Indie Icon: Larry Clark
The influential and controversial (to say the least) work of Larry Clark as an American film director, photographer, writer, and film producer has had a lasting impact on our culture. Mr. Clark was born on January 19, 1943 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mother being an itinerant baby photographer, he got an early start in photography in the family business at the age of thirteen. By the tender age of sixteen he began shooting amphetamines with his friends. Armed with a camera, Clark was able to photograph his drug-shooting circle of friends from 1963-1971. These pictures became his renowned first book of photography Tulsa that was published in 1971 and depicted the seedier side of the heartland’s sex-and-drugs subculture. Larry attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he studied under Walter Sheffer and Gerard Bakker. His other notable photographic works include 1983’s Teenage Lust, where he chronicled the next generation of Tulsa teens as well as young male hustlers in Times Square; and 1992’s Perfect Childhood, which looked at tabloid teen criminals and teenage models. Clark first foray into directing came in 1993 when he directed singer Chris Isaak’s music video “Solitary Man” this experience developed into an interest in directing. His shift into feature film making also shares a focus on primarily the youth culture starting with the critically acclaimed and tabloid-ready first film 1995’s Kids which debuted at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Scripted by then 19-year-old filmmaker Harmony Korine and starring Leo Fitzpatrick, Chloe Sevigny, and Rosario Dawson, Kids tells the story of the day in the life of a group of sexually active teenagers in New York City and it remains the director’s biggest critical and commercial success grossing $7.4 million in the U.S. and $20 million worldwide. Clark’s follow-up feature Another Day in Paradise starring James Woods and Melanie Griffith revolves around a drug dealer and his junkie wife (played by Woods and Griffith respectively) who snag a younger couple along for a cross-country crime spree. His other list of films includes 2001’s Bully starring the late Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner, and Nick Stahl. Based on actual events and adapted from the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze the film’s story concerns a group of teens who plot to kill another teen for his physical and emotional abuse towards members of the group. Like Kids before it the film is known for its sexual explicitness and heavy illegal drug use involving teens along with adding graphic violence to the picture. Clark then directed a made for television film 2002’s Teenage Caveman followed by 2002’s Ken Park, which reunited Clark with his Kids screenwriter Harmony Korine. Most probably due to its graphic sexual content the film has failed to find a distributor in the U.S. and has not been given a wide release after its premiere at the 2002 Telluride Film Festival. His most recent feature was 2005’s Wassup Rockers that tells the story of a group of Hispanic American teenage skateboarders in South Central Los Angeles.
The Rough Guide to American Independent Film by Jessica Winter