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#194556 - 12/09/07 10:53 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Still]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Rob,

For the time being I think that's an excellent idea!

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#194569 - 12/09/07 12:46 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Still]
Jarrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
so after this post, i decided to re-read the book. i am more familliar with the movie. i forgot that he finds the porn mags under the bed before coach is in the picture. he is already attracted to men but at that point doesnt know what it means. in the movie tho, i think he finds the porn after? the book paints a clearer picture of his sexuality. thats the moral of the story. haha and yes i already have the neil's gay banner printed out. but i just wanted to share.


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#194603 - 12/09/07 07:28 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Jarrad]
Logan Offline
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Registered: 04/05/03
Posts: 1205
Loc: NY
I think thats a smart play, Rob.

MemoryV, You nailed it on the head, it is not a feel good movie, it is depressing; an accurate de>
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#194842 - 12/11/07 05:51 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Jarrad]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Jarrad,

Originally Posted By: Jarrad
so after this post, i decided to re-read the book. i am more familliar with the movie.


Me too. There have been WAY too many times when someone has commented on some aspect of the book that I had entirely forgotten. But one thing we have to remember is that Gregg Araki creates his own "Neil" through the ways in which he deviates from Scott Heim's book. All those changes are conscious decisions and reflect a vision of Neil that Araki wants to convey.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#194854 - 12/11/07 07:24 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
Jarrad Offline
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MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
larry, totally agree. i love reading and analysing shit. i was a kick ass thesis writer in school. i miss it. this post is kinda like that. the best books are open ended enough to draw your own conlusions and allow you to argue the shit out of it \:\)


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#194866 - 12/11/07 08:09 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Jarrad]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Jarrad,

That's what makes a great book, or a great film - it's ability to speak to many different people and points of view, even in different places and different times.

The film version of Mysterious Skin is indeed something I would call great, but I'm not sure about the book yet.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#194867 - 12/11/07 08:11 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
Jarrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
i think the book is great only because it speaks to me. not because it is a great piece of literature.


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#283032 - 04/10/09 12:29 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
king tut Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/13/08
Posts: 2465
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: roadrunner
*****Triggers*****

Guys,

I am writing a book on the way CSA of males is portrayed in world cinema, and the chapter on Mysterious Skin is one I have finished. Here it is, for those who are interested. The formatting has gone all kaflooey, of course, but never mind.

*****

41

Mysterious Skin



Overview


Director: Gregg Araki
Writers: Scott Heim (novel)
Gregg Araki (screenplay)
Company: Desperate Pictures
Release date: 2004
Country: USA, Netherlands
Language: English
Color: Color
Run time: 99 minutes
Certification: Argentina, 13; Australia, R; Brazil, 18; Canada, R (Alberta, British Columbia), 18A (Manitoba, Ontario), 16+ (Quebec), Finland, K18; Germany, 18; Ireland, 18; Italy, VM14; Netherlands, 16; New Zealand, R18; Portugal, M18; Singapore, R21; Sweden, 15; Switzerland, 16 (canton of Geneva), 16 (canton of Vaud); UK, 18; USA, NC-17, unrated (DVD).
Main cast:
Young Brian George Webster
Young Neil Chase Ellison
Neil McCormick Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Brian Lackey Brady Corbet
Coach Bill Sage
Eric Jeffrey Licon
Wendy Michelle Trachtenberg
Mrs McCormick Elisabeth Shue
Mrs Lackey Lisa Long
Mr Lackey Chris Mulkey


Synopsis

The film, based on the novel of the same title by Scott Heim, introduces us to two teenagers, Brian and Neil, living in or near Hutchinson, a small Kansas town and in fact Heim’s hometown. The two boys were members of the local Little League baseball team and were sexually abused by their coach at the age of 8. Their reactions to the abuse are very different. Brian has blocked out his memories; he recalls only that he was sitting on the bench as a baseball game was called because of rain, and then five hours later he was in the crawl space under his house with a nosebleed. But the attack changes his life. He becomes a shy, nervous, awkward boy who fears the dark, wets his bed, and has terrible nightmares of being touched and handled. His social skills are very limited and he is afraid to relate to the world around him. His developing sexual feelings horrify him, and he finds it impossible to date or relate to girls emotionally or sexually.

Neil, on the other hand, remembers everything. Continuing to think as the manipulated and betrayed child, he cherishes his memories of “Coach” and views their relationship as one in which he was special to and loved by an adult he respected and admired. Once deprived of that relationship he gradually comes to feel emotionally empty and unlovable and becomes rebellious and callously indifferent to those around him. Desperately lonely and yearning to find meaning in his life in a world that seems to offer him nothing, he begins to seek sexual contacts with adult men in an effort to recreate the relationship he had with Coach.

The turmoil shaping the lives of the two teenagers, who no longer know each other, takes them to emotional and dangerous extremes. Brian becomes fascinated by outer space and the idea of alien visits to earth. He meets an older woman with similar interests and becomes increasing convinced that abduction by aliens explains his blackouts and dreams. But this only brings him face to face with his inability to relate to the woman sexually, and his dreams become more intense and he begins to experience flashbacks. He feels there is another boy with him in the dreams, but he cannot identify him. Neil, meanwhile, still desperately seeking to use sex to regain his old feelings of belonging and worth, collapses emotionally and becomes a hustler proud of the fact that there is no customer in town whose needs he hasn’t serviced. The two boys experience the two extremes of the continuing impact of child abuse: Brian is tormented by his inability to remember, Neil by his inability to forget.

The two boys, each unaware of the other’s existence, both pursue answers to their questions in ways that will ultimately bring them together. Brian’s dreams of being touched by aliens begin to focus on a face he recognizes from the group photo of his Little League team. Having identified this boy as Neil, he begins to search for him, certain that he must know the truth. Neil, on the other hand, has gone to New York, where his life as a hustler exposes him to increasing levels of dehumanization, danger and violence. Brutally raped and beaten in one especially horrific incident, he discovers at last that the meaning for which he searches will never be found in prostitution. Allowing himself to feel his pain at last, and acknowledging the danger to which he has been exposing himself, he returns home for the Christmas holidays, knowing that Brian has been looking for him.

At the climax of the film the two boys meet on Christmas Eve and Neil immediately recognizes Brian as one of the other boys Coach had abused. Neil finally realizes that he was never special to Coach: the adult simply used him for his own gratification and as a prop to attract, reassure and confuse other boys. He reveals all to Brian, and the two, having guided each other to the truth at last, cling to each other in shocked silence as the film ends.


Critique

This film is a coming-of-age tale that some would have regarded as doubtful from the start. The director, Gregg Araki, had been responsible for a series of much-criticized gay productions, and his leading actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was best known before this film for his role as “Tommy” in the American sitcom “Third Rock from the Sun”. What emerges from this collaboration, however, is nothing short of a cinema classic.

Araki proves himself a director of deep compassion and sensitivity who is able to deal with the horrific dimensions and consequences of child abuse, directly and without compromises, while avoiding the temptation to vulgarize and cheapen his subject. But the show is entirely stolen by Gordon-Levitt, whose portrayal of Neil brings to cinema a harrowingly tragic and accurate image of the devastation a molested boy can suffer for years after the abuse ends. Brady Corbet also gives an excellent performance of the character of the vulnerable and sensitive Brian, and accurately conveys some sense of the confusion and apprehension that would be typical of an abused boy who has lost memories of what happened to him but still senses that something is terribly wrong.

The basic subject matter of the film – the cruel and treacherous abuse of two eight-year-old boys by a coach they should have been able to trust – is handled with sensitivity and compassion, and tension is allowed to build as the lives of the two youths develop and they come closer to discovery of the truth. Sexual scenes involving Neil range from caring to callous to brutal as his own journey of discovery draws to its climax. The supporting cast does an excellent job of filling in the social context and the overall effect is that of a film that conveys its characters as real people rather than as stereotypes. Araki deftly avoids, for example, the temptation to present the residents of Hutchinson as “hicks” and rednecks, while allowing the frustrated teenage characters to vent their own view of the place as a “piss-ant town”.


Survivor Issues

Mysterious Skin is an important film for its portrayal of two contrasting characters: the abused boys who differ so dramatically but are really very much the same. The theme of abuse by a trusted adult the boys know is well developed, and Neil’s emotional disintegration and acting out, as well as Brian’s withdrawal form the world and stunted social development, will ring true for many survivors. The abuse scenes convey with brutal accuracy the insidious way in which curious but innocent boys are lured by pedophiles using strategies of enticement and confusion. Coach’s home is full of games, snacks and fun things to do, and he seeks to put the boys at ease by bringing himself down to the emotional and social level of his victims.

The implicit ending message of the film is that the healing of both Brian and Neil requires that they come to terms with the truth of what really happened to them. The book upon which the film is based in fact ends on a negative note, but Araki abandons this tack and produces a genuinely compassionate conclusion of his own. As Neil holds the trembling and traumatized Brian on Christmas Eve, having revealed all to him, he silently ponders their situation:

"As we sat there I listened to the carollers and I wanted to tell Brian it was all over now and everything would be okay. But that was a lie. Plus I couldn’t speak anyway. I wished there was some way for us to go back and undo the past, but there wasn’t. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and tried to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what had happened. I thought of all the grief and sadness and fucked-up suffering in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart we could just leave this world behind and rise like two angels in the night and magically…disappear."

The idea of the abused boy as an “angel” is a charged one: this is the way Coach referred to Neil when he was abusing him.

The film leaves ambiguous the question of Neil’s sexuality. He thinks he is gay, but it can as easily be argued that he is acting out the abuse scenario of his childhood, seeking to recover not only the feelings of closeness he had with Coach, but also a sense of control over his body and sexuality by re-enacting the abuse in settings where he – and not the abuser – dictates what happens and with whom. Neil’s sexual liaisons are always with customers, never with dates, and he does not, for example, respond to the interest that his gay friend Eric shows in him. In one scene the two return to Neil’s house after a night out drinking; Neil offers Eric marijuana to smoke and a porn video to which he can masturbate, but then lays down on his bed and goes to sleep. The character of Brian is lumbered a bit by the idea that he fears aliens had abducted him. A coping mechanism of this sort is not what one would expect from an abused boy, though graphic and even highly symbolic nightmares are common.

As in many films, this one fails to indicate that there is hope for survivors and prospect for recovery. As the film ends one is left with the impression that while Neil and Brian now at least have each other, they are doomed to their trauma and pain as continuing and defining features in their lives.


Use of Underage Actors

The characters of Neil and Brian as eight-year-olds were played by Chase Ellison, who was ten when he played the role of young Neil, and George Webster, who was nine when he played the role of young Brian. Ellison is an experienced child actor with many credits in television, while Webster appears to have been a newcomer.

The film’s producers stressed that the boys were not shown the complete>
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I love you, little lewis, and i will never leave you. We are the same. You brighten my day, and i will make sure that i brighten yours. Hugs and kisses.


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#283049 - 04/10/09 04:19 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: king tut]
myboyhoodfears Offline


Registered: 03/13/09
Posts: 457
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Edited by myboyhoodfears (08/31/09 10:52 AM)
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#283060 - 04/10/09 07:56 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: myboyhoodfears]
ComicBookGuy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 443
Loc: London, England
I watched MS when disassociated in 2006 and have to credit it with being the film that helped break down the barriers - though at the time it was just another movie to watch on my cinema sub>


Edited by ComicBookGuy (04/10/09 08:40 PM)
Edit Reason: missing words
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