Interview: Gregg Araki / Kaboom
[FILM] A beautiful, bent fantasy from Gregg Araki
By Matthew Pejkovic
Gregg Araki has been a pivotal player in the New Queer Cinema movement since his 1992 film The Living End was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Almost 20 years on, Araki continues to create provocative independent cinema. His latest film, Kaboom, is a mish-mash of genre, sass and visual spectacle that won the first ever Queer Palm at Cannes Film Festival last year.
Kaboom stars Thomas Dekker (My Sister’s Keeper) as Smith, an 18-year-old film student whose sexual awakening contrasts with a bizarre set of circumstances involving a mysterious cult with aspirations of world domination. While the film often retreats to the fantastical, with a whole lot of loony sci-fi interwoven throughout, Araki says Kaboom may be his most personal work yet.
“It sounds crazy to say it, because the movie is so wacky and insane, but it’s kind of my most autobiographical movie ever made, in the sense that a lot of it is kind of my recollection of being an undergraduate film student in Santa Barbara,” Araki explains.
“I’ve been wanting for years to do a dark, sort of David-Lynch-inspired kind of mystery; a paranoid thriller involving cults, and all of that. So it was a combination of both of those inspirations – putting them together and coming up with a story that was a sprawling, kind of apocalyptic epic, but also gels with that time in your life when everything was sort of, ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen.’”
With his last two features (Mysterious Skin and Smiley Face) based on existing texts, Araki saw Kaboom as an opportunity to tap into his creative juices and create a whole new kind of original story. “I was really interested in doing something that was really outside the expected genre. To me Kaboom is kind of a smaller movie, and I really wanted it to be limitless and let my imagination go all in, and not worry about if this is getting too weird, or if these sex scenes are going too far, and just let the characters and the story get wild, crazy, and free spirited as they would, without deluding or keeping it down in terms of what people’s expectations might be. Just have fun with it, which is what I first set out to have with this movie.”
Araki also lets fly with Kaboom’s trip-induced science fiction and supernatural elements, finding inspiration from cinematic master of the surreal, David Lynch. “All of my movies have always had that influence [from Lynch], but this is the movie that most relates to his films, particularly the TV series Twin Peaks. I was in college when that show came out, and it had a really profound effect on me.”
In Smith, Araki has created a cinematic alter-ego. Yet while the director was not as adventurous as his character, his time as a film student in university still holds a powerful influence on his life and work.
“There’s obviously a lot of fictionalising. I was not involved with the occult, and I certainly didn’t have as much sex as Smith has in the movie,” Araki laughs. “But there are elements of that time in my life, heaps of moments that are very, very personal for me. The scene where Smith is in the club listening to music, and the look on his face as the music is taking him to this other place – all that is very personal and profound to me”.
What: Kaboom, Dir. Gregg Araki
When: Opens March 24
Where: Chauvel Cinema