Air, take me there,” she sings under blue skies, on top of a golden hill. The thing is, “Spotlight, Bad Baby, You’ve got a flair, For the violentest kind of love anywhere out there” is actually not a bad patch of poetry. (Neither is “I sing the body electric.”)

What’s also remarkable is that, however you film Del Rey, she comes off as a god you can never really know. No one in the industry has been doing more to push the image of pop divinity than Lana. What results is that, from the films of “Video Games” to “Summertime Sadness” to “Ride,” every frame of Del Rey comes off as distant, the viewer completely detached with what the camera offers. It’s like she looks right past you.

Her videos thus far have been starved of creativity. They’re listless art that believes itself to be art, or what film critic Manny Farber called white elephant art: bloated, pretentious, and untouchable. Take a tip from Paradise Lost; it was Milton who said “all hell broke loose,” and she ought to try to inject some energy into her work. Stop pumping hot air into old songs. Fetch is not gonna happen. Move on.

Thankfully, Del Rey has announced the title of her next album. It’ll be Ultraviolence, lifted from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange to describe the sort of aesthetic brutality that Alex and his gang love to enjoy. I think this is perfect for Del Rey, whose songs and videos have been trying to channel some version of American pop nightmare.

In the hands of someone like David Lynch, who does L.A. proper, Del Rey (who has covered the song “Blue Velvet,” which, of course, is also the title of a Lynch classic) can actually have a chance at being an art house god.

Bummer. Try something else dear Lana.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS opens tomorrow in NYC

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Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane Dehaan, KILL YOUR DARLINGS is the previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution. This is the true story of friendship and murder that led to the birth of an entire generation. OPENS TOMORROW AT LANDMARK SUNSHINE AND THE WALTER READE THEATER AT LINCOLN CENTER!

‘Kill Your Darlings’ Trailer

Kill Your Darlings: Daniel Radcliffe Talks Finding the Beats

By Movie Fanatics

For Kill Your Darlings star Daniel Radcliffe, making the relatively unknown story at the heart of the film was about as new of an experience as an actor can get who has already made many movies in his young life. “See, The Woman in Black was filmed in England. and If you’ve done a Harry Potter film you’re never going to work again in England without knowing someone on the crew,” Radcliffe said to Movie Fanatic and laughed.

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“So doing Kill Your Darlings was a huge thing for me because it meant I would be working with nobody I knew and I would have to find out who you are on a film set again. So it felt like I was starting fresh in a way.”

Among those benefits for Radcliffe was finding unique ways of channeling his craft. “Working with John (Krokidas, director), he introduced me to techniques in ways of working that I’d never been shown before,” Radcliffe said.

So it is easy to say that Radcliffe has been on quite a journey since those doors of Hogwarts closed. “I think from doing How to Succeed in Business, the musical, and through Kill Your Darlings, that was a great period of transition for me in the way I worked.”

As shown in the Kill Your Darlings trailer, the story follows members of the Beat Generation and how those writers all interacted, including Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg. They all met at Columbia University and forged a literary revolution that we’re still feeling today. There’s also that little murder that few people knew about when Carr was accused of killing David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall).

We wondered if Radcliffe had any inspiration from those guys and if he’d ever taken pen to paper to create poetry that mirrors his onscreen alter ego Ginsberg. “Yeah, I definitely have my fair share of some really bad poetry that I wrote when I was 17 or 18,” Radcliffe said and laughed.

When it comes to the Beat writers and their inspiration that is still felt today on a literary scale, to capture the moment in time in his mind, Radcliffe went to another place in history… one he could more relate to as a British citizen.

“In terms of the Beats, there’s something about the way they did what they did. As somebody who grew up outside the States, we don’t have that. The thing I compare them to and I used for my point of connection is the punk movement between ’75 and ’79 because that had the same kind of excited nihilism about tearing everything up and starting again,” Radcliffe said.

“There’s something really thrilling about that. It says something that really applies to the Beats that there are two types of poets. There are people who write poetically about their lives and there are people who live poetically and write about it. That sums it up.”

Radcliffe also felt a powerful duty to portraying Ginsberg as he is someone that appreciators of his work hold dear. “I think you do have a certain responsibility,” he admitted. “There’s a lot more material for you to hang onto and go, ‘He actually did that.’ You get a real insight into somebody’s character, so you’re not starting from scratch.”

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Since there is so much emotional pull between so many characters in Kill Your Darlings, Radcliffe felt that Ginsberg was the heart of the story and that too added a sense of accountability to his performance. “Allen is somebody out of the three characters we played who is probably the easiest to find empathy with or compassion,” Radcliffe said. “But there are still moments where he’s so easily manipulated by Lucien where there is a part of you that wants to shake him as a person!”

Of all the powerful scenes in Kill Your Darlings, there was one that particularly resonated with the man who was Harry Potter and even saw him grow as a thespian. “The scene where I come back and find Lucien and he tells me he’s leaving and going off with Jack. That was a scene we had done a lot because it was the audition scene. You worry about a scene that’s that intense and emotional having done it so many times,” Radcliffe said.

“The day just as we started the scene, John asked the crew to leave the room for our first rehearsal and then took me to one corner and gave me a goal. He said to me, ‘Whatever happens, just don’t let Lu leave.’ Then he said to improvise the scene without any of the lines. As someone who wasn’t used to working in that way, it should’ve been intimidating, but it wasn’t in that moment. And within two minutes I was crying, it was very real. It was an amazing exercise because I had never really had that real, intense, emotional experience during acting before. So that was very, very cool.”