Why I watched it : Thomas Dekker is in it + I remember hearing from it during Cannes’ Film Festival.

Who is in it :

Written and directed and produced by : Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin (2004) with J. Gordon-Levitt, and the Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy [Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation & Nowhere])

Smith : Thomas Dekker (Mostly know for taking the role of John Connor on the missed, short-lived Terminator : Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) or as the cheerleader’s friend in the Season 1 of Heroes (2007). I’ve been following him since he played brainy Nick Szalinski on Honey I shrunk the kids, the TV show(1997))

Stella : Haley Bennett (who played the role of the diva Cora in Music and Lyrics (2007))

London : Juno Temple (daughter of British film, documentary and music video director, Julien Temple)… It bugged me for while because I couldn’t remember who she reminded me of … turns out (I think) she has quite similar facial expressions to Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy).

Thor : Chris Zylka (who played an equally smart character on 10 Things I Hate About You (TV show, 2008))

Smith’s mom : Kelly Lynch (former Elite model who was the evil Vivian Wood in Charlie’s Angels (2000) and now is Ivy’s mom in 90210 (2008))

Picture from the opening scene

What it is : Apparently a comedy, though despite the witty dialogues, I wouldn’t really categorize this movie as “funny”, and a bit of Sci-Fi. The first time, nobody laughed in the room, but the second time people were laughing for most of the movie (even at some points when I couldn’t find anything to laugh about ! It is quite disturbing and I kept thinking “I must have missed something” … maybe I should go again !)

What it is about : Smith is an 18-year-old college freshman who spends most of his days hanging out with his arty, sarcastic “Partner-in-crime” Stella. His “un-declared” sexuality leads him to hook up with a beautiful free spirit named London, but he really has only eyes for his gorgeous-but-dim surfer roommate, Thor. After a party involving space cookies, all gets turned upside-down when Smith is certain of witnessing the murder of a red-haired girl. As he searches for the truth he uncovers information that will change not only his life, but also the fate of mankind.

What I liked about it : I liked how the story’s conspiracy includes secret society/sects, a possible World War 3 and the end of the world all in very believable manner even though we could have lived without the witch/supernatural powers part (the “premonitory” dream would have been enough), but is somehow (briefly) justified.

As for the photography, I really liked every aspects of it. There many shots showing just Dekker alone with quite some space around him, the old-school divided screen whenever there’s a phone conversation, the original transitions from one abruptly-ended scene to another …

Weirdly enough, though sex is a big part of the story, it is not the part I remember the most. Okay everybody sleeps with everybody, which is apparently quite common on American campuses, but is always used in a funny way, as an excuse for funny dialogues. (see quotes below)

I was amazed by the intensity of the light and colors throughout the movie. Araki likes to enhance to idea that this all a hallucination, using either very bright lighting or flickering lights. The colors are flashy and intense : bright red, green, blues… even Dekker’s naturally blue eye color has been enhanced using flashy blue contact lenses (see picture above). This lighting really contributes to the “gay” ambiance of the movie. I also noticed that the lights are always either bright or flickering except when the bad guys show up.

The combination of lighting, color and music really conveys the confusion inside Smith’s head and contrasts with all the stress and tension of the story, making it even more intense to live.

This might be a bit of a spoilers so caution ! At the end they talk about a group of Resistance and about Day Zero … which reminds me a little of THE resistance which is trying to avoid Judgment Day ! Particularly funny, since Thomas Dekker used to play John Connor !

I loved that someone really had fun with the names ! Every single one of them has some signification ! It only occurred to me the second time I went to see the movie, here’s what I caught :

Smith : Most common last name in English-speaking countries. It could also be linked to the famous Mr Smith from the Matrix trilogy.

Stella : derives from stellar, anything to do with the stars … either that or the character/famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire.

London : like, well, the city… especially funny since the actress is British, so it feels more like a nickname.

Lorelei : according to Smith’s explanation, she’s the siren who lures sailors into crashing their boats, but I couldn’t find any mention of that anywhere… Researches usually link back to the WB’s Gilmore Girls series !

Thor : either like the god or like Stan Lee’s comic character

Hunter : … self-explanatory

Madeleine O’Hara: a French pastry, can be linked to the “Madeleine de Proust” which a famous example of involuntary memories. As for her family name well… does anybody remember a Scarlett O’Hara ? Scarlett or scarlet … like the color of the character’s hair. It’s the only character with a last name…

Rex : Either you know the Austrian series, then it would remind you of a detective dog (!), or you remember your latin classes and realize it means king … your pick…

Messiah : usually used to refer to Jesus Christ (see quotes)

Oliver : olive tree… Like Messiah, it could be liked to Christianity and the olive branches used at the Pentecost.

Milo : reminds me of an armless sculpture… or an actor in Heroes ! (Milo Ventimiglia).

Rebecca Novak : Rebecca was a prophetess in the Hebrew bible or one of the four Jewish matriarchs. Novak is one of the most popular surnames in many Slavic countries and translates into “new man”, “newcomer” or “stranger” in English. The name was often given to someone who came to a new city, or a convert to Christianity. So again something to do with religion…

I have noticed that neither the mother nor the father have a first (or last) name.

The movie gets extra points for an original murder : stabbing someone with a knife in the forehead.

Quotes : Since the movie is quite recent I can’t find anything, but the second time I took some notes !

London : “You, me, intercourse ? yes, no ?” (Smith doesn’t answer) “Whatever, I’ll drive !”

London : “I have this huge exam on Monday and I was thinking I could really used a good orgasm” (After sex) “Thanks I needed that !”

Stella : “You meet some guy on a nude beach and 5 minutes later you’re downloading his hard drive in the back of his van ? You’re a slut !”

Stella : (After Messiah scares her) “Messiah ?! Jesus ! You gave me a heart attack !”

Soundtrack : Apparently I missed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the first time I went … sorry about that! Other than that, there is a lot of made-for-the-movie music, though the band they go see, Helen Stellar (heard on the Elizabethtown soundtrack. Check them out here http://helenstellar.net and here http://www.myspace.com/helenstellar), is real. The most commercial song you can hear is Bitter End by Placebo, very wisely used at the appropriate time in the story. I was amazed by how fast the end credits are shown so that they end during the song, whereas most movies need at least 1 & 1/2 to 2 songs.

Trivia : The movie premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it was awarded the first ever “Queer Palm” for its contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues.

Advertisement : A première at Cannes’ Film Festival, a special prize and a renowned director are definitely sufficient to create a buzz about this film.