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Michelle TrachtenbergMichelle Trachtenberg - "Mysterious Skin" Movie - Araki promotes ’Skin’
Sunday 5 September 2004, by Webmaster
Directly across the street from the DGA’s headquarters on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, filmmaker Gregg Araki is sitting at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, discussing his latest film, "Mysterious Skin." Araki is not a member of the DGA; but, he notes, someday he might join.
Working outside of the mainstream for much of his career, Araki has eight edgy, independently made films to his credit. In such movies as "The Doom Generation," "Nowhere," "The Living End" and "Splendor," he has explored characters living on the edge in story lines that have sometimes been odd and often intense, quite frequently sparking their share of controversy.
Araki’s "Mysterious Skin" is very much in that tradition, though it also marks a departure for the auteur. For one thing, it is the first time he hasn’t worked on his own original material, instead choosing to adapt the critically acclaimed novel by Scott Hein. It tells the often unsettling, emotionally charged coming-of-age tale of two boys whose lives steer in opposite directions following one summer when, as 8-year-olds, they were molested by a baseball coach.
The film, which is courting distributors, will be unveiled at the Venice International Film Festival in Italy and the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.
The filmmaker acknowledges that the material as well as some of the scenes in "Skin" might be considered provocative and risky by some, but that isn’t what excited him about the project.
"When I read ’Mysterious Skin’ years ago, it made me cry," Araki says of the book, which he brings to life onscreen with the assistance of potentially career-boosting performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet. "I understand that some of the film can be uncomfortable or hard to watch, but the reason I had to do the movie is because of the journey these two characters go through.."
The film follows Neil (Gordon-Levitt) down a road of drinking, drugs and prostitution, while Brian (Corbet) blocks out memories by developing a whole alien-abduction fantasy — hard-core Araki fans will know that it’s not the first time aliens have figured into one of the director’s movies.
Casting "Skin" — which also features Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg and Bill Sage as Coach — convinced Araki that its subject, though often unspoken, is not uncommon in society. "What happens in the movie is so much more common than anyone can imagine," he says. "It sheds a light on something that should at least be talked about, but it doesn’t offer any solutions — there aren’t any solutions. But for me, the story in the film is brave and confronts something that people would rather not talk about."
Perhaps that’s why he says he’s more proud of "Skin" as a finished film than any of his other work, citing its "raw and authentic" feel. "People have always tried to accuse me of trying to be shocking for shocking’s sake, but the shocking elements in, say, ’Doom Generation’ came from a really sincere place," he says. "Same with this movie. It has elements that are unsettling, but the material transcends those darker elements. There is nothing gratuitous; it’s all in the service of the story. And though I’m not afraid of controversy, I don’t go actively to seek it out."