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The Living End Lives Again

The Living End Lives Again


Gregg Araki's sexy and angry AIDS road movie hits DVD in a revamped new edition.

Young people today can't even imagine what it was like to be gay in the late '80s and early '90s, when people were dying every day all around you and it felt like a war zone," recalls writer-director Gregg Araki, whose breakthrough movie The Living End remains one of the smartest and sexiest documents of the early years of the AIDS pandemic.

Of all the movies considered part of the New Queer Cinema movement, The Living End most directly and angrily confronted the impact of that era on queer people, but it eschewed preaching and sentimentality for hot HIV-positive guys on the lam (Craig Gilmore and Mike Dytri)--with plenty of sex, anarchy, and guns, set to a dark and driving post-punk soundtrack.

That soundtrack has never sounded better, and Araki's 16-mm cinematography has never looked clearer than on The Living End: Remixed and Remastered , coming to DVD April 29 (Strand Releasing Home Video, $27.99). After working similar magic on the audio and picture of his Totally F***ed Up, Araki and the folks from Strand have souped up his early masterpiece at a cost exceeding the initial budget for the film. New details abound, from more audible dialogue to little visual details like the 45 of the theme to pioneering Hollywood gay film Making Love (pretty much

The Living End's polar opposite) on display in a character's room.

While enough time has passed to make The Living End almost a historical document of a specific time and place in queer history, Araki didn't intend to make an archival piece. "The film was a $20,000 art project that me and a handful of friends -- literally a handful -- got together and made," remembers the director, who went on to make such indie hits as The Doom Generation and Mysterious Skin, "which was a very personal response to what was going on at the time. We had no idea the international impact the film would end up having."

Strand Releasing copresident Marcus Hu, who was one of The Living End's producers, recalls that in 1992, when the film was released, there was a real sense of urgency and community that's disappeared today. "It's been replaced with fighting for the right to marry; the LGBT community seems more concerned with having children," says Hu. "We are more educated about AIDS and HIV, and an era of sexuality died with it. Gay life seems so much more complacent."

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