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Films & boeken

The most beautiful thing of “Mysterious Skin” is undoubtedly leading actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a fantastic actor and a horny young man. His seductive look will drive many gay gentlemen crazy, as he does as a gay hustler in the movie. The story: a sporting coach has sexual contact with two of his pupils who are eight years old at the time. With one boy, Brian, it’s a one-time affair and the boy blocks it completely in his memory.

door Gert Hekma - 25 november 2005

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Ambivalent view on pedophile relations in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin

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After the incident he comes home and can’t remember where he’s been. He thinks the demons that come to haunt him since, are creatures from Mars who supposedly have abducted him for a short period. Brady Corbet plays this part nicely but the character is completely not interesting and fortunately we don’t get a lot of information on his experiences.

The other boy, Neil, has a longer relationship with the coach and has pleasant memories of it. As a youngster he relives the relationship by sharing his bed with men who are older than he is. He discovers the world of gay prostitution in Kansas, where it all started, but he soon realizes that paradise, and substantial money are to be found in New York. We see him in various relationships with men, amongst which an AIDS patient. Another contact is less fortunate: the client obviously hates himself and bashes Neil badly. With Christmas Neil returns to his mother and another queer friend in Kansas. Via friends he meets Brian, which leads to a rather bizarre ending of the movie.

The movie, directed by Gregg Araki, is about pedophile affairs, and it’s hard to paint a pretty picture about this in America’s current anti pedophile climate. The strange ending of the movie can be seen as giving in to the American morale. Other than that the movie is not very negative at all about pedophile affairs. Neil has fond memories of the coach who has led him to his life of prostitution. Of course, this answers to the preconception that many prostitutes choose this life after having been abused. But in this movie Neil is no victim at all. He does his work with a certain love. The violent bashing scene by a client can be seen as a realistic situation as well as a moral condemnation of prostitution.

The Dutch critics are just as ambivalent as the movie itself. While the daily newspaper “Het Parool” stresses the anti pedophile aspects, the “Gaykrant” critic describes the nuances. I think it would be nice if you decided for yourself what the ultimate message of the movie is. Or is the ultimate message of the movie about beauty, because not only is Neil a wonderful horn bag, played by a gorgeous actor, the other images in the movie are delightful as well!
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Ambivalent view on pedophile relations in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin

Gert Hekma, in Films & boeken op 27 november 2020
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