Gregg Araki – Totally F***ed Up (1993)


from all movie:
A group of gay and lesbian teen characters addresses the camera directly in this pseudo-documentary about the travails of queer adolescence in early-’90s Los Angeles. Andy (James Duval), who hides his sensitive side beneath a nihilistic exterior, really yearns to find a nice boyfriend and settle down the way his pal Steven (Gilbert Luna), an aspiring filmmaker, has with boyfriend Deric (Lance May). Meanwhile, their sex-crazed friend Tommy (Roko Belic) has been kicked out by his parents for being homosexual. The only seemingly carefree members of this adoptive family are Michele (Susan Behshid) and Patricia (Jenee Gill), a lesbian couple whose desire to raise a child together leads the boys to participate in a group sperm donation during one of the film’s many scenes of these characters just hanging out and rapping about AIDS, fag-bashing, homophobia, and alienation. In-between polemicizing and posing in front of Steven’s camera for interviews, Andy meets college student Ian (Alan Boyce), who seems, at least for a while, to be Mr. Right. Just as Andy and Ian’s relationship begins to blossom, Steven and Deric’s starts to fall apart, but nothing’s for certain in director Gregg Araki’s angst-ridden world. Framed as 15 vignettes, each one introduced by an ironic intertitle and many of them interspersed with graphic sexual and commercial images, Totally F***ed Up marked the end of Araki’s no-budget phase; the glossy, gaudy Doom Generation would follow two years later.

This manifesto for, and paean to, the post-AIDS, post-show tunes, post-separatist gay and lesbian youth of the 1990s marks the first installment of writer/director Gregg Araki’s “teen apocalypse trilogy.” “Teen angst” might be a better descriptor here, though, for the in-your-face whininess of these characters may be hard to take for both heterosexual viewers and for gay men and lesbians who grew up in an era when visibility and sexual availability weren’t such givens. The teens of Araki’s world are seemingly parentless — rejected by or rejecting both their own families and earlier generations of homosexuals who would tell them what it means to be gay. There’s plenty of comedy in these kids’ quest for self-definition, but there’s also a lot of melodrama, and Araki’s punky, low-budget production values don’t provide much perspective or nuance. In interviews, Araki has explicated the influence of Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin/Feminin on his film, and Totally F***ed Up certainly has the talkiness of French New Wave down pat. In the end, Araki’s film probably speaks best to people who are most like its protagonists — teens coming to terms with the cruelties of the wider world and of their own subculture. Whether the specificity with which Araki depicts his characters’ conflicts limits his film’s long-term appeal is a question for audiences in the future to answer.

Language(s):dual audio English (film + director’s commentary)

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