Lana Del Rey's "Tropical" Decadence


Lana Del Rey broke the internet today.

Of course, “This video is not available where I live” so I had to find ways to watch it. (Thus, I cannot vouch for the longevity of the video availability at the end of this post, but I will be checking for an official source to replace it soon)

So, naturally, as we all expected Lana Del Rey’s next step was to appear on the silver screen. Well, it did happen, but not quite. See, the trajectory this type of “superstars” usually follow is: Bad record / hot record / hotter record deal / massive cult success / movie deal; and from that point on it could either blow upwards, or just blow. 

But Lana Del Rey, being the unconventional “gal” she is, took the matter into her own hands: She wrote “Tropico”, had Anthony Mandler direct it and her co-songwriter Daniel Heath write the additional score to the film. 

“Tropico”, shot in a ridiculously widescreen aspect ratio, begins set in the Garden of Eden where Eve (Lana Del Rey) and Adam (model Shawn Ross) frolic under the approving figures of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jesus and John Wayne (who also happens to be God). “Tropico”, just like the video to “Ride”, is heavily narrated by Del Rey, which can “register” as a tad of a lethargy-inducer if the visuals fail to fascinate you. The feel of the 27-minute short follows the same rugged and grungy direction of the previous videos of the “Born to Die” era which reportedly (and hopefully) wraps with this film.

The first of the three “Paradise Edition” tracks featured in the 27-minute short is “Body Electric” which “happens” while in the Gardens of Eden as the couple continues their frolic -eventually- down the dangerous path of exile. Del Rey seems to be fascinated by uncomfortable, unsettling and crude depictions, or versions, of reality, in which she is (again) drenched when she and Ross are exiled from the Gardens of Eden. Her out-of-paradise self is a stripper (of course) while her “Adam” runs a convenience store (not very adequately, as it seems). 

“Gods & Monsters” is the second track featured which, sort of, puts us well into the decadence Del Rey and her peers live in, in the film, while in between tracks we get a heavy dose of narration. Despite the fact that the narration is quite well written, it’s almost impossible to follow in its entirety without drifting away. One of the most fitting lines (and perhaps one that describes best the reoccurring theme in Del Rey’s “world” since the beginning of the “Born to Die” period) is (borrowed by poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”?): “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”.

The film climaxes after a robbery scene as “Adam and Eve” prepare to literally float into a grainy deteriorating sunset. “Bel Air” (one of my personal favorites off the “Paradise Edition”) gets it’s center stage moment as all the above happen.

Though “Tropico” is quite an ambitious effort, I think it’s something most of Del Rey’s fans out there will not see more than once (or it's just me; I am a fan, I’m not sure I’d watch it more than I did today to write this). I personally think this was a great (and oh so very smart) way for Lana Del Rey to bring a closure to the theme of “Born to Die”, while her decision to announce that the title of her next album (hopefully released soon-ish) will be “Ultraviolence” was a pretty smooth move. One that shows that she is most certainly planning ahead. And call me crazy (or a conspiracy theorist), but I think that “Tropico” may have been strategically constructed to act as a “Hey, cast me in your film, you daring director, you.” sort of nod. No?