For better or for worse, Gregg Araki makes movies about youth. The director's films are almost exclusively about young people, high school or college age mainly, and this youthful exuberance shows on the screen. His films look youthful and his films feel youthful, not only because that is usually the director's subject matter (even the older characters seem to have youthful tendencies in an Araki picture), but because Araki himself is a youthful exuberance. Granted, this youthful exuberance of which I speak often comes in the form of a misappropriated nostalgia blended with a pretentious cinematic bravura rather than an innate understanding of this so-called youth - but then, as the saying goes (and I do take liberties), one does not want life to imitate art so much as one wants life to be art. I think it is a rather safe assumption to say that Araki adheres to this philosophy.
Now 51, the director, who popped on the scene twenty or so years ago as a shining new bad boy voice in the New Queer Cinema movement, has taken it upon himself (and at the bequest of mentor John Waters) to go, how the kids would say, old school on us. After the surprising depth of Mysterious Skin (the film that first showed just what Joseph Gordon Levitt was and is really capable of) and the even more surprising freshness of the director's take on the stoner comedy, Smiley-Face (the film that first showed just what Anna Faris was and is really capable of), Araki, with his tenth film, the provocatively titled Kaboom (and come the final abrupt moment of cinematic climax, you too will see how that title finally comes into play as more than mere sexual innuendo), has returned to the supposed roots that made him that shining new bad boy voice in the first place (and made him gain the love and respect of the aforementioned Ms. Waters) - the anonymous sex of pretty, young people.
With a blend of sex romp (both gay and straight), thriller, and ultimately sci-fi, Araki's new film (originally making its debut at Cannes last year before getting a 2011 theatrical release) is an exciting, and appropriately youthful (just chock full of that aforementioned exuberance) movie about the sexual goings-on of a group of beautiful SoCal college students who become involved in a mysterious cult-like atmosphere of fear and impending danger. Starring the prettiest of people such as Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida and Juno Temple, Araki's fucked-up take on the cult of sexual personality is a truly explosive (and just wait for that ending that will leave you, for better or for worse, speechless) cinematic experience - for gay, straight and everything and everyone inbetween. Perhaps in reality, Kaboom is not a film for everyone, but then again, what the fuck is reality anyway - and for that matter, what is art? Perhaps that is the film talking, and not I. Perhaps I too want life to be art. [09/23/11]