“Heterosexuality sucks, even as a board game.”Gregg Araki, Totally F***ed Up
Gregg Araki’s early films — The Living End, Totally Fucked Up — were rough affairs, shot, cut and released on a budget of zero; but they twisted formal elements with real style, using them to explore the difficult issues young people living invisibly at the ostensible center of the world regularly face. Araki’s more recent films carry familiar themes forward but in more polished vehicles. Some of them are great, but aging Gen X-er that I am, I prefer the aggression and mess of the earlier, New Queer Cinema work.
The Doom Generation is very much a part of the early films even if it is one of the last. It’s absurd, ridiculously violent, and run through with posturing and mimicry. Yet, taken as a whole and given credit for being more than shock and exploitation, its pieces offer a convincing portrait of the uncertainties straight teens struggle with as they try to understand an adult sexual world that has become inexplicably violent. The pieces also present a frightening glimpse of the mediascape that serves as their home.
Short and unpolished, the film’s address is unsettling and haunting. Perhaps most interestingly, it relentlessly solicits the attention of teens and young adults on terms completely alien to the norms I typically associate with young adult fiction.
A key movie of the New Queer Cinema that, somehow, I’d never seen. And it’s quite good, especially now that the passage of time has left its “cool” to operate so clearly as a sign rather than as a pathetic appeal.
If the film were a wine, we’d probably say something like, “Time has softened the tannins allowing the structure to come forward.”