The Mark of Excellence

Mysterious Skin

Directed by Gregg Araki

> > Dec 2005

Mysterious Skin - Directed by Gregg Araki
By Cam LindsayGregg Araki has always been credited as a talented filmmaker with a unique vision, but his tendency to tangle up affected youth in sexual, violent and extraterrestrial interactions (sometimes all of them) often prevents his films from being widely accepted. Known for over the top flicks like Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere, Araki has carved himself a strong cult following, but in tackling Scott Heim's novel, Mysterious Skin, he will finally get the respect he deserves. The subject matter of child molestation and its aftermath through the eyes of the victims in their teenage years alone is enough to draw attention to his eighth film. Such a sensitive topic is often handled routinely and poorly by filmmakers or simply avoided altogether, but Araki handles it with kid gloves, using tremendous honesty and extreme tenderness. There's a mesmerising, childlike innocence to his story of two eight-year-old boys who are sexually abused by their baseball coach (the exceptional Bill Sage) and eventually take two different routes of coping. Brian (Brady Corbet) confuses his experience with alien abduction, obsessing over UFO encounters throughout his whole life. Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), on the other hand, embraces it as a sexual awakening that leads to an early life of prostitution. As the film moves along, the pair's contrast sets up a unique double story that ultimately finds heart-rending closure in the end when they finally meet. Along the way, however, Araki uses Heim's story as a convincing argument over the terrifying effects. Such is the case in Neil's final scene with a john that ends with tortuous, upsetting results. Araki recruits his two stars for a commentary that analyses the film to death without causing any tedium. It's interesting to hear of the nuances they used to keep the two child actors calm with such a serious theme. Also included is a reading of the book by its two stars, which is a neat extra, but not quite as riveting as the film itself. (Alliance Atlantis/TLA)



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