Sunday, June 14, 2009
Gregg Araki Post #2- 'Nowhere'
Described as 'Beverly Hills 90210 on acid,' 'Nowhere' (1997) marks the conclusion of Gregg Araki's Teen Apocalypse Trilogy, a trio of films dissecting teen angst. Inspired by and directly riffing off of Bret Easton Ellis' novel 'Less Than Zero' (hilarious dialogue from the scene featuring cameos by Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowen and Traci Lords as Valley Chicks, seems to be ripped directly from the pages of Ellis' book), 'Nowhere' satirizes and explores pop culture with scenes of sex, disturbing violence, drug taking and an ending that would have Kafka cumming in his pants- or rolling in his grave. Surreal, frenetic, awash in flashy, neon/pop art colours, shot + edited in an MTV style, and featuring a large ensemble cast, 'Nowhere' is at first overwhelming and hard to digest.
Of all the characters in 'Nowhere,' the film follows the doe eyed, sensitive and naive Dark (James Duval), a dead ringer for Araki, as he deals with the alienation, disillusionment, sexual awakening/confusion and pressures of coming of age. Throughout the film he interacts with his bisexual, polyamorous girlfriend, Mel (Rachel True), Mel's bitchy girlfriend Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson) and the shy, stuttering boy he has developing feelings for, Montgomery (Nathan Bexton) as well as characters played by: Chiara Mastroianni, Debi Mazar, Jordan Ladd, Christina Applegate, Guillermo Díaz, Jeremy Jordan, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham and Mena Suvari, just to name a few. For the most part, the acting veers into campy, stilted, caricature territory and I wish I had asked Araki if this was purposeful. Like 'The Doom Generation' (1995), 'Nowhere' also features numerous celebrity cameos such as John Ritter as a televangelist, 'My So Called Life's' Devon Odessa and 'Step By Step's' Stacy Keenan as two girls whose respective names are What and Ever, 'The Brady Bunch's' Christopher Knight and Eve Plumb, Charlotte Rae as a fortune teller, Denise Richards as Lucifer's sister, David Leisure, video director Stephane Sednaoui as a photographer, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and more. All of these interconnected characters flit in and out of each other's lives while careening towards a climactic party at Jujyfruit's house which turns out to be a post modern Sodom or Gomorrah. Oh yeah, and there is an alien that is laser beaming and abducting people that only Dark seems able to see.
Though criticized for being nihilistic and superficial, 'Nowhere' is more than simple entertainment laced with a near overdose of shock value. The film is outlandishly stylish and cool but it does not sacrifice substance as it ruthlessly confronts themes of unrequited love, suppressed homosexual desires, and the empty, soul sucking commercialization and commodification of spirituality.
As with any Araki film, the soundtrack is awesome. Songs to download/check out:
Radiohead- how can you be sure?
Elastica- In the city
The Chemical brothers- Life is sweet (Daft punk remix)
Coco and the bean- Killing time (qureysh- eh? 1 remix)
Catherine wheel- intravenous
The London Suede- Trash
Slowdive- avalyn II
Stacey Q- two of hearts
The Verve- grey skies
Nine Inch Nails- memorabilia
Portishead- mourning air
The The- love is stronger than death
Unfortunately the dvd has yet to be released in the US or Canada so you'll have to hunt down a VHS copy like me or watch it on youtube.