The Living End

DIRECTOR: Gregg Araki

Billed as “An Irresponsible Movie by Gregg Araki,” The Living End would change the future of queer cinema when it was released twenty years ago. Nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992; this revolutionary road trip film continues to leave you spinning even today, especially with the 2008 remixed and remastered version.

Luke is a mischievous and reckless drifter who has HIV. Jon is a somewhat uptight film critic who has just discovered that he’s HIV-positive. They meet rather unconventionally after Luke has a run-in with a trio of gay-bashers. Trouble ensues and problems escalate off the rails, thanks largely to the gun Luke is toting around. They go on a nihilistic and hedonistic road trip; fueled by bottles of whiskey and Luke’s motto: “Fuck the world”. The soundtrack is a stellar collection of ’80s/early ’90s industrial and post-punk gems, which sonically reinforce the manifesto.

Andy Warhol, John Waters and Derek Jarman images and references show up early in the adventure. But nods to Jean Luc Godard run rampant throughout. In many ways, the film is a love letter to the work of Godard and of the French New Wave Cinema of the late ‘60s—which sprang from the context of the anti-war and student movements. With The Living End, Araki establishes himself as a vanguard in what would soon be called “New Queer Cinema” which springs out of the struggle for queer rights and HIV/AIDS activism, wrapped in the fear of potential assimilation, or rather the “Death of Cinema”.

— KEVIN SCHAUB

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