Indie Icons: Larry Clark
Larry Clark, a controversial independent film director, was born on January 1, 1943, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s known for his screenplays, films, and photography that he has produced throughout his life, and his controversial themes that appear in his work, such as sex, drugs, and violence. And with many of his works, these are themes that plays into the lives of the youth in America. He began working in photography in his teens, often taking drugs while he was doing it. He attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later was drafted into the Vietnam War. Afterwards he published Tulsa, a photo documentary capturing much of the sex and drug experiences of Clark as he set out to show the grittier side of modern life. His films reflect this as well, including his debut for the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, Kids.
Kids, Clark’s first feature length film shows the ugly side of today’s youth, in which constant drug use and sex are the only outlet or escape from the from the world around them. Rather than being merely exploitative, the film is much more of a tragic warning. The plot centers around a young teenager named Telly who finds that he is only happy when he is taking the virginity of young girls. So he preys upon them one at a time, lurring htem into a false sense of security, promising them anything, just to get them to sleep with him, and never speak to them again. When one of his previous victims, Jenny, gets tested with a friend for STD’s, she discovers that she got HIV from Telly. The film follows Telly as he tries to accomplish his ultimate goal of deflowering two girls in a day, and Jenny tries to reach him before he can ruin one more girls life. The film is shot in a very realistic style with almost all of the actors being unknown children and with the grainy style with which it was shot. The music works very well to follow the mood of the story as well. It’s a horrific look into the lives of these kids whose problems seem to stem from the society around them, although the film doesn’t try to show any kind of answer for why these problems exist, it instead lets the viewer draw their own conclusions and meaning from the film. It works too as the film strives for realism, and sets the camera right in front of the main attraction, the kids.
Clark’s later films include Another Day in Paradise, Bully, Ken Park, and Wassup Rockers, which all follow similar themes of sex and drugs, often with children. But in his 2005 film Wassup Rockers, he really proved that he wasn’t merely just trying show these horrible realities of life, but he also tries to show the influence of society upon the youth, tyring to capture the very essence of how the world is affecting these children. For Wassup Rockers, the kids are all adolescent Hispanics who are skating around Beverly Hills in their punk rock clothes, looking for some excitement. The film begings on a serious note where the boys are mourning the death of a friend, but the film quickly picks up pace and takes you through a day in their life, as they explore the world around them. Clark does a really great job at keeping the film personal to the young boys, and the syle and music really work to bring out this sense of liveliness the boys feel when they are together. Both Kids and Wassup Rockers were excellent films, and I would definitely recommend giving some of Larry Clark’s films a try.