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Larry Clark's Kids

November 30, 2012

This is a scene from Larry Clark's 1995 film "Kids." Clark became famous in the 70s for his photographs of young people doing lurid things. "Kids" was shocking because it had verisimilitude--it seemed like a nakedly truthful depiction of thoroughly debauched children. It was a huge but controversial indie hit in the mid-90s, probably partly because it provided a stark antidote to the era's arty films that seemed to cater to the hip, ironic grunge crowd (e.g., "Singles"). I remember walking out of the Embarcadero theater in downtown San Francisco after seeing "Kids" and thinking to myself: 'This is the movie all my hipster acquaintances in the Mission wish they had made.' On the one hand, "Kids" borders on the criminal in its leering voyeurism; one can't help but think that Clark was turning himself on by filming in close up young, mostly male, often partly nude bodies (the legendary cartoonist Robert Crumb wrote that his first drawings were of fantasy women for him to masturbate to). On the other hand, the plot of "Kids" is simple and moralistic--a young innocent girl is victimized by a bad boy. There is thus a tension between the creepy images and the moralistic message. some have called Clark a child pornographer. Others a genius. What does this clip tell us?

 

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