Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Skin-tense and Skin-genious

Gregg Araki's brilliant "Mysterious Skin," which I saw Sunday, is surely one of the year's best films and takes the director of "New Queer Cinema" to an entirely new level. It concerns two young men who were sexually abused as children and who've taken widely divergent paths, with Neil turning into an overly confident, wistful teenage hooker while Brian has withdrawn and convinced himself that he was briefly kidnapped by aliens as a child. These two parallel stories, masterfully written, acted, and directed, play out side by side in the remote boondocks of Kansas, and later interwine to a denouement that bring catharsis but not escape. Araki's casting is brilliant, with Neil played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (pictured above), the adorable kid from the TV comedy "Third Rock From The Sun," reinvented here as a swaggering but haunted sex bomb, which makes this film oddly sexy given the gravity of its subject matter. The supporting players are excellent, the narrative structure and camerawork are ingenious, and the time period (1980s and early 1990s) is impeccably evoked. Happily, the scenes involving small children are handled obliquely, not explicity, conveying their emotional experience in a way that's palpable but still watchable. Highly recommended.


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