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josephk
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Kids (1995)
28. Apr 2002 at 19:21
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Kids (1995)
Directed by Larry Clark, screenplay by Harmony Korine

This is an important, influential and controversial film on so many levels, I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with director Larry Clark, whose first feature this was. He was already relatively well-known as a photographer of street kids and skaters in American cities. At some point, he decided to make a film of his favourite subjects and hired then 21-year-old Harmony Korine to write the screenplay, based on a storyline he came up with.

That storyline involves a teenage boy who is obsessed with sex (what teenage boy isn't?) and who gets a kick out of "deflowering" virgin girls. He sees this as "safe sex" and doesn't think it necessary to use condoms. What he doesn't know is that he is infected with HIV and is spreading the disease to all the young girls he is taking advantage of.

Korine and Clark went to the streets to find the non-professional cast of the film. They encouraged the kids to act naturally, to improvise and to speak like they usually do. Add to that crude documentary camera work, and the result is a remarkably and often disturbingly realistic portrayal of American teenage urban culture.

The film not only launched the careers of Larry Clark (who went on to direct Another Day in Paradise and, more recently, Bully) and Harmony Korine (who took up directing on his own, with the highly experimental and controversial films Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy), but also introduced youths to the world of acting (most notably Chloe Sevigny and Leo Fitzpatrick). Furthermore, it is part of a larger phenomenon, the emergence of a new style of film-making that goes hand-in-hand with the so-called Dogma manifesto (signed in 1995 by Danish director Lars von Trier and others).

Most importantly, however, the film remains controversial for its honest portrayal of teenage (and even pre-teen) sexuality and drug-use. I was 17 years old in 1995 when Kids came out. Although I was in a less urban, less multicultural and non-American city, I stilled recognized elements of my environment in the film. When I see it today, it feels even more realistic, as I can now look at my own teenagerhood with some distance and compare it to the film.

Not everyone enjoys this film. In fact, several think it is unwatchable garbage. It is certainly not entertaining in the traditional Hollywood sense, but it is a very valuable watching experience and I think everyone should at least give it a try.

Quite apart from all that, it features several boys of all ages and of different ethnic backgrounds. I was quite surprised at how difficult it was to find a few decent stills from the film on the Internet. Here are a couple of samples. Someone needs to do a gallery of caps of this one.

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« Last Edit: 29. Jun 2008 at 04:57 by Zabladowski »  
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Sir Jacob
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Kids (1995)
Reply #1 - 29. Apr 2002 at 21:57
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josephk, I thought this one was both radical and groundbreaking when it first came out. I can't say that it's one of my favorite films, and I do find it quite bleak. However, it has a message that is important to see, even if it's not all that flattering in its portrayal of kids...

Love,
Sir Jacob
  
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josephk
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Kids (1995)
Reply #2 - 29. Apr 2002 at 23:27
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Sir Jacob, I agree that this is not the most cheerful film and that the message, though important, is rather bleak. However, I don't think its portrayal of kids is really unflattering. In fact, I would tend to say it remains pretty neutral, in that it portrays kids as they are without imposing a judgement. the judgement is implicit, perhaps, but it is still left for the audience to make.

Also, as I mentioned in my review, I think this portrayal of kids is one of the most realistic ones ever to have appeared on film. However, it's important to keep in mind that it portrays a particular cultural milieu and that these kids are by no means meant to be "universal."

Yes, the kids in Kids do some pretty stupid things. But I think ultimately the film is more critical of the environment these kids are growing up in than it is of the kids themselves.

A side note: I am rather fascinated by the definitely erotic gaze director Larry Clark poses on kids in his films as well as in his photography. Someone once remarked that she had "never seen a film with so many adoring shots of adolescent male armpits as there are in Kids." There's definitely a PhD thesis to be written on that topic, if anyone here is interested in film studies! Smiley
  
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