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Monday, December 19, 2005

Mysterious Skin DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Mysterious Skin

Adapted from Scott Heim's 1996 novel, this sometimes dreamy, sometimes brutal, and often disturbing film engages the viewer in the lives of two boys. One boy responds to sexual abuse, and his attraction to his abuser, by becoming a hustler who fears showing emotion. The other boy hunts for the truth behind his lost time by clinging to UFO theories. As young men, they will eventually meet, for a beautiful ending to an often ugly story.

Director Gregg Araki, not known for avoiding controversy, deals honestly with the emotions of both characters, and the other people in their lives. Brady Corbet (Thunderbirds) plays Brian, the supposed UFO abductee. Corbet convincingly portrays Brian as constantly distant, constantly fragile, always searching for truths that he knows will hurt him.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (TV’s 3rd Rock From The Sun) recently starred in another instant gay classic, Latter Days. In Mysterious Skin, he owns the screen as the older version of the hustler, Neal. Quiet but smoldering with emotions, Neal obviously loves his mother (Elizabeth Shue from Leaving Las Vegas) and his best friend (Michelle Trachtenberg from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Still, he acts coldly or even cruelly towards other characters, and himself.

Gregg Araki continues to distinguish himself as one of the most innovative and daring directors among gay movies. Looking back at Araki’s films, I hated Nowhere and Doom Generation, liked The Living End, and loved Splendor. Mysterious Skin took him to a new level in my opinion, and in the opinion of countless other viewers. With his most daring movie, Araki actually managed to appeal to mainstream critics; Mysterious Skin deservedly received constant praise during its theatrical run. Its arrival on DVD will bring it to a much larger audience.

For the DVD of an unusual movie, why not offer an unusual special feature? Stars Brady Corbet and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both give extensive readings from Scott Heim's book, sprinkled with images from the film. This feature reveals much about the characters they played, how they approached those characters, and why Araki found the novel so compelling.