Ever since his 1992 debut The Living End, director Gregg Araki has been responsible for some of the most transgressive, bold and just plain silly films to have come from the indie world. In 2004 he reached an unprecedented level of critical acclaim for Mysterious Skin, a mature, devastating adaptation of Scott Heims novel about a gay hustler dealing with the memories of his childhood sexual abuse. Araki follow-up was the Citizen Kane of stoner movies Smiley Face, underrated and unreleased in the UK, and is now back with Kaboom.
Candy-coloured and lurid, Kaboom is about impossibly good-looking college students who find themselves in embroiled in a convoluted conspiracy that just about distracts them from their revolving door sex lives. Its like Araki wrote the film whilst snorting a bin liner full of sugar as Twin Peaks played on loop in the background. Maybe its awful, but somehow thats okay. Its bloody ridiculous but is about as fun as Mysterious Skin was soul-destroying.
Kaboom opens in cinemas this weekend, but we spoke to Araki when he visited the UK for the films premiere at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
You wrote Kaboom after making two films that came from other peoples source material. Would you say its a personal film to you?
Kaboom is so near and dear to my heart. Of all my movies its probably the most autobiographical one Ive ever done, which sounds weird because its such a crazy movie, but its very much based on my own experience, stuff I did when I was 20 years old and an undergraduate in Film School. I went to USC Santa Barbara which the college in the film is based on and my best friend was an art student like Stella. Thats why there are so many scenes in coffee shops because during that period of my life there were always big adventures and afterwards youd go to the coffee shop and talk about what just happened and how you felt about it.
Was it a conscious choice to make something that was more your own?
Its not like I feel like Mysterious Skin or Smiley Face are any less mine than Kaboom, because when youre working from other peoples material youre dealing with what attracts you to that material. For Mysterious Skin my mindset and sensibility is so aligned to Scott Haim. We have a similar sense of the world and so it was a natural fit for me. I brought to that film everything I could bring to it from my own experience but ultimately everything about the story and those characters was his. Its like an adopted child. I love Smiley Face and Mysterious Skin and Im so proud of both of them, but theres a difference between something that comes purely from your imagination and something that doesnt. Theres more responsibility I think.
The events of Kaboom are very dark, but it never feels that way - its like a confection. I dont mean that in a bad way.
No, I think thats very appropriate. Its interesting because I originally envisioned Kaboom as being this very dark apocalyptic epic but theres a playfulness and a sort of joyfulness about it. Despite its darkness theres a sense of fun. The world of Kaboom is so stylised and comic-book that you feel anything can happen. That was what we set out to make - the thing I dislike about 99.9% of movies is that I always know where theyre going to go before they get there.
It must have been freeing once youd decided that the film wouldnt be entirely grounded by what could happen in the real world.
I remember when we were shooting it the cast and the crew and everybody would be just like Oh, were going to Kaboomworld now. It was like its own little world and thats certainly meant to be the experience of watching it. It takes you to another place thats more stylised and colourful and everybodys beautiful and everybodys having sex. Its a utopian, dystopian world.