From breaking through as part of the New Queer Cinema in the early 90s to the critical acclaim of Mysterious Skin, Gregg Arak has been consistently one of the most unique voices in American independent cinema. June 10 see the release of his latest film KABOOM, which is being heralded a return to Araki’s anarchic routes. But what exactly constitutes an old school Gregg Araki? Let’s have a look at his career to date….
The Living End
After a few black and white shorts, Gregg Araki burst on to the vibrant early 90s indie scene with what is often described as a gay Thelma and Louise. A reckless drifter and a timid movie critic, both HIV positive, go on the run after killing a homophobic cop. Arak’s style arrives fully formed, with upfront gay themes, youthful exuberance and a cracking alternative soundtrack.
Totally F***ed Up
An cornerstone of early 90s New Queer Cinema, Araki described his breakthrough movie as a “kinda cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick.” Following the live of six gay and lesbian teens, the film uses a hand-held camcorder documentary style, which at the time was fresh and original (unlike the cliché it is nowadays).
The Doom Generation
Following Totally F***ed Up’s first chapter, The Doom Generation marked the second entry in Araki’s loose Teenage Apocalypse trilogy. Rose McGowan heads up a band of rag-tag adolescents to go on a road trip through a psychedelic America. A hit at Sundance, but a film that still divides audiences to this day.
Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse trilogy concluded with this highly graphic (both in terms of sex and violence) tale of, yes you guessed it, polysexual teenagers hanging out, getting into trouble and getting it on with each other. The film also a host of young actors who would go on to stardom, including Heather Graham, Ryan Phillippe, Mena Suvari, Kathleen Robertson, and Denise Richards.
In some ways a romantic comedy as filtered through Araki’s unique world view, Splendor stars Kathleen Robertson, Matt Keeslar, and Araki regular Johnathon Schaech as three twentysomethings who end up forming a menage a trios. It a lot of ways its Araki’s most accessible film, but many feel it does away with the things that made his early work so special.
Without a doubt Araki’s most-seen film and in many ways his masterpiece. Joseph Gordon Levitt, who at the point was mostly known as the kid from Third Rock From The Sun, starred in a career-making role as a gay hustler racked with the memory that he may have been abused by his baseball coach as a child. Dark and incredibly disturbing, the film is utterly compelling and stays with you long after the end credits roll.
After the bleakness of Mysterious Skin, Araki made a 180 degree turn with this Anna Faris-starring stoner comedy. Arguably too clever for the American Pie crowd, the film sunk without a trace, but has since gained a cult following on DVD.
Challenged by none other than John Walters to make an “old school Gregg Araki movie”, Kaboom sees him return to sexually confused, good looking college kids, messing around and screwing up. Yet Araki doesn’t simply trot out a greatest hits package however, he weaves in a deliriously insane sci-fi conspiracy theory plot, unlike anything he’s done before, and tops it off with typically brilliant indie rock soundtrack