Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

Mysterious Skin 2004

Directed by Gregg Araki

Gregg Araki’s punk cartoon-book approach to directing live action is remarkably right for this bracingly direct film about getting over child abuse.

USA In English
99 minutes 35mm

Director, Editor


Gregg Araki. Based on the novel by Scott Heim


Steve Gainer


Harold Budd
Robin Guthrie


Brady Corbett
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Michelle Trachtenberg
Bill Sage
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Elisabeth Shue


Venice, Toronto 2004; Sundance, Rotterdam, Sydney 2005


Gregg Araki’s punk cartoon-book approach to directing live action is remarkably right for this fine, frank film about getting over child abuse. In bold, clear strokes he depicts the radically different sexual trajectories of two young men who have been subjected, as eight-year-olds, to the sorry appetites of a charismatic sports coach. One boy was clearly attracted to his abuser, the other so totally thrown off course by the experience that he believes he was elsewhere at the time, kidnapped by aliens. Ten years later the former is a remorseless young stud, hawking his body to older men in NYC, while the latter remains in small-town Kansas, a gawky, virginal UFO geek. With insight and a sharp awareness of the perversities of desire, Araki manouevres them (and us) towards cathartic recognition of the damage done. Araki’s raucous identification with the young and sexed-up in such key 90s items as Doom Generation and The Living End has ripened into something much more complicated and interesting.

“A gorgeous, heartbreaking and utterly convincing work of art. Its characters stay with you, and by concentrating on the lives of two very different young men, it seems effortlessly to illuminate a period and a milieu. To say that it is about child abuse is accurate, but incomplete. It is about the Midwest, about friendship, about the connections and disconnections between love and sex, and about a great deal more, all of it handled with clarity, simplicity and rare generosity of spirit.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times