Archive for November, 2009

The Living End: An Irresponsible Film

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 27, 2009 by babydylan

Imagine: It’s 1992, you are a gay man living in George Bush Sr.’s America, you’re a mildly successful film critic with a place of your own and a best friend who knows you better than you do yourself. And you have just found out you are HIV-positive. Do you sit back and let the sickness take you slowly as you struggle to keep up with normality, or do you give the world a giant ‘fuck you’ and live like you’re trying to die, not like you are dying?

Gregg Araki’s 1992 film The Living End aims to explore this in a fable that comes with a tell-tale warning before the opening credits: ‘An irresponsible film by Gregg Araki’. The then 31 year old was angry, full of ideas and the burning need to express both.

Director Gregg Araki

Arriving in the middle of the New Queer Cinema movement The Living End is without a doubt my favourite film of the then-fresh genre. Films such as Paris Is Burning (1990), Parting Glances (1986), Todd Haynes’ confronting Poison (1991) and subsequent Velvet Goldmine (1998) and Safe (1995), Bruce LaBruce’s No Skin Off My Ass (1991) along with Gus van Sant’s My Private Idaho (1991) were all made at relatively the same time which prompted film critic B. Ruby Rich to coin the phrase ‘New Queer Cinema’. She was able to draw attention to a group of filmmakers who were finally finding their voice to share their stories, uncensored, raw and downright in-your-face. And in my opinion, no one says it better, more beautifully or as memorably as Gregg Araki and his films Totally Fucked Up (1993), The Doom Generation (1995), Nowhere (1997), Mysterious Skin (2005) and of course my favourite, The Living End.

Sometimes called ‘the gay Thelma & Lousie’, the story centres around two gay men, both HIV-positive and approaching their sickness in completely different ways. Male hustler and a regular Adonis Luke is a drifter, if he ever had a hometown he forgot it, if he once had a trade he doesn’t remember, he has no purpose other than to keep moving, keep fighting, finding moments of bliss with different strangers the only constant is the promise to himself that he will end his life before he starts to wither from the disease. Jon meanwhile, has his planned and stable life thrown off course in a time when AIDS and HIV was a death sentence for all infected. Attracted to Luke’s carefree attitude and physical presence, the two set out on a road trip across America and begin a tumultuous, passionate and often violent relationship trying to grapple with their approaching deaths as best they can.

Luke and Jon fight for the best ways to live or to die

Made on a shoestring budget of $20,000 Araki captures the desperation and the helpless feelings HIV-positive men were struggling with at the time. A generation who felt they were paying the price for the freedom those before them fought for. Lengthy shots with wonderfully simplistic camera angles make for an elegant frame and create a stark contrast to the intimate scenes between Luke and Jon, their conversations as heated as their love-making. The soundtrack consisting of post-punk and shoegazing tunes reflects the doomed and desperate leads as Ian Curtis and The Jesus and Mary Chain forebode the future.

The final scenes are heart-breakingly desperate as both men resign themselves to inevitability, yet when the time comes for both to make the final decision, to continue to fight or to die in their youth, neither can fulfill their wishes. The film ends tenderly but without hope as both huddle in limbo, ultimately doomed with little chance of redemption.

If you are to see one film from this poignant and revealing genre, The Living End is the film to see. Reflecting the time and the attitude while creating real characters whose lives spiral out of their control, Araki is the master of making you feel and realising you really have so much to be thankful for.

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My new friend crush

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on November 26, 2009 by babydylan
Many of you might know, but I have a bit of an obsession I like to call a ‘friend crush’.

It pretty much means when you see someone in your class at uni, at your workplace, on the train, in the coffee line, complaing about all those goddamn skateboarders and are amused or intrigued by something they say, you develop a bit of a crush. Not a romantic crush, but more of an intellectual one. It’s less of a ‘I-want-to-take-you-somewhere-and-devour-you-crush’ and more of a ‘you-seem-extremely-facinating-and-I-forsee-us-getting-on-famously-so-let’s-bypass-the-getting-to-know-you-awkward-bullshit-and-hang-every-day-crush’.

And if there is one filmmaker I am desperately friend crushing on at the moment, it has to be Rian Johnson.

My new best friend

It all started last year when I finally got my hands on a copy of Brick, Johnson’s 2005 film. Originally I was intrigued by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, definitely a crushcrush and known for his roles in tv show 3rd Rock From The Sun, teen masterpiece 10 Things I Hate About You, Greg Araki’s unsettling Mysterious Skin and most recently non-rom-com (500) Days Of Summer. Yet on viewing the film I realised that Levitt was only one aspect of its appeal.

Levitt plays Brendan Frye, student at a southern Californian high school who receives a call from his ex-girlfriend asking for help and then finds her two days later lying dead in a sewage tunnel. Set in the world of a teen flick but with the tone of film noir, Frye is a modern-day Bogart trying to decipher the mysterious death. Sucking the audience into a world where students speak their own language, vice principals are kept in the dark by their pupils while drug-lords and their customers sometimes share glasses of milk with unsuspecting parents.

My very favourite moment from 'Brick'

Inspired by the hard-boiled writing style of Dashiell Hammet and influenced by noir films from his youth such as The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key, Johnson wrote the script in 1997 pitching it around Hollywood for ten years before being greenlit. A deeply personal film whose visual style is reminiscent of spaghetti westerns while following a plot similar to Chinatown, the mix of genres and styles makes for a unique film going experience. Sometimes high school feels like you tackle issues that are so much bigger than adults give you credit for and it is personified in this piece. School politics, social groups and general hierarchy are all given the weight they deserves without mocking youth, while the shots are elegant and simple – inspiring for those getting into film and for those who feel awash with seemingly trivial responsibility.

Which brings me to Rian Johnson’s latest offering, and reason I ‘want to go to there’, The Brothers Bloom. If Brick gave the audience a snapshot into Johnson’s somewhat lonely but intriguing adolescence, The Brothers Bloom is a fascinating look at the quirky, unique and oh-so-fun man he has become.  

Rian tells the cast to buckle up

Centred around two brothers (Mark Ruffalo as the elder Stephen and Adrian Brody as the most likely unintentional but nevertheless extremely good-looking younger) who are shuffled around from different foster homes as children in an adorable montage of quick-witted humour and delightful child acting. The boys develop skills as con-artists and spend their lives living out the fantasies older Bloom writes. Younger Bloom however, wants an ‘unscripted life’ yet is roped into one last con on gazillionaire Penelope played by Rachel Weisz, in yet another role with an annoying fake accent.

The characters are wonderfully loveable; zany Penelope who collects hobbies, calm and controlled Stephen who is cocky but never annoying, hang-dog Bloom who can’t seem to find happiness even in the simplest of things and best of all Bang-Bang played by Rinko Kikuchi who manages to steal the show while only uttering three words throughout. The set of exotic locations, the swoon-worthy costumes, and the timeless setting make for an intoxicating romp. The plot has more twists than Agatha Cristie smashed at an open bar, but as the film winds up, the plot doesn’t really seem to matter as you genuinely like all the characters. There are no bad guys, there’s only misguided steps and the best intentions.

The Brothers looking mighty fine

Although The Brothers Bloom doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as Brick, it still thoroughly charmed me, making me fall for Rian Johnson even harder. Apparently his next film is about time travelling hitmen set in Kansas and I am putting it out there, I can feel it will be mind-blowingly awesome.

The Road, has new direction….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 2, 2009 by babydylan

If the second recently released trailer for The Road has told Babydylan one thing, its that the film is looking to be thee most important picture of 2009, if not for the past ten years. In contrast to the first, the second trailer convinces me that the picture has retained the original message so eloquently written about in the book (although I’d thought that for awhile, not only because ‘DissolvedPet’ pipped up and told me that The Road is suspected to be “pretty fucking brutal”). Hopefully this film will walk the same line as previous documentaries, ala The Inconvenient Truth, and give those in denial about Global Warming a firm kick up the bum. In fact I can imagine the irony of the film being more succesful than docos at conveying the message (it being a ‘work of fiction’ and all). Anyway, heres the trailer….tell us what you think!