Mysterious Skin

After the recent beat-up surrounding this powerful film – Christian fundamentalists who hadn’t seen the work wanted it banned – I finally saw Greg Araki’s new movie tonight. It’s a knock-out. It’s the story of two boys who are sexually abused as youngsters and the vastly different ramifications such action has on their own sexuality, future direction and relationships. It’s as bleak and depressing as it sounds and yet remains oddly optimistic about the transformative power of love and the sharing of pain.

I remember seeing Araki’s early work while at university. His film-making was proudly gay, in-your-face, nihilistic and raw. I loved 1995’s Doom Generation, a witty tale of violence, sexual adventure and political aggression. Araki’s work has always been overtly political, the work of an outsider giving the royal finger to societal norms, behaviour and political correctness.

So, back to Mysterious Skin. See this film because it discusses the issues of rape, abuse and damaged souls in the kind of way confronting cinema should. But don’t expect any happy-ending. It’s the sort of film we rarely see in mainstream cinema, deemed too edgy for mass consumption. That’s a shame, because although I left the cinema feeling pretty numb, Araki’s work – by far his most mature thus far – offers a window into the other side of the American dream.

As for the claim that the film would provide inspiration for paedophiles, Ain’t It Cool News responds: “Mysterious Skin is no more an instruction manual for paedophiles than Romeo + Juliet is a DIY guide for suicide.”

One of the films of the year.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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