It all starts and ends with a little league’s pedophile coach and two kids: Neil and Brian, who unbeknownst to their parents are the victims of a sexual predator. But what is the authentic aftermath of this encounter between the man and the 8-year-old children?The repercussions of sexual abuse will affect greatly the lives of Neil and Brian, but in so many different ways that one could almost wonder if they shared the same experience. As a matter of fact, being sexually abused is such a traumatic event for Brian that he blocks it out of his mind unable to cope with the real, and he then proceeds to fill in the memory gaps with a fantasy of alien abduction. Recurring to such self-defense mechanisms is quite a normal psychological strategy, but it also mingles well with a recurring theme in Araki’s cinematography.
Neil, on the other hand, fills in the gashing void with an idealized image of the pedophile. After all, during an entire summer the two of them spend many nights together. Neil actually functions as an accomplice, helping the coach to lure in unsuspecting boys, thus creating a perverse bond between them. Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishes of the novel is to invert the roles, creating a pedophile that seems to be nicer and more caring than the boys’ parents, while at the same time embedding at least one of the victims with an attitude that one would find difficult to sympathize with. Araki’s film, of course, thrives because of that: the complexity between the characters relationships. This is not, after all, a lesson of morality. Here the coach leaves the town, with an untarnished reputation, and leaves behind Neil, a very obsessed boy who admits later that “it's a huge part of me. No one ever made me feel that way before or since [...] I was his one true love”.
Perversion seems to be the one predominant constant throughout Neil’s life, but as Lacan would define it, a perverse individual is the one who assumes the position of the object-instrument of the "will-to-enjoy" (volonté-de-jouissance), which is not his own will but that of the big Other. In this case, Neil accepts to serve as a garish tool of pleasure for the coach, and years later, as a teenage hustler, he has no quandaries when it is his turn to be the instrument of joy of the other (namely his clients). Emotionally detached from everyone, only a girl, a friend from childhood, remains as his one and true humane anchor. His mother, after all, has always been a carefree woman, constantly hooking up with men, and paying no attention to his son; that’s why when Neil is about to depart to New York, she looks at him and utters “my baby, all grown up”, not as a typical motherly affirmation but rather a discovery: time flew by, and she wasn’t there at all.
Brian’s dreams are a reminder that another boy was with him the night of the alien abduction, consequently the insecure boy starts the search for Neil, and learns of his whereabouts just after Neil has left for the big city. It is then that Neil’s friend, Eric, a very flamboyant gay kid, befriends him. Brian is quite a timid and introversive teenager, perhaps as a result of having a very dominant mother and an absent father (even before he abandons the family, he was only there to state how disappointed he was at his son). Eric describes him as "weirdly asexual" (even without knowing how Brian had violently rejected a UFO obsessed woman that intended to caress his penis); indeed, Brian is unable to reclaim sexuality for himself, and after having always lived in a world of his own he finds in Eric’s friendship everything he needs to break out of his shelf.
As a male prostitute, Neil finds the horror of the real in New York, and he will soon realize how dangerous his line of business can get. Back in town, Eric is preparing himself to let go of the one reality that has sustained and nurtured his psyche, but can he embrace the real if Neil tells him exactly what happened that fatidic night?
Araki brilliantly depicts this honest, heart-wrenching and unruly story, taking advantage of the exceptional acting qualities of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Neil), a daring and talented actor that has worked in many interesting independent films, such as Brick, The Lookout or Latter Days (a gay themed movie). This actor finds in Brady Corbet (Brian) the ideal partner; Corbet creates a subtle but fascinating character, completely different from his roles in Funny Games US or Thirteen, proving not only that he is a great actor but that he also knows how to choose the best directors to work with.
And that's why Mysterious Skin makes it into my top 100 films. I highly recommend it.
And by the way, I'm glad to see that every month my blog gets more visits. Cheers!
Así que decidí hacer lo único sensato, o sea contribuir con las arcas fiscales. Con la multa evito la votación, y me ahorro esa sensación horrible de tener que elegir a un mal menor (y honestamente, nunca he tenido la línea Sartriana de Mario Vargas Llosa que le permite hacer justamente eso, elegir una de las dos opciones, a pesar de todo).
Las pérdidas también me han hecho ver que algunos ajustes son necesarios, al menos por ahora. Así, por ejemplo, he cancelado mis tarjetas de crédito, todas menos una. Así que adiós a tarjetas con límites de 5000 soles (como la del BBVA que siempre me sacó de apuros) y cosas por el estilo. Para bien o para mal, este domingo ha sido elegido el próximo mandatario del país.