Interview: Gregg Araki, Director of KABOOM

Matt here... With the raunchy teen mystery Kaboom out in UK cinemas on Friday, our very own Ian Hylands sat down with the Mysterious Skin director to talk about sex, cinema and how much OWF's Simon Gallagher loves him. Actually I was with Simon in Cannes last year when the movie played to an unexpected crowd and the audience was just with it all the way as it descended further and further into Gregg Araki's unique form of madness. No other screening during that festival would bring about as much discussion as Kaboom. It's a movie definitely worth catching as it's quite unlike anything you've ever seen before... OWF: Could you tell us a bit about how the project got started?
Gregg Araki: I really wanted to make a movie that was completely outside the box because there's really no movies made like 'Kaboom' anymore. Given the marketplace and given the way indie films are financed and distributed, it's very difficult to make a movie like 'Kaboom' that doesn't really fit into a genre, that isn't like everything else. And as a filmgoer I get kind of bored of everything being from the same formula and so predictable. So I wanted to make an old-fashioned cult movie that was kind of crazy, kind of wild and really marched to its own drummer. When I was writing it I specifically created it in a way that was uncensored. I just let the story and the characters go wherever they were going to go. I never worried about whether it was commercial or marketable, or whether it had too many tones, too many themes or genres, or whether it was going too far. I didn't really question myself in any of those sort of practical film industries ways, I just let it be creatively free-spirited. It was very liberating and exhilarating to write and to make.
OWF: Was it that free-spiritedness that attracted your great cast do you think?
GA: Well the cast was this whole generation of young actors who are all artists and want to do something that's new and challenging, and not just the same old stuff. Because if you're a 2- year-old actor in Hollywood the roles offered are pretty limited to some Disney movie or 'Twilight', or classic horror, you know? When you're that age the parts don't usually go to the places that 'Kaboom' goes to. So the actors were really excited.
OWF: Another of our writers, Simon Gallagher, asked me to tell you that you're a genius...
GA: Oh! Thank you very much Simon.
OWF: And he also wanted me to ask whether James Duval, who is in a lot of your movies, is your muse?
GA: Jimmy's a friend of mine and I wrote the part of The Messiah just for him, and it's such a fun character for him to play because he gets to essentially be two characters, so it was awesome to work with Jimmy again.
OWF: Going back to something you said earlier, I know you've written this without specific genres or styles in mind but I felt a bit of a Twin Peaks influence in there and I wondered if that was right...
GA: 'Twin Peaks' had a huge impact on me as a filmmaker in general, but this movie in particular was a the 'Twin peaks' style mystery I've been wanting to make for years and years. It was really exciting to be able to make a kind of dark, strange, unsettling mystery and the Red-Haired Girl was the Laura Palmer of the movie, and that was very very intentional.
OWF: There are a lot of characters in there with something about them, are there any which you'd like to pick up and play with again?
GA: It's interesting because 'Kaboom' was originally conceived of as a TV series pilot and through the years it eventually morphed into the three-act film it is today. But people have commented before that it feels like a whole season of a TV show crammed into 83 minutes and in that way, in the deleted scenes which will be on the DVD there was a whole sub plot involving the Thor character which we had to cut out of the movie. It absolutely killed me because it was one of my favourite part of the movie and had some of my favourite scenes in the movie. So there's definitely room within the 'Kaboom' mythology to take all those characters, like Lorelei with all her powers, and make more adventures. If it was a TV show it'd be great to explore those things.
OWF: While we're talking about formats, I'd like to pick up on something Smith said in the film. He said, "film is dead", is that something you believe?
GA: It's not necessarily something I believe, but I share his anxiety. There's a lot of autobiographical elements to 'Kaboom'. Smith is very much based on myself as a film student at UC Santa Barbara which is where the school in "Kaboom' is based and my best friend was an artist, just like Stella. So a lot of that is autobiographical, and his ruminations on cinema and the future of cinema are thoughts that I share. Because I love cinema and the great auteurs of cinema, I share his anxiety that it might not exist anymore.
OWF: There was also the scene where Smith is watching the famous scenes from Bunuel's 'Un Chien Andalou', what made you choose those scenes?
GA: When we were putting the movie together I knew that we had to put a classic film text in, and when we cut that particular clip in it just fit so perfectly with the tone of the movie. Because it's so David Lynch influenced and David Lynch is so Bunuel influenced, and the surreal aspects certainly of the Bunuel imagery were really so in mind thematically with what the film was about. There's this one amazing shot in the Bunuel film where there's the woman just lying in the street, and that was exactly like the Red-Haired Girl with that moment of dread and 'oh my God, what's happened to that beautiful woman?'
OWF: We've talked about the intellectual side of the film, but it's also pretty sexy. Were there any sexy films that influenced you in making this?
GA: Just in general 'Kaboom' is very different from the bulk of American films in that it has a very positive attitude to sex and sexuality. American cinema tends to be so puritanical and hypocritical when it comes to sex and it was really important to me that the movie view sex without judgement and without the negative baggage of guilt and regret and punishment. The movie being about characters at this age where they're tender, but vulnerable and exciting, and so much is happening to as you have these adventures and crazy escapades, and I wanted the film to embrace that and not judge it in any way; and to see it as a constructive thing.
OWF: Was it difficult then not to make Lorelei into some sort of crazed loser in love?
GA: (Laughs) Well she was the dark side of it, the one who you're like 'don't go there'! But I loved the London character and Juno Temple and I had lots of discussions about her because I didn't just want her to be a slut. To me she's such an interesting free spirit, and the way the film views her in being so sexual, and being so honest in her sexuality, and also the way she views sex as a way of living life and finding out about herself, I just love that character and how Juno portrayed her and brought that out.
OWF: The film's called 'Kaboom', so if you could blow one thing in the world up, what would it be?
GA: If I could eliminate one thing in the world it'd be this... Well, in American there's just a certain level of backwards, ignorant, intolerant people and it shocks me that they still exist in 2011. These racist, homophobic, uneducated people and it's sad that they exist.
OWF: So you'd blow up negative preconceptions?
GA: Negative preconceptions... or just ignorant people!
Kaboom is released in the U.K. this friday.
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