Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kids (1995 film)

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/2/07 w/ Additional Edits.

Directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine, Kids tells the story in the day of life of young kids in New York City causing chaos and such. During this day, a young woman learns she is HIV positive as she tries to find a boy who gave the disease while his mission is to take the virginity of another young girl. Shot on location in New York City and in a cinema verite style, the film is an uncompromising, unflinching look at mid-90s NYC when the city was still a mess and through an environment where not everything is great. Featuring a cast of unknowns that included then-newcomers Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, and Sarah Henderson. Kids is a harrowing yet chilling film from the duo of Harmony Korine and Larry Clark.

It's a typical, hot summer day in New York City as a young man named Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) is making out with a young, 12-year old girl (Sarah Henderson) whom he later takes her virginity away. After the sex, Telly and his friend Casper (Justin Pierce) walk around the city, steal some things, and hang out at the apartment of their friend Paul (Sajan Bhagat) and his little brother Javier (Javier Nunez). Doing drugs and watching skateboard videos, the guys talk about sex and such while Telly gets a call from a girl named Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) whom he scoffs at. Jenny meanwhile, is hanging out with her friends including Ruby (Rosario Dawson) as they also talk about sex. During their discussion, Jennie and Ruby admit to taking an AIDS test to see if they're clean and such since Ruby has admittedly been with several guys while Jennie has only done it with Telly.

The two girls later go to the clinic to check their results where Jennie has learned that she's HIV positive. Distraught over the result, she's comforted by Ruby while calling on the phone hoping to talk to her mother. Learning that Telly is planning to go after a 13-year old girl named Darcy (Yakira Peguero), she hopes to find him and stop what he's going to do. Telly and Casper continue their unruly ways as they go to parks to buy some weed, hang out with their friends Harold (Harold Hunter) and Steven (Jon Abrahams). While smoking weed and skateboarding, Casper accidentally bumps into a guy whom he along with their crowd beats up. Taking a couple of girls named Kim (Michele Lockwood) and Joy (Carisa Glucksman) with them, Telly asks Darcy if they could hang out with her before they go to a rave party at Nasa.

Jennie continues her search as she has a brief conversation with a cab driver (Joseph Knopfelmacher) while going to several of Telly's hangouts to find him. Telly, Casper, and their entourage decide to go swim at a public pool where Kim and Joy kiss each other to turn Harold on as they later go to a party at Steven's place. Jennie goes to the rave club Nasa where she meets Fidget (Avi Korine) who numbs her with some ecstacy as she is becoming more distraught emotionally as she goes on her search. At Steven's home, the party rages on where Telly is starting to succeed in taking Darcy's virginity away. Jennie arrives, numb and depressed as a night of decadence ends in a crashing halt as everyone ponders what are they doing.

Given that the film looks and feels like a documentary of sorts, some will wonder whether or not this film is either exploitive or just exaggerated. Whatever the case is, since the film is written by Harmony Korine based on his own experience, it's no doubt that it's a film that has the power to shock and question the behavior of these youths. What this film is really about is a young woman trying to stop a man from engaging in dangerous, sexual behaviors where the hard truth is that, it's all he ever thinks about. Yes, these kids are amoral, they're disgusting, undisciplined and such. What the film does raise questions is something that the filmmakers and probably adult audiences will ask is, where are the parents?

This is a question that might have answers or might not, yet it all depends on the environment in which the kids are brought up in. There's only two scenes when parents are involved throughout the film. One where Telly and Casper ask Telly's mom for a bit of money or Jennie wanting to call her mother. It's not about where they are but rather where they're living. The parents are people probably trying to work more than one job trying to raise their families and such in a place that is chaotic and troubled as mid-90s New York City. How can they work and watch over their kids at the same time? Yet, the parents shouldn't be at fault totally. The kids themselves are more likely to be responsible for their own actions and such. Even when it relates to sex where things tend to go really wrong.

While what Korine writes and such suggest an unruliness to the behavior of young kids discovering their own sexuality and such but for all the wrong reasons. The direction of Larry Clark is one that definitely raises more eyebrows. Clark, who was then a photographer, goes for realism in an almost, documentary-like fashion that almost can be known as exploitive. With cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards, the film has this somewhat, grainy, naturalistic look that is colorful yet disturbing. Even when the film has shots of young skin and people in underwear. Even the pool scene, there's shots of a young girl's breast in see-through bra where the film definitely raises the question of whether these young people are being exploited.

Clark's observant yet uncompromising direction is one that not many will like and he is definitely willing to go as far as shoot anything that is extreme whether it's a rape scene or a full-on assault. Whatever he does, he reveals everything to the point of making his audience uncomfortable and such. This is a film that will not be liked by everyone and doesn't apologize for it. Yet, given what the reality of Korine's script and Clark's direction, it's something that couldn't be ignored.

Editor Christopher Tellefsen brings a nice, elliptical kind of pacing to the film's editing along with stylized cuts ranging from jump-cuts and slow-motion to convey the drama and doc-like nature of the film. Production designer Kevin Thompson and set decorator Ford Wheeler help create the film's decayed, messy look that definitely looks like the kind of room teenagers would have while bringing out a lot of colored lights and such for the rave scene. Costume designer Kim Marie Druce helps with the film's look of 90s t-shirts, baggy pants, and such that included the X-girl baby-tee shirts by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. Sound editor Wendy Hedin helps with the film's sound to create the chaos of the film itself.

The film's music by Dinosaur Jr./Sebadoh member Lou Barlow along with John Davis as part of their project, the Folk Implosion creates a chaotic, noisy score that undermines the film's sense of anarchy. The rest of the soundtrack that features music by the Folk Implosion including the modern rock hit Natural One also includes a track by Sebadoh and cuts from the Beastie Boys, John Coltrane, Brand Nubian, Sonny Rollins, A Tribe Called Quest, and cult singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston with his song Casper, the Friendly Ghost, which was the obvious inspiration to the character in the film.

The film's cast, filled with several unknown actors are wonderfully assembled with memorable small roles from Sarah Henderson, Sajan Bhagat, Javier Nunez, Michele Lockwood, Carisa Gluckman, Jon Abrahams, Harold Hunter, Yakira Peguero, Raymond Batista as a legless man in a subway, Julie Stebe-Glorius as Telly's mom, and Joseph Knopfelmacher as the cab driver. Cameos from Harmony and Avi Korine are in the film as they play club kids. In her first film ever, Rosario Dawson gives a memorable performance as Ruby, Jennie's best friend who talks about her own experience with sex and such that really shows the opposite of what guys really think about girls and sex. The late Justin Pierce is great as the unruly Casper with his love of 40s, grass, and ladies as his performance is the most loose of the entire film.

Leo Fitzpatrick gives an excellent performance as the horny Telly who seems hell-bent on taking the virginity of everyone young girl he comes across. While the character is unlikeable with little to redeem himself, he is a character that is interesting for his views on sex and such. Yet, when the film's ending is around, we see the flaw in his character that doesn't make him redeemable yet pitiable. Chloe Sevigny, in her film debut, gives a phenomenal performance as Jennie. Sevigny brings a presence to the film that is just haunting to watch as this young woman who just learned a horrible secret as she tries to deal with her new changes. Of all the characters in the film, Sevigny's character is the one that goes through all of the development and tragedy that surrounds this film.

Kids is a visceral yet mesmerizing film from Larry Clark and screenwriter Harmony Korine. Thanks to its cast and a superb soundtrack, it's a film that is definitely not afraid to say what it needs to be said. Though there's moments in the film that will raise a lot of questions rather than answers, it's a film that is uncompromising about the way kids are when they have no rules to live by. In the end, Kids is an incredible yet disturbing film from Larry Clark.

Larry Clark Films: (Another Day in Paradise) - (Bully (2001 film)) - (Teenage Caveman (2002 TV film)) - (Ken Park) - (Wassup Rockers) - (Destricted-Impaled) - (Marfa Girl)

© thevoid99 2013


Anonymous said...

This film was so crushing, and Sevigny was brilliant (what an amazing debut performance). I recently semi-reviewed this alongside 'Spring Breakers' on my blog. I feel that both films, which bookend Korine's career right now, are great complements because they cover the same themes but with different generations and really capture the heart of issues adults don't want to accept.

Great review!

thevoid99 said...

It's been a very long time since I've seen it and I just needed to post something. As I think about the film now. It's actually far more powerful as I would love to revisit not just Harmony Korine's work but also the films of Larry Clark as well as see the films that they've done that I haven't seen. said...

I still recall seeing this amazing film at the theater. I think a lot of folks who reacted negatively towards Spring Breakers had never seen this film. Your review makes me want to give it a rewatch.

thevoid99 said... hope to revisit the film sometime very soon as I want to delve into more works of Harmony Korine.

Thomas Nul said...

I'm glad you brought up the film's mid-90's NYC setting a few times as I thought to myself while revisiting the film recently after not having seen it in, it had to be a good 8 years, just how great a snapshot of mid-90's NYC it is. While the setting might seem a wee bit dated watching the film these days I don't think its a hindrance at all, the film itself still has the ability to make you feel like you've been hit by a truck once its over and I think it always will. Kids is without question a quintessential film to come out of the 90’s indie boom and a decade defining film if you ask me.

thevoid99 said...

@Tom Clark-I've been to NYC only once so far in 1995. It was a very strange time but it was still quite cool. I like the fact that it was sort of a dangerous place. Nowadays, it doesn't seem to be very exciting. It's a film that I need to revisit as well. It's been a very long time since I've seen it.

Thomas Nul said...

You said it... and I think that’s one of the reasons Kids works so well is Clark's no bullshit, documentary esque direction. You really get the fell of the place and that sense of danger you spoke of comes with the territory. I wonder what young teens from this generation who've never seen the film would think of it?

Apparently the film Clark's working on now in Paris, The Smell of Us is along the same lines as Kids but with the added elements of today's technology and it sounds as if its going to be his most full on since Bully and Ken Park.

thevoid99 said...

@Tom Clark-Will Larry's next film feature any contributions from Harmony Korine?

I'm not sure what today's kids will think about this film. After all, they seem to be more spoiled by technology and such.

Thomas Nul said...

It doesn’t. They may have had a falling out of some sorts. There's an interview on YouTube where Clark is asked about Korine and he states the two haven't spoken since the Ken Park days.

thevoid99 said...

@Tom Clark-Oh well. I think it kind of hurts what Larry Clark will do as I think Harmony Korine is a real talent and a crucial reason into the success of Kids.

Thomas Nul said...

I looked for that video I was talking about with Clark but couldn't find it but right after I posted that comment I remembered this clip:

with Korine vaguely commenting oh his and Clark's relationship.

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of Korine's directorial efforts but as a writer you'll get no complaints from me. His script for Kids is one of the most accurate script ever filmed, ESPEICALLY in the dialogue department.

By the way, excellent site you've got here. Been going through you're Lynch and Cronenberg reviews, good stuff.

thevoid99 said...

@Tom Clark-Thank you. Oh, and next month. I'm doing a 2-part Auteurs series on David Cronenberg as I'm going to watch a lot of his early films and his most recent.

Tom Norris said...

I really liked the review of this film and the comments thread. Interesting observations all around. "Kids" is a film that blurs the lines between art and reality. Arguing about it is kind of like arguing about a photograph of something. I mean, there it is, you can interpret it in any way you want. For me the bottom line is that "Kids" is about kids doing adult things. I think back to when I was that age--crap, I was clueless. But for having grown up with caring parents, I might have led a life like the film. Reviewers are often down on the character "Telly" saying how awful he was. And he was by adult standards. But again, he was a kid, left to his own devices, unsupervised, with no one nurturing him to other dimensions of life. Would he be that way for the rest of his life? Probably not. I look back at lesser, though none-the-less hurtful, things that I did at that age and younger. I've found myself owning up to them and apologizing for them as an adult, as best I could. There are so many good performances in this film, and I always gravitate back to Leo Fitzpatrick's "Telly." For an actor so young to play someone complex--and the character was complex--with such fidelity was a miracle in movies. I found myself being appalled at his behavior, yet seeing that it was not the evil of a fully developed adult. There was still innocence there. And that's why kids is such a stunning film, and such a cautionary tale.