Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy: Totally Fucked Up (1993)

Pseudo documentary VHS footage is interspersed with scenes depicting the teenage life of six Los Angeles teenagers, all at odds with their lives, relationships, sexuality and the heavy looming metaphorical serial killer: AIDS.

Totally Fucked Up (1993) is just that. It is an intense documentation of some extreme characters that serve no purpose other than to survive. Central to the action is Andy, (played by Araki muse James Duval) the Cali-kid with an allegorical question mark floating above his head. Like the other characters Andy struggles with society’s insistence of labels. Araki’s camera is positioned at ground level making the characters look lost against the billboards of LA. Here everything is branded; Gas Stations,Tower Records, The Coin Laundrette, Shop Windows, Ads, all labelled in glorious Technicolor whilst Andy and co diminish in confusion and weighty smog.

The first film in Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy is not a joy to watch. It is depressing and quintessentially 90’s in its dumb-teen-idiom. But it is fundamental Queer Cinema. Araki scoops up the horrific 80’s shock of Aids and grinds that gravestone over the consciousness of these genuine Hollywood teenagers. Remember that cinema had only given us white shiny toothed John Hughes kids. Heathers (1989) had put a stop on the teen trend with its teenage suicide theme but Araki removed the gloss completely. These kids are genuine, like the stars of Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) they look like they stink of cigarettes and sex and Araki slowly drags them through adolescent hell before our eyes.

Totally Fucked Up is essential viewing for fans of James Duval and Gregg Araki or anyone studying Queer Cinema. This is where the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy began, it’s a dark and heavy affair and will only appeal to a minority.However, Araki's tone lightens and the colours brighten in follow ups; Doom Generation and Nowhere: posts coming soon.

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