That Was Now This Is Then

Formerly Mod Gregg Araki wears someone else's '70s 'Skin'

Totally f***ed up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Mysterious Skin'
Tartan Films
Totally f***ed up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Mysterious Skin'

Which is his own weariness, perhaps. I don't know. What I can say is that, style aside, Mysterious Skin shares with The Living End a specificity of subject, whether abuse or AIDS, that grants both films a translucent, shivery power. In both movies, the "victims" are portrayed as complicated, diverse, and too explosive to merit mere pity. As Lim points out, within the recent spate of American indies about child abuse, only this one seeks the humanity within the abused--i.e., their (child) sexuality, their idiosyncratic responses to the abuser (which in Neil's case includes affection and even gratitude), their creative drive toward distraction and revelation. In Mysterious Skin, joy pours down from above, mixed with horror. And there's no god to blame--only all of us, humming "Silent Night" in our separate skins.

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