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The first time I saw Gregg Araki’s Nowhere was on my desktop computer on the website archive.org. It was likely taken from a bootleg DVD that was in turn taken from a VHS. It’s a little hard to track down. And though I liked it enough the first time, having never seen a Gregg Araki movie combined with having to watch something so visual in such poor quality didn’t lead me into loving the movie quite as much as I had hoped. But the soundtrack alone was what kept me thinking back on it, and when the opportunity arose to see a restored version in theaters with a special Q&A afterwards, I was all for it. (And yes, it was worth the wait for a rewatch.)
For those who don’t know, the film (named after Ride’s near-perfect 1990 album) follows a day in the lives of a group of Los Angeles 18-year-olds circa the mid-’90s and is described by the director as “Beverly Hills 90210 on acid” and by the quote on the poster as “Clueless with nipple rings.” If either of these don’t sell you on the movie already, then Nowhere probably isn’t going to be your thing. But if you’re into shoegaze and Nine Inch Nails and watching some guy get beaten to death with a can of Campbell’s soup, then it’s the movie for you. Oh, and there’s an alien too.
Despite its initial consensus critically, it’s not a surprise that Nowhere’s reputation has grown in the past couple decades. Seeing a movie like Nowhere with a sold-out crowd is perhaps the ideal viewing experience. The audience was ecstatic, and I would be pretty surprised if there was anyone in that crowd who left hating it. It felt like being in a room with an absurd number of people all obsessed with the same extremely specific avant-garde movie. The guy next to me brought his copy on VHS, and it felt like the entire crowd cheered when three one-off characters, referred to as “The Atari Gang,” stole a car belonging to a kid’s mother and said the line “Tell her that the Ataris say thanks for the bitchin’ wheels, BITCH!” as Radiohead B-side “How Can You Be Sure?” plays on the car stereo. Nowhere is an awesome movie, and it’s pretty clear that actors James Duval and Sarah Lassez, who attended the Q&A, especially think so. They expressed a lot of gratitude for getting to be part of such a cool movie but made it pretty clear that just like their respective characters, their experiences with the film were very different.
Duval described being on set as like “a big party,” whereas Lassez described her experience as being a lot more difficult, considering the character she portrayed. But she was all the more grateful for the experience and felt lucky to have received such a big role from Araki. They spoke nothing but great things of the director.
Though Araki unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to the screening, he supplied Duval with a few copies of some of his films to give away to the audience – but of course Araki had to sign his name on top of the shrink wrap either by accident or as a way of ensuring that his films are never watched legally. Despite their cult following, a majority of his movies are still pretty difficult to find, and Nowhere in particular was never even given an official DVD release due to the costs of licensing all of its music. Duval even joked with the audience about how hard it is to watch the movie, with most of the crowd being pretty vocal about the difficulty of finding the film and then dealing with the computer viruses that came afterwards. The restored version contains nine extended or previously unreleased scenes, in a 4K remaster supervised by Araki.
Perhaps the most interesting comment came from Duval towards the end of the Q&A, when he said that Araki had envisioned Nowhere as “a movie for teenagers.” Duval went on to add that this was the reason Nowhere contains rarely any swearing in comparison to Araki’s previous film, The Doom Generation. The hope was for Nowhere to receive a more conventional rating without having to tone any of it down. It sounds dumb, but maybe the reason the critics at the time didn’t quite get Araki’s movies (see Roger Ebert’s review of The Doom Generation) is simply because they were just too old for it. Age aside, I think we should all be in agreement that any movie that ends with The The’s “Love is Stronger Than Death” is objectively awesome.
Catch encore screenings of Nowhere this Thursday, November 16th.