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Cannes Review: “Kaboom.”

Cannes Review: “Kaboom.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

“It’s nuttier than squirrel shit,” says college student Stella (Haley Bennett) at one point in Gregg Araki’s latest film, “Kaboom,” a back-to-his-roots, candy-colored cult thriller that is best described, in a similar vein, as “totally fucked up.”

Araki’s 1994 movie of that same name as well as the following years’ installments in his “Teen Apocalypse Trilogy” — “The Doom Generation” and “Nowhere” — loom large over “Kaboom,” which follows the sexual exploits and eerie adventures of one perpetually horny film student, the handsome icy blue-eyed gay-inclined Smith (Thomas Dekker).

Set in Southern California’s “College of Creative Arts” — a hyper-stylized campus of black-walled eating halls, blue-lit dorms and postmodern-windowed structures — Smith’s days are filled with pining for his hot, frequently naked and very heterosexual surfer roommate Thor (Chris Zylka) and hanging around with sassy lesbian gal-pal Stella.

One night, they go to a party, where Smith eats some hallucinogenic cookies, and nothing is ever the same: He meets and screws (multiple times) the sprightly London (Juno Temple), and then, while walking back home, is attacked by three men in black wearing animal masks who stab and kill a red-haired female student. Was it just a bad trip, or is something truly horrible going on in Araki-land?

To clear his head, Smith decides to go a nude beach. As narrated in the film, this is actually pretty funny. The story proceeds along lines of alternating scenes of sultry sex and comedy — both gay and straight — and the unfolding of the film’s ominous, though with tongue firmly planted in cheek, conspiracy plot. While Smith tries to track down the real identity of the red-haired victim, Stella finds herself in a heated romance with Lorelei (Roxane Mesquida), a vampy French beauty with supernatural sexual powers.

05142010_ArakiKaboom4.jpgWhen Stella tries to extricate herself from Lorelei, who may be some sort of witch, weirder shit happens — a mix of frights and humor that work sometimes, and even when they don’t, it doesn’t matter much because Araki isn’t taking any of it too seriously. Like some perverse mix of ’30s screwball comedy and po-mo Gen Next webisode, comic zingers and metaphors continuously fly fast out of the character’s mouths: i.e. “as gay as Clay Aiken” and “it’s a vagina, not a bowl of spaghetti.”

So what’s it all about? Araki drops some hints: the Kinsey Scale that suggests sexual definitions are loose; absent fathers; beautiful young bodies having sex; the curious way snacks are let loose from vending machines; the irony of collapsed grand narratives.

For all of “Kaboom”s silliness, it never transcends it. Sure, some of it’s fun, and the way all the plotlines converge in a ludicrous way suggests knowing parody as opposed to contrivance. But there’s something anachronistic, even irreverent, about the film’s end-results.

That’s part of the fun, like we’ve stepped into a time machine or unearthed a ten-year-old Araki movie. But today, this apocalyptic pastiche doesn’t feel as urgent — or as subversive — as it once did. Perhaps the amusement with which we once imagined the end of the world has lost its luster in our post-9-11, post-economic-collapse epoch. Whatever the reason, “Kaboom” may end with a bang, but it feels like a whimper.

“Kaboom” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Kaboom,” Crispy Films, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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