Living End, The: Araki’s Queer Saga–Text and Context

Gregg Araki’s The Living End premiered at the 1992 Sundance Film Fest alongside Tom Kalin’s “Swoon,” Christopher Munch’s “The Hours and Times,” and Derek Jarman’s “Edward II, reflecting what became known as the New Queer Cinema.

The 2008 Sundance Film Fest will show a newly remastered version of Araki’s “The Living End,” still his most significant film in a career spanning three decades.

Says Araki: Like its cinematic siblings, ‘The Living End’ is very much a product of a specific era,a flashpoint in the social-cultural-political timeline that seems from the vantage point of today like a very long time ago. With AIDS robbing the world of an entire generation, the late 1980s/early 1990s was a period of tremendous despair, confusion, fear, uncertainty and anger. An anger that propelled people into the streets to yell, chant, march, stage die-ins and generally rage against the machine.

“Everybody at that time was dealing with their feelings about the pandemic in his/her own way. My way was to make a tiny $20,000 16mm movie an irresponsible rant that was equal parts personal protest, Godard-influenced art film, and Couple-on-the-Run genre romance.

As for this freshly remastered and remixed version, it really is almost like a brand new movie for me and I’m so excited about it. “The Living End” has never been properly released on DVD–the existing transfer is an atrocious, cheaply made copy from the VHS (which is rumored to even jump out of the projector gate at a certain point!). It’s always been a sort of private nightmare for me–especially considering the fact that I’ve heard the film gets shown regularly in various university courses all around the country.

Happily, Strand Releasing, Fortissimo Films and I were able to do what we did with “Totally F***ed Up” a couple years ago only we took it even a few steps further for this particular new, improved “Directors Edition”. We went back to the original 16mm IP, re-telecined and re-color-timed the film in pristine and gorgeous HD, did extensive dirt, hair, scratch and glue stain removal (and in 16mm those glitches are BIG). Best of all, we were able to completely remix and re-sound-design the entire movie from its original stems in awesome 5.1 surround sound.

Technology today is light years ahead of where it was when we did “Living End” original 16mm sound mix (which was crude and primitive to say the least) so it was almost like making a new movie. Of course, the film itself is essentially the same–it hasn’t been edited in any way or lost any of its raw, rough-and-tumble “guerrilla” charm. It’s just a technically less bumpy and much more cinematic and effective ride. And I couldn’t be more thrilled or honored to present it at Sundance again after all these years.