Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's The End...Again

Directed By Gregg Araki
The Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy comprised of "Totaly Fucked Up", "The Doom Generation", and "Nowhere" continues in "Kaboom", only the 90's fashions have been updated to modern noughties (though still eye popping and candy colored).
Each of those films followed James Duvall as a "more or less" bi-sexual teenager in Los Angeles, struggling with his desires, in progressively surreal, hedonistic, drug fueled scenerois, all the while consumed with a sense that the world is comming to an end soon, and meeting a bizzare or tragic end."Kaboom" is a continuation of this series, except Duval's confusion and angst has been abandoned for cults and sci-fi conspiracy, while Duval himself is here cast as the aptly named"Messiah" a prototypically doltish pothead RA who next to the fresh wave of students stepping into Araki's sexual academy, looks like a relic from that long lost century the 90's, and he basically is. The most interesting thing about Araki has always been his style, his fearlessness, and his sense of humor, and all are on display over the course of "Kaboom".The film is about a young man in his first semester of college who begins having bizzare dreams and visions, that involve the mysterious death of a girl on campus, men with animal masks, and a long white hallway with a pink dumpster at the end.
His best friend has begun a relationship with a girl who may be a witch or an alien, but in any event, "the bitch is crazy", and she doesn't know how to get out of it.
Our hero is bisexual, and his best friend is a lesbian, but other than these being superficial facts, like one character having blond or black hair or liking "Explosions In The Sky", it is not an "issue" of the film.
This pair when not chatting about who hooked up with who, find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into worlds of conspiracy and the supernatural that they cannot begin to comprehend until it's too late.
This is a very funny movie, the sci-fi elements are there for no reason other than to provoke laughs and to keep the plot moving like a New Queer Cinema "Southland Tales". This is not the serious drama of "Mysterious Skin", it's a sex-comedy with instructions on how to properly lick a clitoris, surprise threesomes, psychic sex (or whatever the hell that was), and people trying to suck their own dicks (a subtle nod to "Shortbus" maybe, but way less graphic), in short it's wholesome family entertainment.
When I saw the film a few weeks ago, it was unrated but it was no more graphic than "American Pie' or your average raunchy teen sex comedy, which "Kaboom" is, with occasional surreal interjections of genre (like the terrorist squad who appeared in "Nowhere" briefly, not to mention the aliens and insects).
In "Nowhere" impossible or horrifying things could happen or be forgotten in a matter of seconds, and "Kaboom's" greatest setback is that it dwells on it's not too effectively built paranoia, too long between scenes obsessed with young people getting off.
In case you were wondering, for an Araki film there is not as much gay male sex as you might expect or dread (though I imagine if your calculating percentages, any amount it's probably gonna too much).
But the biggest change between the post and pre-milleniul additions to the Trilogy is that, the hesitation and confusion of the 90's which Duval played out again and again in different variations has been replaced by a casualness about the act of sex itself, though the next morning should-I-stay-or-should-go-now-dilemna remains awkward as ever (indeed another area Araki shines in is capturing these awkward, small, poignant moments) with introductions arriving on the heels of "did we just...", "where are my...", 'Oh your not into the whole breakfast-thing..." etc.
It's disappointing, but a reality, to say that if Gregg Araki didn't put so much gay male sexuality (there isnt too much actual sex with some drastic exceptions) in his films he would be more highly praised among as a solid American satirist, as good as anyone else working in the field, and with a unique sensibility that never falters. But he does and though "Smiley Face' is a great stoner comedy with no hint of Gay anywhere, the trilogy to which "Kaboom" belongs has always been his most daring and personal, and could not be some if scaled back, dailed down, or restrained. As a director/writer Gregg Araki's greatest asset has always been his lack of restraint.
In "Kaboom" he satirisizes the sci-fi for teens fetish that grew out of the alienation of "Donnie Darko" (where Duvall played the sinister man in the rabbit suit) into the repression of"Twilight", and also the light homophobia underscoring the Apatow bromances with a largely shirtless James Franco looking surfer roommate constantly tantalizing our hero his exercising, stereotypically dumb, hetero guy-isms, "You hit that shit, bro?...Niiiice!"
The sci-fi hysterics are packed into the last ten minutes of the movie, creating the most disjointed and absurd of any ending to one of his films, or pretty much any film short of Takashi Miike's early gonzo yakuza flicks.
You have to have healthy taste for the absurd, to enjoy a film like "Kaboom" as it's cartoonish title should suggest, but if you do it's a refreshing confrontational and witty, American independent film, a reminder of a time before "mumble" this and Oscar-pandering that, made everything safe and boring. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes the only way to preserve your sanity is to explode.

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