Posts Tagged ‘Mysterious Skin’

My One Line Review: Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

The Verdict: This is maybe saddest film I’ve ever seen. Certainly the most heartbreaking live action. It is probably on a par with When The Wind Blows and Grave of the Fireflies. I have read any number of reviews saying Mysterious Skin is too explicit, or exploitative or somehow condones child abuse. It is none of these things, it simply acknowledges that these horrors do happen, on our doorsteps, and asks what happens when those children grow up? The ones who aren’t suicides or breakdowns, the ones who go under the radar and just muddle through.

That is the true tragedy at the heart of this film, it isn’t just what happens to the saucer-eyed little boy, it’s that he knows what was done to him and others and that whether or not they ever acknowledge and confront it, it will never be okay. The controversy arises from Neil’s complicity in his abuse and that of others, but I think Araki is trying to show the depth of corruption that arises from systematic abuse. Neil’s subsequent lack of regard for his own safety, his utter detachment are the inescapable legacy of his childhood.

This is by no means a comfortable watch. I am not one for visceral response  and I’m certainly not given to crying at films, but I flinched and shied away and as the haunting melancholic strains of Sigur Ros scored the closing shot,  two broken young men unable to reconcile themselves to one moment in childhood, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s thousand yard stare, I welled up.

A powerful and terrible elegy that will stay with you for some time.


I’m not a fan of online lists. I have tried to provide considered content on this blog and not lazy journalistic filler, but I have made a pledge to be less precious and post more often, so there will be a higher incidence of fluff betwixt the articles henceforth. In typically contrary fashion though, I have waited till list season has drawn to a close before casting my pearls of wisdom.
As best I can, I have tried to recall all the films I saw for the first time in 2011. This is a valuable exercise, at times surprising. I am always chiding myself for not keeping any kind of log of the films I watch or the books I read, or the gigs and shows I attend. I know it would serve me well when I am seeking new reads, or as a source of reference when compiling lists etc, but it just isn’t my style- I am not a meticulous keeper of records, I just like to absorb my culture (pop or otherwise) and move on. The drawback of course being a few months/weeks/days later I have no idea what I have consumed.

So: I can remember all four films I saw at the cinema I believe and LoveFilm helpfully lets me know what they’ve sent me. Anything from Blockbuster or on Television I’ve had to scrounge up from memory and I know there are significant omissions. I will cast an eye over my in-house collection and try to recall which are new additions. Still, there are about eighty odd on my list already, which isn’t bad considering I thought I’d hardly seen any films this year. I can’t even imagine the number I must have seen in the last five years.
That’s clearly far too many to summarise in one blog post so, in honour of the Year of the Apocalypse, I shall select twenty and review each in only one sentence- from these I shall nominate twelve  to receive a more considered appraisal over the next twelve days. Hope you enjoy.

Miyazaki's Ponyo

1. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, UK/Fr, 2010)
Beautiful, elegiac paean to a bygone era and the inexorable loss that is fatherhood.

2. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, US/NL, 2004)
Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

3. Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, UK/US, 1982)
Unexpectedly risqué and open about gay lifestyles in the Seventies VV makes subversive use of Andrews’ impeccable voice. [Apparently it was made in the Eighties. Comment stands]
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, US/UK/Ca, 2010)
Just perfectly put together: the look, the dialogue, the casting- someone finally perfected the formula.
5. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, US, 2010)
There is nothing right about this film and no excuses either.

Mysterious Skin