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The Living End & Intro oeuvre Gregg Araki

September 6, 2023 @ 20:30 23:00

The original draft of The Living End was written in 1988 and was a response to the mid-late ‘80s AIDS crisis. In the first draft, both protagonists die, an ending Araki realized was too depressing to produce. When someone showed interest in funding one of his works, he started on rewriting the script. Thanks to a fortunate encounter he acquired sync-sound camera equipment, making The Living End Araki’s first color, sound-sync film. The process of filming, Araki called ‘guerilla’-style: on the run, without permits for filming and working part-time with minimal crew.

In 1992, The Living End premiered at Sundance. About it, Araki said:
The Living End is very much a product of a specific era […]. With AIDS robbing the world of an entire generation, the late ‘80s/early ‘90s 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.” (Gregg Araki in The Living End: Remixed and Remastered)

Rosa Oomen, QFFU

This program is part of the retrospective Going Underground – An Introduction to New Queer Cinema. Film critic and scholar B. Ruby Rich was the first one to coin the term New Queer Cinema (NQC) to describe a wave of independent queer films made by queer directors from the early 80s to the mid 90s. These filmmakers explored issues such as race, class and gender identity within the LGBTQ+ community. With this program we want to give you a small taste of this groundbreaking cinematic movement. Come explore a collection of underground, experimental and rebellious queer cinema treasures that you rarely experience on the big screen.

Gregg Araki’s oeuvre will be introduced by Theodoor Steen.



A postmodern story of l’amour fou propelled by a hardcore-industrial soundtrack, the seminal queer film The Living End explores the sexual and fatally romantic consequences of gay male attraction in the ‘90s. The film focuses on the dire relationship between a pair of young outcasts – Luke, the rootless hustler, and Jon, a freelance writer whose life and stability are devastated when he finds out he’s HIV positive. With literally nothing to lose, they set off on the lam into the desolate, quasi-surrealistic American Wasteland.

Trapped in a strange, hostile Los Angeles populated by lesbian serial killers, bizarre street people, hysterical husband-murderers and vicious ‘fagbashers’, Jon and Luke find themselves thrown together by circumstance and embark on a tempestuous love affair. When Luke inadvertently kills a policeman, the couple is compelled to flee to San Francisco, where an old ‘friend’ of Luke’s unceremoniously slams the door in his face. Left stranded, the pair begins an aimless odyssey, driving and fucking their way across the barren existential void called the USA. Their only connection to ‘the real world’ is through Jon’s periodic phone calls to his best friend back home, Darcy, who’s more concerned about the pair’s predicament than they ever seem to be.

Film Facts

Original language title: The Living End

Directed by: Gregg Araki

Year: 1992

Country: USA

Running time: 85 mins

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime, Cult

Language: English

Subtitles: English


  • Sundance 1992 Nominee: Grand Jury Prize

Content warning: Murder, rape, profanity, sex scenes and nudit

Side program

Theodoor Steen is a non-binary, queer film critic (for publications like Schokkend Nieuws and ScreenAnarchy) and film programmer (for Camera Japan). They once interviewed Gregg Araki for a magazine issue on queer genre films. As a fan and expert on Araki’s body of work, they will contextualize the director’s position within New Queer Cinema and discuss the evolution of thinking around queerness in his films.

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