Tropico‘s development and and eventual release has been a long and arduous one. Announced all the way back in November 2012, a release date was never scheduled, leaving many Lana Del Rey fans in the lurch for months, all hoping the wait was worth it. The final product was released two days ago, along with a re-release of the three tracks which make up the core of the 27-minute long short film. Tropico, directed by Anthony Mandler (Ride, National Anthem) is certainly an experience, my original preconceptions were that it would be incredibly self indulgent (it was) and perhaps even boring (which thankfully, it was not.)
Lana Del Rey’s music videos are known for being very stylised and visually enchanting – Tropico is no different, and in fact takes it to a whole new level of obscurity and vibrancy. It is split into three parts which revolve around three tracks first heard on the Paradise Edition of Born To Die; Body Electric, Gods & Monsters and Bel Air. We are introduced to modern interpretations of the vistas of heaven and hell; the illuminated and other worldly grandeur of the Garden of Eden where Elvis, Marilyn and Jesus are immortalised in their youth, and the implicit hell of LA’s twisted underbelly, wrought with gangs and seedy strip joints. Described as a ‘tale of redemption,’ the narrative is simple, it is death and rebirth, sown together by Lana Del Rey and co-star Shaun Ross’ enchanting performance of the original sin combined with a kaleidoscope of colour and sexuality.
Lana Del Rey’s persona is both complete mystery and over-the-top fantasy. A product of reinvention through imitation; taking aspects of art, music and culture to live out a variety of larger-than-life, idyllic fantasies. She is also a fan of the intense monologue, most notably used in her music video for Ride where she ‘played’ herself as a lost beauty riding with the bikers and bad boys. Tropico, of course, has a fair share, some are obscure pieces of dialogue written by Del Rey and breathily muttered over Daniel Heath’s original score. Ever the fan of flamboyant language, occasionally these moments feel like a hard-to-follow stream of consciousness which makes little sense and is completely eclipsed by the visuals despite its elaborate and flowery nature.
Allen Ginsberg’s Howl is a central feature to the narrative post-Gods & Monsters, the opening lines of “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix” and so on work well in conjunction to the overall dynamic of the film, and are a nod to Del Rey’s admiration with the art of 1950/60s Americana.
Everything about Tropico screams Lana Del Rey; it’s robust, overtly sexual and a little controversial. It’s dripping with iconography and idealism, Hollywood glamour and jaded glory. It’s stylised to the point of surrealism, the world Lana Del Rey’s persona resides in does not exist, but Tropico manages to hold you there through Anthony Mandler’s bold, daring and exotic vision, and Lana Del Rey’s exquisitely crafted characterisation. I can’t give it points for originality, Adam and Eve meets Romeo and Juliet has been done time and time again, and whether life imitates art for Lana Del Rey it’s hard to say, but thats part of her allure. Her ambiguity is at the heart of her character and that’s what will keep people intrigued and wanting more. Rumours had been flying throughout 2013 that Born To Die would be the only record released under the Lana Del Rey brand, however on the day of Tropico‘s release, she announced that she will be releasing a follow up titled Ultraviolence some time next year.
Watch Tropico Below.