Larry Clark's Jaded Suburbia

Posted: Jan 04 2017

Behind closed doors, people lead lives more complicated and confronting than we know. Photographer, artist and visual poet Larry Clark was responsible for creating films and images that perfectly capture human imperfections and youth rebellion in the suburbs, through the creation of true-to-life characters and realistically in-your-face narratives. The Oklahoma born director moved to NYC in the 1960's to pursue his dream of becoming a photographer, and soon after began working on video, collaborating with fellow underground creative-slash-youngster Harmony Korine on freelance film and photo projects, including his pivotal picture Kids (1995) which merged skateboarding with the dystopian lives of New York City teens acting as, what the New York Times called, "wake up call to the modern walls" surrounding the disturbing lives of inner-city teens. His films blended cultish subcultures with genuine subject matter, making him one of the most important film makers of the 1990's / early-2000s. 

 

 

Bully, the ultimate cathartic revenge movie, depicts teens in South Florida who plot to kill the local bully who abused and taunted them for years on end. The film is wonderfully dark and artistically presents the bleak and damaging effects of teen oppression. It shows the extents under-developed adults will go to to stop an injustice and the desperation at the point of no return. It also features eclectic casting and cult-fave actors Leo Fitzpatrick and Michael Pitt make appearances. 

 

 

Being one of Clark's quintessential "fucked up" films, Ken Park broke all the boundaries of mainstream cinema and so, was banned in several countries across the globe, including Australia. Although the coming-of-age film is accurate in capturing the chaos that raids the lives of bored youths in the suburbs, it also graphically depicts underage sex, auto-erotic asphyxiation and homicide. In one particular scene, Tate (played by James Ransone) strangles himself while masturbating and watching tennis, shortly before murdering his "disrespectful" grandparents. As one character notes in the film "you can pick your friends, but you cant pick your family" — these words sum up the sad reality of dysfunctional home life in the United States. 

 

 

With Kids (1995) Larry Clark hoped to, in his words, make the great American teenage movie, like the great American novel, which is exactly what he created — a quasi-documentary style film that explores sex, gender roles and emotion within NYC youth communities in the 90's. Released during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, the film is spanned over a day and follows Jennie played by Chloe Sevigny who is searching for Telly played by Leo Fitzpatrick, the boy who transmitted the disease to her during a random one-night occurrence. The disturbing and dystopian-style film, which features cameos from late pro-skater Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce, is one of the most important New York City-based pictures ever made.   

 

 

One of the most important elements of Clark's films is his celebration of non-conformity. Wassup Rockers truly captures the beauty behind being an individual, through dissecting the lives of a group of rebellious Guatemalan teens in South LA who, instead of subscribing to gang and rap culture, live a DIY, punk rock lifestyle and play by their own rules. This 2005 film features cameos from Janice Dickinson and  Jeremy Scott and explores the therapeutic effects of skate culture and the binding force of friendship. 

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