Thursday Screener

Mysterious Skin, Eva and Hypernormalisation
Film+TV | 23 April 2020
This article is part of HERO Dailies – Essential culture, curated daily and also part of Thursday Screener

HERO DAILIES: Essential culture, curated daily
THURSDAY SCREENER: Three films that should be in your watchlist

Mysterious Skin by Gregg Araki, 2004

How do traumatic childhood experiences shape our lives? What, if anything, can we do to re-correct life’s course and how do we reconcile formative years of hurt with a happy future? These are central questions of Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin and the novel of the same name on which it is based, written by Scott Heim. During the summer of 1981, in the seemingly innocuous suburban setting of a city somewhere in middle America, two young boys undergo the same horrific ordeal of abuse by their softball coach.

One (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) confuses the abuse for love and begins to prostitute himself to middle-aged men at the age of fifteen. The other (Brady Corbert) can’t remember the abuse, but as a shy, sexually introverted teen who suffers from chronic blackouts and bed-wetting, bears all the emotional scars.

Though the film stands out from the rest of Araki’s oeuvre, which for the uninitiated, is best described as a psychedelic pubescent thrill-fest, dripping in all manner of bodily fluids, Mysterious Skin sees the cult indie director tone down his signature repertoire. The result is a film that feels more mainstream than the gory, low-budget Teen Apocalypse trilogy, less politically explicit than The Living End (1992) yet no less impactful, with a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt putting in one of the performances of his career.

Read our interview with Gregg Araki from HEROINE 9 here.
Top image: Mysterious Skin dir. Gregg Araki (2004)

Eva by Joseph Losey, 1962

Set in an eerily deserted Venice during Winter, Joseph Losey’s Eva sets an atmospheric vision of 60s European cool. Inside one of the Italian city’s bouncing cavern bars, we’re introduced to an upstart Welsh novelist named Tyvian Jones (Stanley Baker), an incredibly charming Gatsby-esque character with a celebrated novel and beautiful fiancee, but upon meeting the seductive Billie Holiday-loving temptress Eva (Jeanne Moreau), Jones’ alluring persona soon cracks.

Loosely wrapped around the story of Adam & Eve, with all its ensnarement, corruption, desire and deceit, Losey’s stark visual style urges viewers to view characters through mirrors and reflections, questioning their authenticity with a cool, new wave precision. A classic piece of filmmaking that reflects the filmmaking period – we recommend watching with a glass of whiskey to hand.

Hypernormalisation by Adam Curtis, 2016

“We live in a world where the powerful deceive us.” This is the first statement to flash across the trailer for 2016 documentary Hypernormalisation, a blistering examination of our “post-truth world” – and the events that led us to it.

The film’s timeline begins in 1975, and spans a series of key political shifts throughout the world: from Damascus to New York, Curtis leaves no stone unturned in his quest to expose the truth. Expect political scandal, global corruption and a thorough analysis of tactics used to condition the public into the aforementioned state of hypernormalisation – in other words, the willingness to let political chaos be passed off as ‘normal’ – that we still live in today.

Curtis makes pretty masterful use of archive footage to drill this message home. Clips of bomb explosions are fused with grainy clips of everyday scenes, and there’s a deliberate attempt to avoid the lengthy interviews that usually characterise documentaries like these. As a result, the action feels thrilling, fast-paced and genuinely revelatory.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this film will reconfigure the way you think about politics. When this frustrating state of hypernormalisation is laid bare, it’s much easier to avoid being sucked in.

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