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The Doom Generation


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Two of the best movies I've seen in recent years covered material similar to "The Doom Generation." They were "Kalifornia" and "Natural Born Killers." Both were about cross-country odysseys involving young lover; killers. Both dealt thoughtfully with their characters, and the consequences of their actions. Both had a point of view, and a moral position. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), Terence Malick's "Badlands" (1974) and both versions of "Gun Crazy" also had doomed young lovers on the run. All of these films were honest enough to be about what they were about - to acknowledge their subject matter.


Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin was one of the best films of 2005, and it prompted me to go back and check out some of his earlier stuff, starting with The Doom Generation. I went in pretty much blind on this one, except for the knowledge that Araki was a leader of the "New Queer Cinema" movement on the 1990s, and also that it starred James Duval, better known as Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko. Like Visitor Q yesterday, Doom Generation is a pretty weird film that takes place in a heightened reality, that's slightly askew from our world.The film's opening is quite strong, starting with the buzzing synth of Nine Inch Nails' "Heresy" and frenetic strobing images of people in a club. A title announces that this is "A Heterosexual Movie from Gregg Araki," which I initially figured was just a joke about his reputation, but turned out to have some more thematic significance to the film as a whole. Araki uses the same font as he did in Mysterious Skin, it's interesting to see certain directors always sticking with the same type, such as Kubrick's preference for Futura. When the film proper begins, the characters' style of speech is notable. They never sound quite natural, sometimes using bigger words than you'd expect them to, and other times using slightly odd turns of phrase, particularly when insulting people. James Duval as Jordan reminds me of a young Keanu, speaking with a perpetual stoner drawl, always about thirty seconds behind what's going on. Despite all the strange stuff they go through, he remains an innocent until the finale. His most notable cluelessness is in the relationship with X, there's clear homosexual undertones, practically overtones, and yet he doesn't seem to get it at all. Scenes are set up to maximize their tension, most notably in the scene by the bed, where they always seem just a few inches away from kissing.The thematic significance of this becomes apparent later, for most of the film it's just subtext to the relationship between Amy and Jordan. Amy is someone who's incredibly worldly, always desiring to be in control. She takes on the traditionally masculine role in the relationship, driving the car and usually initiating sex, while Jordan plays the role of the ditzy airhead. Normally if you have the attractive stranger, like X, come into the car it would be the man trying to get him out, while the woman is attracted to him. Here it's flipped, which makes for an interesting dynamic. For Amy, X represents a sexual and intellectual equal. He takes the initiative in their relationship and she seems almost in awe of him. In the scenes where she has sex with Jordan it's all about closeness and love, whereas when she has sex with X, it's more about the spectacle, the novelty of this man and his skill. This is particularly evident in the cowboy hat scene, where Jordan observes her and sees a sexual enjoyment that's deeper than what she experienced with him. I also really like the aesthetics of that scene, the hat and the way the scene is shot make it seem like she's a rodeo rider, using this guy as her own entertainment device. So the film sets up a basic conflict between the somewhat naive love she has for Jordan, and the more experimental pure sexuality of X. It's not a straight love triangle (pun intended) because Jordan has an attraction to X. He seems almost unaware of it, but it's evident that there's somet




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