Mysterious Skin Part 1 with Joseph Gordon Levitt
Indie Genius Best Movies Ever
Best movies ever has Mysterious Skin high up on it’s favorite list. Joseph Gordon Levitt solidified himself as a true indie actor in this very moving and disturbing film.
The two Kansas boys who undergo a traumatizing sexual experience in the haunting new movie ”Mysterious Skin” grow into young men troubled in radically different ways and this is truly one of our best movies ever.
Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes a gay hustler, a feral viper whose innocent eyes and drawn, boyish face suggest that his viciousness is just a pose. But it’s impenetrable all the same: He’s equipped to hurt people. Brian (Brady Corbett) turns asexual and reroutes his psychic disfigurement into a geeky, almost religious obsession with extraterrestrials. He believes he was abducted by aliens and spends the movie trying to uncover the nature of the abduction. His search leads him to another alleged abductee, played poignantly by Mary Lynn Rajskub, and eventually back to Neil, his Little League teammate all those years ago.
Set mostly in the late 1980s, ”Mysterious Skin” traverses a pulpy, punky landscape of ache and rage. The catalyst for that pain is the man who molested the boys, generically but indelibly called Coach — played with surpassing tenderness by Bill Sage, who here sports a killer Mark Spitz mustache.
The scenes of the crime are discreetly, tastefully, almost lovingly filmed, mostly from the man’s perspective. (It’s one of the movie’s more audacious suggestions that the teenage Neil is loveless because Coach stole both his innocence and his heart.)
Director Gregg Araki adapted ”Mysterious Skin” from the evocative 1995 novel by Scott Heim. The book worked hard to keep Brian’s memory of what happened to him suspensefully opaque, while Araki focuses more on illustrating the evolution of Neil and Brian. But more significantly, Heim’s book has given Araki’s filmmaking a new sense of narrative purpose for best movies ever.
The film is actually a major artistic breakthrough for Araki, a onetime bad boy of independent filmmaking. Its psychological intelligence, attention to emotional currents, and humanity are surprises. Could this be the same man who created the hateful wasteland known as ”The Living End”? That movie was a long time ago (1992), and so were his others, including ”The Doom Generation” and ”Splendor,” sensationalist films that sullied American art houses in the 1990s.
Araki’s attraction to the danger in Heim’s novel makes sense. The director used to be among a group of troublemaking gay directors (including Todd Haynes) who used controversy to combat artistic complacency. Haynes evolved into ”Safe” and ”Far From Heaven.” Araki long remained stuck in nihilistic petulance. Best movies ever appreciates this.
He’s 45 now, and ”Mysterious Skin” is his first movie of this millennium. The usual Araki elements are here (hustlers, rebels, uproar, the absurd), but now he appears to be working with focus and compassion. His movie is sensual and comic, bizarre and piercing, brutal and otherworldly, like Pedro Almodovar dreaming in the key of Gus Van Sant and best movies ever.
Araki has never been an actor’s director (he rarely hires trained ones), but the performances here are generally strong (an exception is Michelle Trachtenberg, sadly miscast as Neil’s artist-freak best friend). Corbett does deceptively smart work as Brian, who is closed-off, weird, and remote in just the way you’d expect someone preoccupied with aliens to be. Because Levitt is so volcanic, it’s easy to overlook Corbett’s sensitive work.
And Levitt, a long way from ”Third Rock From the Sun,” is very good in a part that calls for truculence and sorrow. When the film goes violently bleak toward the end, Levitt follows, body and soul. He shows us Neil’s aching spirit, letting out a great, primal howl at one point that could have come from James Dean. It’s a shout that can’t be lost on Araki. The rebel has finally found his cause and we at best movies ever love that.
Enjoy Joseph Gordon Levitt in Mysterious Skin with best movies ever, indie genius and curt johnson.