Gregg Araki: Winner of Queer Palm for Kaboom
The Cannes International Film Festival awarded their first-ever Queer Palm in May 2010. The award honors films and filmmakers for their contributions to the genre. They bestowed the honor to American filmmaker Gregg Araki, and his film Kaboom.
“My films are very personal,” said Araki, a filmmaker since 1987. “The way I write them is I get the film into my head, then when I write the script I am transcribing it from my head, making it reality. My imagination is a little bit out of the mainstream, but unique and different.”
His narrative imagery, plots, subplots, and characters are indeed very unique. His style has earned him the further distinction of being called avant-garde, a term which scares some people away. He is perhaps most known for three films – Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation, and Nowhere – made between 1993 and 97 known as the Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy.
These films chronicle teenage angst, sexuality, gender identity, and drug use in often-surreal realities. Yet, his direction never renders characters and storylines so lofty as to be unbelievable.
“After I did the trilogy I consciously decided to not make films about teenagers, to not be pigeonholed, so after those movies I stepped away from that genre,” said Araki.
Splendor, 1999 was a love triangle involving one woman and two men, reminiscent of a screwball comedy. Smiley Face, 2007, starring Anna Faris, is a stoner comedy about an unmotivated actress. Yet, 2004’s Mysterious Skin dealt with teenage subjects, central to the plot is child molestation.
“With Mysterious Skin it was a choice between how much I loved the book, but didn’t want to do another film about 18 year-olds. I only make movies I am passionate about,” said Araki. “It’s about how much I loved the story and the characters.” He also loves those years, “when everything in your life is up in the air and you’re asking a lot of questions. As a filmmaker it opens up a lot of possibilities.”
Kaboom, which will begin a run at three local theaters, the Gateway 4 Theater in Fort Lauderdale, the Coral Gables Art Cinema in Coral Gables, and the Living Room Theaters on FAU’s Boca Raton Campus on March 25, focuses on the not-so-ordinary lives of ordinary college kids on the California coast. Thomas Dekker, plays college student Smith. He is about to turn 19 and is “undeclared” sexually. The film certainly does ask a lot questions.
While Smith is undeclared sexually the act itself is definitely a declared major of Smith and his friends. A threesome with London – a girl who loves sex with queer guys played by the dainty Juno Temple – and a hot straight acquaintance, is filmed with all the excitement, curiosity, and playfulness of teenage libido. The nervous trepidation with which Smith asks the hunk he meets at a nude beach if he picks up guys often is genuinely expressed. His best friend Stella’s observation, about how quickly he downloaded a guy into his hard drive, brings the sexual gamboling back down to earth.
That Stella dates a witch with manifest powers, or a mysterious red-haired girl’s body is found on campus, and the revelation that Smith is the heir to a cult doesn’t stand out as improbable. Instead, Araki’s competent storytelling allows these elements to flow together into a clean, articulated tale.
“It was really fun and exciting to work with a cast like that. It’s one of the most amazing ensembles that I’ve been able to work with,” he said excitedly, intimating his ability to use new faces as a canvas for new ideas and advancements in queer cinema. “There’s a new generation of actors that are interested in taking a chance. Everyone in the cast will all be movie stars, they’re very much like the characters in the movie. It’s very cool to be there at ground zero in terms of their futures.”
Please visit FAU.LivingRoomTheaters.com, GablesCinema.com and call the Gateway Theater at 954.763.7994 for more information.