Friday, April 8, 2011

Kaboom! The Films of Gregg Araki at TIFF Bell Lightbox, April 8-20

In addition to releasing his latest feature Kaboom today, TIFF Bell Lightbox presents a retrospective of iconoclastic American independent filmmaker Gregg Araki. Over the next two weeks, they will be screening all 10 of the feature films he has made in his 23-year career.

In addition to unspooling his entire feature film output, director Gregg Araki himself will be present for the three screenings of his landmark road movie
The Living End. On Saturday, April 9, Lightbox programmer Noah Cowan will interview Araki about his career for In Conversation with…Gregg Araki.

This is a fascinating opportunity to trace the development of an important Asian filmmaker and a key figure in the
New Queer Cinema movement. His films began with raw edge and wildness (he made his first four features for less than $50,000 total) and have become increasingly polished and assured. He now regularly attracts Hollywood talent in his recent works, including names such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Faris, John Krasinski, Kathleen Robertson and Rose McGowan. But no matter what stage of his career, his films always display a sly and offbeat sense of humour, an flexibility in exploring sexuality that isn't limited to gay or straight, and a endless stream of impossibly gorgeous young men and women.

Kaboom! The Films of Gregg Araki continues until April 20 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.


Kaboom! The Films of Gregg Araki
April 8, 2011 – April 20, 2011
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto

The invaluable unpredictability of Gregg Araki’s urgent and indispensable cinema arrives at TIFF Bell Lightbox this Spring. Still one of the most unconventional and relentlessly intriguing voices in independent cinema, Araki’s oeuvre intertwines themes of tragic romantic love and alienated youth set against the backdrop of post-punk anthems, hyper-stylized Valley Girl vocabulary and eye-popping art direction.

His radical explorations of sexuality as mutable and unpredictable continue to push boundaries throughout his tenth feature, Kaboom, one of the unquestionable hits of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film will have its theatrical release at TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 8 and launches a full retrospective of his films which includes his debut feature, the Warhol-inflected Three Bewildered People in the Night (1987); the celebrated abuse drama Mysterious Skin (2004), featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Splendor (1999), a screwball comedy that uniquely meshes the worlds  of Preston Sturges and Jean-Luc Godard; Smiley Face (2007), his beloved slap-happy stoner comedy; Totally F***ed Up (1993), an expedition into the melancholic teenage wasteland of the ’90s; and Nowhere (1997), the Araki-described ‘Beverly Hills 90210 on acid’ starring Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham, Mena Suvari and Christina Applegate.

Gregg Araki will also join TIFF Bell Lightbox Artistic Director Noah Cowan on April 9, 2011 for an in-depth look at his career – from his scrappy beginnings to his current status as one of the recognized pioneers of American independent cinema.

Kaboom! The Films of Gregg Araki

(2010) – North American Theatrical Release

It will play daily beginning Friday, April 8. See for screening times.

Kaboom is a garish billboard for id unbridled…Scooby-Doo with sex, drugs, and tattooed hotties.”
—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

When a sweet natured, bisexual punk-waif and his tart-tongued lesbian pal arrive for their freshman year at a southern California college, they embark on a lively round of experimentation with sex and substances. However, their frolics take on a more ominous cast when dream visions, mysterious messages and threatening figures in animal masks seem to foreshadow dark times on the horizon.

In Conversation with…Gregg Araki
Saturday, April 9, 7:00 pm

Gregg Araki joins TIFF Bell Lightbox Artistic Director Noah Cowan for this look back at his eventful career.

The Living End

Digital restoration!

Gregg Araki In Person!

Friday, April 8 at 9:15 p.m.
Saturday, April 16 at 9:15 p.m.

Monday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m.

"The Living End is set resolutely in the present. Or is it? Cinematically, it restages the celluloid of the ‘60s and ‘70s: early Godard, Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The queer present negotiates with the past, knowing full well that the future is at stake." —B. Ruby Rich

A signal film of the New Queer Cinema and a milestone of American independent cinema, The Living End is a bracingly angry road movie that divided audiences and set off protests at theatres in gay communities around the United States. Jon (Craig Gilmore) is an adrift film critic who has just learned that he is HIV-positive; meanwhile, hot hustler Luke (Mike Dytri), also HIV-positive, steals a car from serial killer lesbians and murders three gay bashers before jumping into Jon’s car and changing his life. The duo’s steamy, kinky and brazenly unprotected sex spirals into a criminal rampage as they embark on a hedonistic, cross-country death trip.

Three Bewildered People in the Night 

New Print!

Saturday, April 9 at 9:15 p.m.

Made for pennies, Araki's auspicious debut feature began his assimilation of the hip, urban disaffectedness and circular psychosexual discourse of Andy Warhol’s sixties films to the sun-bleached flatlands of southern California. Leaning heavily on Permanent Vacation-era Jim Jarmusch in its underlit, coffee-shop milieu, Three Bewildered People are Alicia (Darcy Marta), who is obsessed with making confessional video tapes; her best friend and fellow struggling artist David (Mark Howell), who is considerably confused about sex and love; and Alicia’s alienated, live-in boyfriend Craig (John Lacques), who develops an affection for David that he finds difficult to define. As the three debate the relative importance of sex, love and affection in various combinations, subtle emotional realignments start coming to the surface and threaten to split the happy trio apart.

Mysterious Skin

Sunday, April 10 at 7:00p.m.

“[Mysterious Skin] is at once the most harrowing and, strangely, the most touching film I have seen about child abuse. . . . It is not a message picture, doesn’t push its agenda; [it’s] about discovery, not accusation” (Roger Ebert).

Based on Scott Heim's heartbreaking novel, Mysterious Skin sees Araki trading his visual pyrotechnics and caustic humour for open-wound honesty, resulting in his first film to receive across-the-board acclaim. A decade after they were both molested by their Little League coach, two long-ago friends have taken very different paths: Brian (Brady Corbet) is a shy introvert obsessed by his own possible UFO abduction who has blocked out the abuse from his memories; Neil (a revelatory Joseph Gordon-Levitt), his perception of sex cruelly warped, has become a highly sexualized hustler headed for the big-city gay underworld. As their personal journeys hit ugly dead ends, they find each other once more and try to understand the painful past that unites them.


Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m.

“Think of it as Jules and Jim reimagined as an Archie comic book with the sexual roles reversed, and photographed by Bruce Weber for a photo spread in Seventeen magazine” (Stephen Holden, The New York Times).
Araki’s then-muse and girlfriend Kathleen Robertson plays Veronica, whose previously fallow love life takes a turn for the better when she starts seeing two guys (Johnathon Schaech and Matt Keeslar) at once. Unwilling to give either of them up, Veronica convinces them that they should all live together, which pushes the sexual tension between the trio to the breaking point—until some inventive variations on the old Sturgesian banana peel shuttle us towards a reasonably (and unexpectedly) happy ending.

The Long Weekend 
Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m.

“A minimalistic gay/bisexual post-punk antithesis to the smug complacency of regressive Hollywood tripe like The Big Chill.” —Gregg Araki

Six people—gay, straight, in relationships or bitterly out of them—come together for an impromptu college reunion in Los Angeles, where their facades of bored aimlessness gradually erode as boiling infidelities and the emotional bruisings they have suffered at each other’s hands come to the surface. Made on an astonishing budget of $5,000, Araki’s Weekend is not only a marvel of lo-fi ingenuity but a powerful, troubling statement about the anxiety and alienation produced by a feeling of collective political impotence, aligning the film both thematically and tonally with the great masterpieces of Antonioni.

Totally F***ed Up

Digital Restoration!

Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.

“I felt a need to respond to the unrelenting barrage of institutionalized homophobia - from the media, from ignorant politicians, from rabid cultural ‘watchdogs.’ And of course there is my intense admiration for Godard—most especially Masculin féminin, which is paid homage to and clearly the primary influence here. [The film is] a kinda twisted cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick." —Gregg Araki

Following the intertwining lives of six young gay and lesbian characters through a Godardian structure of fifteen separately titled sections, Araki creates a vivid portrait of everyday teenage pressures compounded by a host of extraordinary burdens: AIDS, homophobia, gay-bashing, parental rejection and escalating gay teen suicide rates. Fearful of sex and disdainful of the mainstream gay community, the protagonists cling to their makeshift adoptive family even as those same pressures start to pull them apart.

Smiley Face

Tuesday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m

“The smartest kind of dumb comedy . . . [Araki] keeps his screwball rolling with a freewheeling touch, bouncing with ease from goofball monologue to manic slapstick to dusted interludes of unconsciousness and hallucination”

—Nathan Lee, The Village Voice.

With madcap charm and what appears to be a body made entirely of rubber, Anna Faris stars as lazy, out-of-work actress Jane F., who one eventful morning unwittingly scarfs down her spacey roommate’s super-charged pot cupcakes and then sets out to try and replace them before he finds out. As complications—involving a past-due pot bill from Jane’s dealer (Adam Brody), a last-minute audition, the romantic attentions of Jane’s nerdy, smitten friend Brevin (John Krasinski) and the original manuscript of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto—inevitably ensue, Jane’s simple errand snowballs into a loopy, cross-town odyssey across Araki’s beloved Los Angeles.

Nowhere (1997)

Wednesday, April 20 at 9:00 p.m.

Aptly described by Araki as “Beverly Hills 90210 on acid,” Nowhere features a sterling cast of has-beens and yet-to-bes—including Shannen Doherty, Traci Lords, Rose McGowan, Ryan Phillipe, Heather Graham, Mena Suvari, Christina Applegate, John Ritter and Beverly D’Angelo—tooling around Los Angeles in a drug- and sex-fuelled haze set to a soundtrack featuring Radiohead, Elastica, Hole and Massive Attack.

The Doom Generation
Wednesday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m.

Amy Blue (Rose McGowan, establishing for all time her potty-mouthed, hot-Goth-slut persona) is wallowing in a boring relationship with her high school sweetheart Jordan White (a charmingly scruffy and perpetually Valiumed-out James Duval) when white-hot drifter Xavier Red (the unspeakably handsome Johnathon Schaech) literally lands on their car and climbs aboard. Convenience store mayhem, raunchy motel sex and vindictive ex-boyfriends soon follow, en route to an appropriately apocalyptic conclusion. Riffing on Anna Karenina and Godard’s Bande à part, The Doom Generation has become a key influence to a new generation of young filmmakers.

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