the fresh films reviews

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Kids (1995)

Larry Clark
93 minutes
Cathy Konrad
Cary Woods
Harmony Korine

Cast includes:

Telly Leo Fitzpatrick
Casper Justin Pierce
Jennie Chlo Sevigny
Ruby Rosario Dawson
Steven Jon Abrahams
Harold Harold Hunter
Fidget Harmony Korine
Darcy Yakira Peguero



Wanting to make a film about contemporary youth culture, photographer and underground documentarian Larry Clark was roaming the streets of New York during the early 1990s when he met the young and aspiring writer Harmony Korine. Clark asked Korine to write a script for him, and the result was this story about a colourful but still largely homogenous group of irresponsible teenagers and kids who during a hot summer day roam the streets of New York fuelled by the desire to have sex and get high. The film was met with plenty of criticism from a moral perspective, since the main thematic line is the young lead character's sexual encounters (or rather hunt for virgins). For this criticism to be valid, however, one would also have to claim that Clark fronted his thematics in an exploitative manner, and so the critics claimed just that. Their fault and misconception was to mistake Telly's exploitation for Clark's not an uncommon error by critics who fail to see the work they're reviewing in a wider perspective.

Seen today, with the added privilege of almost 20 years' historical perspective, the merit of Kids still remains, and has shown to stand the test of time as well. It can be summed up in three points. The first is the authenticity of Korine's script. His understanding of the characters he writes is the hallmark of someone reporting from the inside; he knows how it was to be a teenager in New York City at the time in question, and how they acted and interacted. He may not have known why they did so, but that is of secondary importance here.

The second point is the semi-documentarian feel Clark was able to give his film, owing to a combination of the aforementioned script, his background from similar types of communities, and the fact that he populated his film with real people from the environments he depicted. Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Rosario Dawson and Chlo Sevigny were all discovered by Clark and/or Korine in New York City, and although they were largely untrained, their closeness to the characters and situations they depicted made their performances remarkably real.

The third and final point is the warmth and lack of judgement in Clark's direction. Despite the fact that Kids could and can be seen as social criticism, it is really more of a social commentary. Clark's version of New York is a warm and friendly place occasionally ravaged by chaos. Admittedly, he points out the meaninglessness and brutality these kids experience and inflict, and how this at worst can have catastrophic consequences. But there's a youthful vitality and a hint of optimism in everything they do a sense of joie de vivre which, claims Clark, they do not spoil and undermine in and of themselves, but which the ravages of time and the eventual, unavoidable disappointment of lower-class urban adulthood will kill off.


Re-reviewed: Copyright 29.10.2013 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review:
Copyright 18.10.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang