Mysterious Skin.
July 28, 2005 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Mysterious Skin. After years of offending the mainstream, director Gregg Araki's controversial new film (trailer) is getting a surprising degree of critical acclaim, with an 8.3 rating on IMDB, and a 90% rating amongst Rotten Tomatoes "Cream of the Crop" reviewers. It also features a soundtrack that will delight Cocteau Twins fans, as it features a shimmering score by Robin Guthrie (who apparently has a blog) and Harold Budd, reminiscent of their work on The Moon and The Melodies.
posted by insomnia_lj (50 comments total)
Araki is and always will be a total hack. I have no more interest in seeing his latest than I had in seeing his previous film.
posted by item at 9:59 AM on July 28, 2005

Oh. Doom Generation fella. Right. Wasn't sure if that was supposed to suck and I didn't get it, or whether it just sucked. I'll watch this for the music (with my sense of irony fully intact).
posted by basicchannel at 10:19 AM on July 28, 2005

I thought it looked pretty cool. I just went and bought the soundtrack on Amazon.
posted by docpops at 10:43 AM on July 28, 2005

I rented Doom Generation for Rose McGowan's jubblies and I got the worst movie ever made. Craptacular.
posted by keswick at 11:17 AM on July 28, 2005

Soundtrack notwithstanding, I found the trailer offputting. I know a movie trailer is usually a poor emissary, but...
posted by lazymonster at 11:17 AM on July 28, 2005

Well, a nod to the amazing novel on which it's based. Not that anyone's got time for novels when they make movies of em!!!!!1111
posted by xmutex at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2005

I saw this a few weeks ago, and it's pretty haunting. The acting is superb, IMHO, and I felt deeply moved by the way the plot unfolded. The subject matter is pretty intense, but I never felt that the film was being exploitative of the sexuality and violence underlaying the characters and plot.
posted by jasper411 at 11:20 AM on July 28, 2005

I'm with item. Araki's a forever-hack. Even if he pulled off a fluke (which I doubt) I'll avoid it like the plague.

His movies are so boring that I once walked out of one that a friend was acting in... with the friend sitting next to me. Painful, painful.
posted by dobbs at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2005

I saw this at the Philadelphia Film Festival earlier this year, before it hit widespread distribution. It was an okay movie, and slow in parts. The violence was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary to the plot. /opinion
posted by Rothko at 11:30 AM on July 28, 2005

Umpteenthing what everyone else said. Araki has only offended the mainstream with terribly made films. Terribly, terribly made films. Absolutely piss-poor. Oh my gawd, awful.

We film geeks take offense at his inability to construct a coherent narrative and his total lack of directorial skill, not at his content or subject matter.
posted by gramschmidt at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2005

And after watching the trailer, I have one word for Araki and his cinematographer: headroom.
posted by dobbs at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2005

MetaFilter: Wasn't sure if that was supposed to suck and I didn't get it, or whether it just sucked
posted by JT at 11:37 AM on July 28, 2005

jeez, you're right, dobbs. Maybe whoever made the .mov files cropped it down in the process?
posted by ook at 11:45 AM on July 28, 2005

I agree about The Doom Generation...I didn't bother to watch anything by Araki after that big pile of stink.

But he wrote that one, right? Couldn't it be possible that the lameness was at least partly owing to terrible writing? Yet this one was based on a supposedly "amazing" novel.

Rothko, i don't know what "headroom" is all about, but I disagree with the opinions that the trailer is unpromising. It looks the opposite to me, largely owing to an obvious plot coherency and story themes.

And good acting. I mean, a film is a collaborative process. And with his experience, Araki is more than capable of at least illustrating a great story with some "style", even if it's only "Araki style". /opinion
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:57 AM on July 28, 2005

Incompetence is a style?
posted by gramschmidt at 11:59 AM on July 28, 2005

Ohhh, hahaha, headroom. But dobbs, surely the movie is not framed that way...I've come to expect video to be cropped to hell.

gramschmidt, are you referring to something specific, or just adding to the general shitting on the filmmaker hilarity?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:01 PM on July 28, 2005

gorgor, I don't know how it's framed. I haven't seen it. However, that's the official site of the distributor. I assume they know how to market their films (TLA has been around a good while). If they just cropped it for the trailer that's pretty fucking stupid as the point of a trailer is to give me an idea of how the movie is. The framing in that trailer sucks.
posted by dobbs at 12:34 PM on July 28, 2005

"Wasn't sure if that was supposed to suck and I didn't get it, or whether it just sucked."

I don't think most people get Gregg Araki's movies... or at least his earlier ones, Mysterious Skin and Splendour being quite different than the films that are a part of his "Doom Trilogy".

The "Doom Trilogy" (Totally F*cked Up, Doom Generation, Nowhere) are supposed to be gratuitous and teen-angsty in a very SoCal kind of way, where pop culture is put into a blender until putrid, digested, then vomited back in your face.

This explains the bizarre cameos, with actors playing roles that are completely inappropriate for them. Think of it doing to Beverly Hills 90210 what Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles did to The Muppet Show.

Their lack of depth is intentional. They're not badly done dramas. They're dark, dark comedies. They're wrong in so many ways.

So, yeah, Doom Generation was supposed to suck, and you either love it or you don't. 60% of the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave Doom Generation a good review, but Roger Ebert gave Doom Generation zero stars. That said, he gave Mysterious Skin 3 1/2 stars.

One thing Araki movies all have in common, however, is a cool soundtrack.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:46 PM on July 28, 2005

I'd see it if it were really about a UFO abduction. But it isn't.
posted by ktoad at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2005

dobbs, Agreed. It's poor. Let's hope it's not that way in the movie too...
Even though it will never happen, I would like to see it. I love giving a director who is known as bad another chance. Artists mature, after all. It can be surprising. And making movies is only partly about one's skill-set (which, by the way, no one here me included has proven themselves to speak authoritatively or even specifically on), or lack thereof.
Disclosure: i love the Cocteau Twins to death. Thanks especially for the music link i_lj.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:54 PM on July 28, 2005

Just as there are typical, cookie-cutter Hollywood action movies, there are typical, cookie-cutter indie shoe-gazer flicks. This looks like one of them.

Not that it looks like a terribe film, mind you; there's just nothing to the trailer that seems to distinguish this film from anything else, say, in the "independent" listings on Apple's trailer website.

The problem with performance-heavy films like this is that their value is hard to capture in a trailer. Though after three seasons of BTVS, I'm skeptical of Michelle Trachtenberg's ability to give a worthwhile performance. But hey, Third Rock sucked pretty bad, and Gordon-Levitt turned out OK.

(And I realize that lots of indie films are made in Hollywood, so don't bother pointing it out. Y'all understand what I mean, right?)

Ditto on the headroom comment.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2005

Ok, I can't figure it out. Which song did they use in the trailer?
posted by antron at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2005

hmmm...hifiparasol, i have to point out something that seems not to make sense in your comment.

First you say that the trailer is "undistinguished", then you say it is not possible to distinguish between indie trailers. So i just wanna know, how can you tell that this film is a typical example?

Because, some of the trailers in the independent listings on the Apple site are the work of directors who are quite capable of making a good film, or in other words, who are exempted from the automatic dumpfest typically afforded Araki.

So, if everyone is through sagely and presciently dumping on something they have not seen...
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:15 PM on July 28, 2005

"I'd see it if it were really about a UFO abduction.

Well, then you'll have to wait for Araki's next movie.

That said, Mysterious Skin stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is best known for his role as Tommy, the teenaged alien in "3rd Rock From the Sun".

This is being talked about as a breakthrough role for him. Richard Roeper's review raved about him possessing "greatness" with a "searing performance" reminiscent of James Dean or a young DiCaprio.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2005


Aaah... see, I sensed it was something like that. Anyhow, this post got me to buy the soundtrack on iTunes and I love it even more than The Moon and The Melodies... and that is saying a friggin' lot.
posted by basicchannel at 1:24 PM on July 28, 2005

How could a movie named "Doom Generation" not suck? I mean really....

As for this mysterious skin movie....just reading the desription of it gives me the willies. Not in that "I don't like the gay, so it give me the willies" way either. More in a "I suspect this guy likes to have sex with little boys" kind of way.
posted by jaded at 1:28 PM on July 28, 2005

If you like the soundtrack, you may also want to check out Harold Budd's "The White Arcades", which had Robin Guthrie producing and apparently contributing to it.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:32 PM on July 28, 2005

Sorry for the confusion, g_b:

Yeah, there are a lot of great films under the indie listing on Apple's site (which I was using as a random example of a grouping of small-scale indies). I'd enjoy seeing a lot of them. My point wasn't that "indie films are all pretty much the same shoe-gazing crap," though I understand how I could have come off that way, I suppose.

What I was trying to say was that the trailer for this film doesn't make it look very different from a lot of other coming-of-age indies. The problem, I think, is that these kinds of films are too complex, with too much emphasis on performance, to really get compelling two-minute-long trailers out of them (I always thought the trailer for Donnie Darko made the film look underwhelming, but I enjoyed the movie itself). This movie, from the trailer, looks like another self-important, run-of-the-mill indie about how hard it is to be a suburban white kid.

I wasn't dumping on Araki. I have no opinion on Araki.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:38 PM on July 28, 2005

This movie, from the trailer, looks like another self-important, run-of-the-mill indie about how hard it is to be a suburban white kid.

OMG but it totally is. . . Especially if you're really hot-looking & rebellious or if you've got misplaced angst or uncertainty about the direction of your genitalia.

I have no opinion on Araki.

Then i suggest you abuse yourself by watching his other films. Then you can join in on the oh-so-sophisticated hate fest.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:54 PM on July 28, 2005

Perhaps the weakest defense of a movie is 'it was supposed to be bad.' That strikes me as a cop out. In the case of Doom Generation, I was able to see through Araki's intentions and still didn't like it. The arrogant tone of the movie really put me off. Ebert's review, for me, comes pretty close to nailing what's wrong with Doom Generation.

Having said that, I'll give Mysterious Skin a look. It's been ten years since DG and I'm willing to consider the possibility that Araki's matured. I'll Netflix it when the time comes.
posted by JT at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2005

Last Araki movie I saw was The Living End and it depressed me so much (and it was so hamhanded) that I haven't seen anything of his since.

Except the raves coming in about Gordon-Levitt's performance are tempting me to watch this one. Sigh.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2005

Seems everyone has an opinion about MS but no one has SEEN the thing. I saw it. It most certainly DIDN'T suck. Along the lines of KIDS as far as comfort level. Graphic and quite grown up. Save your opinions for after you pay your $8.50.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:05 PM on July 28, 2005

I'm just sayin', how could it suck with Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie holdin' it down for the underground? How?
posted by basicchannel at 3:35 PM on July 28, 2005

gorgor_balabala and shockingbluamp, chill out. From what I can tell, people aren't "dumping on something they have not seen," they're dumping on what they have seen from Araki, and then (possibly) extrapolating from that. I haven't really detected much outright bile in this thread, more like "Hmm, saw his other films and thought they sucked hard, so this one probably will too . . . but everyone's recommending it so ARGH BRAIN HURT."

Save your opinions for after you pay your $8.50.
What is that about? People are commenting on the trailer provided, as well as Araki's history. Both are fair game, IMO.

That's just me, though, and I haven't seen any Araki. So I guess that makes me the next target of opportunity, right guys?
posted by jenovus at 5:29 PM on July 28, 2005

Anybody who tells me that I missed the point of Doom Generation and that it was really a great film makes baby jesus cry. Cry, cry, cry.

Having said that, I'll catch this as a rental. The journey of a film watcher is to watch evertyhing, good, bad, really good, really bad. Helps keep a sense of perspective. Also, some kind of atonement..
posted by cavalier at 6:49 PM on July 28, 2005

What jenovus said. Chill the fuck out. I've seen Doom Generation, Splendor, (half of) Totally Fucked Up, The Living End, and Nowhere. I think I'm entitled to my opinion of Araki. And I think I'd rather spend my $8.50 on, well, just about anything else, thanks.
posted by dobbs at 7:10 PM on July 28, 2005

Yes, jenovus, I'm sorry, but if you haven't got a clue what you're talking about, you have no business telling people who DO, to chill out. Hit us back when you've at least seen one of Gregg Araki's movies, or have an actual point to make about filmmaking, or have perhaps plumbed your feelings about the trailer...Anything will do.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:13 PM on July 28, 2005

Hit us back when...

Since when were you our spokesperson?
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:38 PM on July 28, 2005

If it didn't have his name in the credits (and, okay, a beautiful charismatic alienated teen gay fuck-up as one of the main characters), you'd never guess that this was an Araki movie. Because it's good. It's really, really bloody good. Haunting and moving and sometimes almost too disturbing to watch, but also funny and smart and sexy in all the right ways. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a great performance.

It'll not be everybody's cup of tea, far from it, but hating previous Araki movies is no reason to avoid it. In fact, it might be a recommendation.
posted by flashboy at 7:55 PM on July 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

It'll not be everybody's cup of tea, far from it, but hating previous Araki movies is no reason to avoid it. In fact, it might be a recommendation.

Let this be on the record as the Worst Justification for Seeing a Movie Ever.
posted by Rothko at 7:57 PM on July 28, 2005

No, the worst justification would be "starring Brady Corbet, star of Jonathan Frakes' 2004 smash hit Thunderbirds!"

My previous one was merely awkwardly phrased.
posted by flashboy at 8:16 PM on July 28, 2005

  • 1. Liked the film
  • 2. Liked the soundtrack
  • 3. Wondered "Who is this ripping off the Cocteau Twins" as I watched the film, only to figure it out in the credits
  • 4. Never saw any of Araki's other works
  • 5. Ignored commentary by those who hadn't seen it, except to note that they seem to be unanimously outspoken in their need to protect the community from what they haven't seen
  • 6. Went outside
posted by al_fresco at 8:42 PM on July 28, 2005

5. Ignored commentary by those who hadn't seen it, except to note that they seem to be unanimously outspoken in their need to protect the community from what they haven't seen

Good on ya.
posted by Rothko at 8:45 PM on July 28, 2005

dark messiah, by "us" i did not mean "metafilter the monolith of consent"-- i meant the people who were addressed. but i'm long overdue to go outside myself.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:51 PM on July 28, 2005

Well, I want to see it just because there's still a chance they'll ban it here in Australia.
posted by bunglin jones at 9:08 PM on July 28, 2005

hating previous Araki movies is no reason to avoid it.

I don't agree. I mean, at what point do you write off a filmmaker (or writer, or whatever)? Something that's maybe not clear: every single one of Araki's previous films had people speak out in favor of it. Not unanimously, no, but that's not my point.

There are lots of filmmakers I can't stand. However, I've given them each a fair chance. But you get to a point where you feel like an idiot for giving them another. I'm past that point with Araki and it appears I'm not alone.

How many times does one have to bend over so Araki (or McKellar, or Bolle, or Schumacher, or Hackford, or Matt Harrison, or Spottiswoode, or Shadyac, or whoever) can kick you again?

Yes, it may be my loss if I don't see this one...but I'll hate myself a lot less than if I see it and don't like it.

Personally, I'd like to hire someone to break into filmmakers' houses and steal their kneepads. I doubt they'd do as well at funding meetings without them.
posted by dobbs at 10:44 PM on July 28, 2005

dobbs, you have seen a lot of movies. from your comments i get a sense of the true film-geek (if not cinemaniac) perspective, which seems to be justifiably anti-araki.

my (i thought sensible--guess not) comments were based on a different perspective, which accused araki of incompetence. that kind of broad dismissal is just a big joke on the person who made it.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:50 PM on July 28, 2005

I had no interest whatsoever in seeing any of Aracki's previous films but this one looked quite interesting.

It isn't a bad film but most of its successes are outside of Aracki's control. It is the fine acting that makes the film: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular is excellent but Elizabeth Shue and Brady Corbet are also very good in less showy roles. Michelle Trachtenberg is the only one who strikes a duff note and that is partly because Aracki gives here the worst lines and has little interest in her character.

Aracki deserves some credit. Many of the individual scenes are very well done (one where the child molester is showering his complicit victim with cereal stands out) but in the end though it's too much rentboy-by-numbers and Aracki isn't really a good enough writer to pull off the more interesting ideas in the film. Worth a look though.
posted by ninebelow at 3:11 AM on July 29, 2005

/me bitchslaps hifiparasol for even daring to hint at the merest possibility that Michelle may not be 100% perfect... (On preview, ninebelow gets one too...
posted by benzo8 at 3:13 AM on July 29, 2005

Wow, you guys sure are all really cool. I mean, I had my doubts about what good taste you all had, but so many people falling all over themselves to declare themselves superior to the filmmaker in question... that's powerful, it cannot be ignored, and I submit to your sublime, possibly superheroic cinematic discretion.

But I think I'll go see it anyway because it looks interesting to me.
posted by kevspace at 3:46 PM on July 29, 2005

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