Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nowhere (Gregg Araki, 1997)

A film that helped me make the lopsided transition from pretending to like bland, competent films to repeatedly landing nose first in the bosomy cleavage of cinematic trash. In other words, the sex and violence filled wonderland that I have always been destined to wallow in. Nowhere is a film that I resisted at first (I dissented so hard, I felt ill afterward), but have since learned to appreciate its aimless narrative, nihilistic overtones, and scattershot view of adolescent humanity. Call it masochistic, call it an act of celluloid-based attrition, but I forced myself not only to like Gregg Araki's ode to the rudderless youth of the mid-to-late '90s, but to love the living secretion out of it. Each time I begrudgingly sat down to watch it, I'd come away more enriched than you could imagine. It's like I'm infected with a disease, except instead of abstaining from the causation, I would bathe my eyes in its abhorrent life force, get swept in the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and find myself quoting the swollen-headed characters' adroit put downs and their hyperbolic proclamations of love like a mindless fiend. Yeah, I guess some of the dialogue was overly clever at times, but I'd rather something be clever than be whatever the opposite of clever is.

Besides, I love it when women (and men) refer to each others genitalia using saucy, unorthodox language.

Now normally, this is where I'd pretend the story was too labyrinthian for my puny brain to handle. But in the case of Nowhere, there's hardly anything for me to grasp at in order to falsify a compelling yarn. And I think that was Araki's intention. The best way to represent teen angst gone awry is to strip away all pretense and present the characters in the most raw manner possible. Sure, the alien subplot flies in the face of this minimalist attitude, but the words "alien" and "alienation" don't just sound similar and share some of the same letters, they represent an all-embracing bumptiousness that shapes the idiosyncratic young people that populate this die now, live later culture.

In reality, the film is about a bunch of drug addicts, part-time high school students, musicians, and amateur filmmakers who plan on congregating at a party being thrown by a fella named Jujyfruit (Gibby Haynes). Until then, some pass the time by eavesdropping on a trio of valley chicks waiting for a bus (a totally awesome cameo by Traci Lords, Shannen Doherty, and Rose McGowan) and exchanging pleasantries with deceptively genial teen idols from Tasmania. While others engage in femdom activities that involve spanking, crotches slathered in chocolate, and rough coitus where the words "Mommy" and "Daddy" are not used as safe words.

The cast is so enormous in scope, that it takes the entirety of Slowdive's "Avalyn II" just to list the principle players. So, I'll just focus on a fistful of the many fleshy parts that are sprinkled throughout this film. The main pairing (most of the "plots" are told via pairs) are Dark and Mel (James Duvall and Rachel True). The two begin to drift apart when fellow young person, Montgomery (Nathan Bexton), starts to show up in Dark's spank bank, the budding Clive Barker usually has Mel and dominatrixes Kriss and Kozy (Chiara Mastroianni and Debi Mazar) deposited in there. Mel, on the other hand, is spending an awfully lot of time with Lucifer (Kathleen Robertson), a feisty lesbian who utters the films tastiest insults. Plus, her reaction to a skinheaded partygoer that asks if he can "jizz on her face" was pretty sweet.

This little nugget of plot may drive the film forward, but it is by no means the most interesting of the lot. For example, the one where Shad (Ryan Phillippe) and Lilith (Heather Graham), a couple of death-obsessed sex addicts, are seen constantly mock eating each others faces has its moments. As do the underage adventures of Zoe (Mena Suvari) and Joshua Gibran Mayweather's Zero, and the drug addiction bit with Cowboy (Guillermo Díaz) and Bart (Jeremy Jordan) caused me to feel somewhat sad.

However, it was the brief encounters between Christina Applegate's Dingbat and Scott Caan's Ducky that proved most interesting. I don't know, but there's something fascinating about the way Miss Applegate plays Dingbat. Maybe it's the braces and the funky kitty-cat t-shirt, or maybe it was the clueless expression she is constantly wearing on her face. Well, whatever it is, she made my spirit soar. A rare occurrence in a film that features a man killing another man with a can of tomato soup.

The Nowhere soundtrack is one the best and most eclectic of the decade. Writer-director Gregg Araki, no doubt mining the contents of his own personal record collection, fills the air with wide array of alternative music styles. Everything from industrial dance (Coil, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Nitzer Ebb, Nine Inch Nails - a cover of Soft Cell's "Memorabillia") to old school shoegazer (Lush, Mojave 3, Seefeel) and Brit Pop (Suede, Elastica, Blur) is featured in this movie. Hell, even freaking Stacey Q manages to make her way into the mix.

Oh, and I like how even though the film is set in 1997, Araki somehow manages to make it seem like grunge rock never happened.



  1. I still wanna see this, but I still can't find a copy. Netflix doesn't have it and needless to say neither do any of the other stores around here.

  2. The only way to purchase this is on a R2 DVD. Worth it though. I found Nowhere to be Araki's most accomplished film of sex/drugs/madness.

  3. This movie affected me like no other before or since!!

  4. Also check Araki's The Doom Generation starring McGowan and Duval - similarly naff but fascinating:

  5. Check also Araki's The Doom Generation:

  6. It's only available in most places as a VHS, but I'd recommend it. It seems like it was meant only for VHS, a true relic of the 90s. :)