First Film Muse of 2014.
Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing swell with your endeavors. I thought I'd share with you a TOP SECRET film that I have been hoarding for a while. Yeah, I'm that person. I am totally protective of what movies I share with people. This is the kind of movie you'd find at a dumpy VHS rental store (do they even exist anymore?), but not on display- of course. It's in that weird room at the back of the place that you're too embarrassed to go into. No - it's not porn. It's of the punk rock variety.
May I introduce:
Totally Fucked Up directed by Gregg Araki (1993).
Those who have stuck around long enough will know that I have a major obsession with Rose McGowan. She's that black haired vixen with a fiery personality and a knack for delivering tongue and cheek dialogue in your favorite cult classics. It was Gregg Araki who first scouted her at a gym when she was visiting a friend in Los Angeles. He later casted her as Amy Blue in The Doom Generation in 1995 (arguably one of my favorite movies). He also directed the critically acclaimed film Mysterious Skin (2004) starring Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Being the first installment of Araki's "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy", Totally Fucked Up is a film about the lives of six gay teens. It's a narrative but also part documentary, breaking the 4th wall/connecting the viewer to the characters' undertakings. The teens are loud, brash, mysterious, lonely, and unsure - like every human going into adulthood. We feel their fear of relationships, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being alone, and their fear of the AIDS crises.
Visually, Araki's films are by far my favorite. He pictorializes run down Americana landscapes of the U.S.A. impeccably. It looks humorously surreal but also lonely at the same time. Every shot seems to be electrified by neon lights and deep blues. It's grainy yet rich.
A portion of the movie is shot on a VHS camera by a character trying to document the lives of his friends. Nowadays (grandpa voice), we don't film our friends like that. We are too aware: aware that our mom might see it, aware that it might ruin our future careers, aware that we should edit the awkward bits out in iMovie when we get home, aware that everyone will see it so it HAS to look good. Sorry to pull a Holden Caulfield, but everything seems phony now. We are too aware of our audiences to genuinely document our past. Sometimes I trudge up old home movies when I'm yearning for something true. There is something so beautiful about watching tapes that were made just for your own memory and no one else's.
There is something more raw about Araki's work that we will never be able to have again, as a viewer. That is why I hold it so closely to my heart. Sure, some of the dialogue is ear crunching, the acting, a little haphazard in parts. But it is beautiful. Sometimes I notice independent filmmakers trying to mimic his style but they can never quite get it right. Araki is a huge pioneer in the GLBTQ film community. We see the characters' faults but also their humility. We get a taste of the horror that creeps into everyday mundane lives.
Trust me when I say I'll write more about Araki in the future. I feel so personally connected to his work in the strangest of ways. Cherish Araki's films, give them a chance. Watch them alone in your bedroom and reevaluate your audience, who you're performing for. Appreciate these genuine works as if they are time capsules you'll dig up 40 years from now. Don't exploit them.