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ART YOU IDIOTS!,
This review is from: Ken Park (Uncut) [Import] (DVD)
Larry Clark's "Ken Park" continues his exploration of teenage ennui and alienation begun in "Kids" and "Bully" but offers a wider exploration of family and social dynamics in a small lower middle class community in modern day California.
The movie is unavailable in many countries and this edition appears to be from Holland as the text on the box is Dutch. Sound and picture are excellent quality, allaying my fears that this might be a semi-bootleg. When the film originally appeared the reviewers largely fell back on ta perceived dichotomy between art and porn in Clark's films focusing on the amount of late-teens flesh on display in his films. Reviewers felt a need to adopt a stance in relation to the "Is it art or porn?" question. Clark's films are often deconstructed by seeing the director as a dirty old man looking for an excuse to photograph naked teenagers. This is highly reductive, short-sighted and probably says more about the insecurities of those middle-aged critics who review the films feeling uncomfortable in the presence of Clark's honest, gritty and rather dark presentation of human relations. To me Clark is aesthetically akin to Todd Solondz, PT Anderson and Robert Altman and the equal of any of these critically lauded directors.
"Ken Park" is both Clark's subtlest film and his most explicit and violent. To me Clark is an artist who has transcended the anodyne midle class morality that we all pay lip service to in our daily lives and has come up with a searing account of a society crippled by dysfuctional family relationships. There are a number of carefully drawn father figures in this film; where once they were largely absent (see Kids and Bully), here they are intrusive, dominant and overbearing, offering only "tough love" or dogma to their children who are rapidly approaching adulthood with an overwhelming sense of crisis. In fact, the adults or no more emotionally or sexually mature than the teenagers and the boundaries between the two groups are seen as increasingly blurry as adults try to stay young and teenagers yearn for freedom and independence. The young characters are victims of their parents' insecurities which are projected onto them. Clark presents a psychological war between the generations that often spills over into violence and thus, abuse; everyone is hopelessly lost and blaming their parents or children for their problems.
The photography as you would expect with Clark is excellent and has a hazy luminous look as well as a raw, gritty documentary feel at times. The film is full of subtly brilliant framing and composition which doesn't hit you over the head like pseudo- gritty big budget Hollywood films like "21 Grams". The cast of largely unknowns is superb and the screenplay by Harmony Korine authentically captures the dialogue of disaffected Californian teen angst( well what I imagine it to be like).
In "Ken Park" then, Clark shows great maturity and vision as a filmmaker, achieving a sort of heightened reality reminiscent of Gus Van Sant's "Elephant", while also setting in motion a story of independent but interlocking lives reminiscent of Altman's "Short Cuts". Clark/Korine crucially never retreats into Altman's cynicism or Solondz's kitsch as distancing devices instead thrusting the viewer into the heart of the raw emotions being explored. Mention should also go to the superb use of music in Clark's films which is comparable to Scorsese's use of pop and rock (and hip-hop in this film) to add depth and richness to the milieu presented.
Clark is to mainstream depictions of teenage Americans like "The O.C." what Ken Loach is to Coronation Street and Eastenders. So ignore the dismissive, glib reviews: Clark's films are for those who like their films equal part beautiful and disturbing, a sort of rock n roll Werner Herzog.