The Living End
Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring Mike Dytri, Craig Gilmore, Darcy Marta, Scot Goetz, Mary Woronov, Johanna Went. (1992, NR, 92 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 13, 1992
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, and for the two HIV-positive men in The Living End, the existence of an unwelcome virus in their bodies is both liberating and damning. Emotionally urgent, The Living End excites you about the state of independent filmmaking; it's a road movie that leaves a skid mark on the psyche. Director-screenwriter Araki taps into something very primal in the film's depiction of its two opposites that attract - the sedate Jon, a writer who lives his life according to the rules until he tests positive, and the seductive Luke, a hustler who takes him on an existential joyride that presses the envelope of so-called rational behavior. All comparisons to Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise aside, these lovers are thrown together by freak circumstance and divine providence: their seropositivity and what it might mean for them in the future. If The Living End is to be faulted, it's for the distractions in its periphery: killer lesbians, hysterical wives, violent fagbashers, and various other non sequiturs. Although the inclusion of the tertiary characters appears calculated to illustrate -- to borrow from David Lynch's Blue Velvet -- that it's a strange world, they instead dilute the momentum of Jon and Luke's story. After all, the existence of a submicroscopic virus that can destroy your immune system is proof enough of what a strange world it really is. Certain critics have accused Araki of misogyny in the film's depiction of women -- particularly the lesbians, who pick up the hitchhiking Luke only to want to fuck him and then kill him -- but their passing presence in the film is so misplaced that you find yourself wondering more why they're there, rather than why they're depicted in that fashion. Ignore this narrative flaw and prepare yourself for a raw movie experience. No question: The Living End lives up to its title.