The Living End is a road movie that captures the aggressive tone of 1990s' Queer activism in a Republican-lead America. Billed ‘an irresponsible film’, the title represents an intense psychological endgame of LA movie critic Jon (Craig Gilmore) and hustler Luke (Mike Dytri), two HIV positive men who hook up and journey into a ‘desolate, quasi-surrealistic American wasteland’ after murdering a homophobic police officer. As their relationship begins to fracture, Luke becomes increasingly obsessed with suicide – a mode reflected in their physical intimacy. Araki’s soundtrack features industrial bands Coil, Psychic TV and KMFDM, framing the film's caustic eroticism and unforgettable nihilism. (Gay Interest)
The Living End, Gregg Araki’s 1992 feature heralded the “New Queer Wave.” A landmark film in independent queer cinema history, this story of two HIV+ guys who hit the road - and embark on a crime spree - was buoyed by Araki’s exciting, anarchic spirit and “F*ck the World” attitude.
The story concerns Jon (Craig Gilmore), a gay film critic who learns in the opening moments that he has tested positive for AIDS. One night, he meets Luke (Mike Dytri), a sexy, cocky and HIV+ bad boy who carries a gun and likes to ****. The film has just been “remixed and remastered” and released on DVD by Araki and producer Marcus Hu, and the result is extraordinary. The film - shot for $20,000 - looks better than ever, even if there are some dramatic qualities that seem dated in this age of the internet, cell phones and digital video. The Living End was a watershed film for almost everyone who saw it upon release, and a defining moment in the lives of actors Gilmore and Dytri. In separate interviews, the two leads each spoke about making the film.
Gilmore describes his experience making the film as comparable to that of an Olympic athlete who has an incredible peak at a young age and then has to move on to something else. The actor quit the acting business after two years and recreated himself as an opera singer. He is currently the lead tenor with a company that travels all over the world.
Yet the actor does not regret the experience of making the film - quite the contrary. He is proud to have been part of a small, historic film that touched so many people’s lives and, as he says, “played a meaningful role in the social evolution of our society.”
And while Gilmore jokes that Jon is the character people relate to, his co-star Dytri is the one “everyone salivated over.” He adds, “Mike and I are such completely opposite personality type, but we had this instant energy.” The film is chock-full of intimate moments between the two men, and the way Araki frames the guys’ faces touching is as erotic as their encounter in the shower where Luke instructs Jon, “When I start to come, choke me…”
For his part, Mike Dytri, who is straight, was more interested in the controversial aspect of the film than about the challenge of playing queer. And while Dytri kept the film secret from his surfing buddies, he says he received accolades for taking the part and having the courage to play a character he describes as, “out there.” Yet Dytri feels that The Living End reveals what his life was like 16 years ago. “At that time, if I was 21 or 22 and found out I was terminally ill, I would jump out of a plane, fuck as many people as I can…do everything I can,” he said over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “Looking back, there were a lot of parallels between my personality and Luke’s. I think Gregg recognized that.” And although the film was not an easy shoot, it was one that both actors remember vividly.
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Gilmore describes a climactic scene where he is f*cked at gunpoint as being particularly tough. “After the fourth take, they put a piece of cardboard under my back so I would not be quite so scratched up. It was a taxing shoot, but we were all really young and energetic and believe in what we were doing, so that made it easier.” And while the two actors have not stayed in touch since the film came out, it has forever bonded them. What’s more it has connected with filmgoers for almost two decades. Now, with the new remixed and remastered edition available, it is time for a whole new audience to discover The Living End. (later taken from Bay Times)
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