Kids (1995)

LARRY CLARK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 1995. , , , , , . Story by Larry Clark, Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by , . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Every generation needs that watershed social issue film that sells itself as a concerned expose of the pitfalls of being young and reckless, but which is actually middle-class panic providing fodder for the perverted ogling of youthful flesh.

From its premieres at the Sundance and later Cannes film Festival, Larry Clark’s breakthrough independent hit was hailed as a “wake-up call” deemed necessary viewing for politicians and parents, but it barely goes beyond the finger-wagging of pre-Watergate PSA films that warned girls not to dress too provocatively at parties.

Set in one twenty-four hour period, its ensemble cast of rough, unwashed miscreants focuses on Telly (), a teenager who prides himself on taking girls’ virginity, and Jennie ( in an impressive debut) who is wandering the island of Manhattan looking for him; they both look very much like they smell, which is how you know this movie has integrity.

Jennie has just come from the free clinic where she has learned that she is HIV positive, and Telly is the only possible source of her infection; screenwriter Harmony Korine tries to pass himself off as non-judgmental by making sure we know that her friend Ruby, played by a seventeen year-old , tests negative despite having unprotected sex with multiple partners…isn’t that so nuanced?

While Jennie searches, we follow Telly and his friend Casper () from one gathering to another, engaging in loud conversations in Washington Square Park, getting high at a friend’s apartment or hitting a few crowded, dirty parties, with the only adult ever making an appearance on screen Telly’s mom who, in a stroke of deeply affecting subtlety, breastfeeds her baby while a cigarette hangs out of her mouth.

There’s no doubt that what is on screen is really happening somewhere in the world at any given time, but the idea that this shallow poverty porn has any concern about the ways in which adults and society have failed these young people is a laugh out loud joke, the whole thing is contrived for exploitation, and the sweat on these kids and the grease in their hair appears to have been carefully placed there by the famous photographer director in order to sell an aesthetic, not to open anyone’s eyes to the harsh reality of vulnerable lives.

Worse than that, though, this film is incredibly boring, the conversations the kids have in every scene is repetitive and much too long, while the script’s conservative lecturing makes sure that the trouble they get into is something they bring on themselves without anyone learning or growing in any way.

Cannes Film Festival: In Competition

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