Saturday, 14 November 2009

He came. He skated.

And then he shot himself.

Such is the beginning of Ken Park, Larry Clark's 2002 feature. I've been wanting to see Ken Park since the Office of Film & Literature Classification refused to give it a certificate for release in Australia, even stopping the Sydney Film Festival from screening the film (ordinarily, festivals have been given fairly free reign to screen whatever they want, especially the majors, presumably because they're not about to show blatant pornography.) The fiasco almost got the venerable Margaret Pomeranz arrested, after police shut down a highly publicised screening of the film she was involved with at, if my memory serves me, was at the Balmain Town Hall. (And here's a little article about the controversy...)

Again, if my memory serves me correctly, Ken Park was refused classification not because if contained actual sex (something that was quite controversial for a while in Australia, and saw much campaigning on both sides), but because the characters having this actual sex were under-age, even while the actors may not have been. The sex, however, is not particularly erotic - the first sex scene is a teenager performing cunnilingus on his girlfriend's mother, seems more educational to the young male. Ultimately, the entire film is about the home life of the teenagers, and the sex (of which, really, there isn't much of) is another facet of their immaturity and their growing up. None of the sex acts (until the final threesome scene) occurs without risk and danger involved - the risk of a parent, or a husband, or a lover walking in. The repercussions of these acts are often brutal and traumatic. In the end, three of the teenagers find happiness in uncomplicated sex with each other without the risk of discovery or judgement, and it's actually kind of beautiful.

Sex aside, the film is fine. It's not a spectacular work of cinematic genius or anything. It's just a film that kind of tries to muddle its way through the ideas of teenage isolation in a post-angst world, and, to some extent succeeds, though its success is somewhat flat, possibly because of the apathetic world of youth it takes place in. This isn't 1995, remember, when Clark made his debut with Kids, a searing work with much better commentary - probably because, right then, we're looking at the years before the internet when escape for teenagers was through music and the year before Kurt Cobain had dies. Possibly an overly simplistic take, but I think this is the world that Clark and writer Harmony Korine inhabit. Ken Park is set in the naughties - does anyone really care?

To this end, though, it does capture it. The character of Shawn doesn't overly care that he's carrying on an illicit affair with his girlfriend's MILF. The character of Peaches lies to her dad simply and keeps doing what she wants to do on the sly. Claude is probably the most dramatic, but he too takes the easy route out. So, yeah. It probably does capture that apathy. But that just makes it kind of hard to care.

Look, it was a decent film. I don't think it was tight enough, though it of course looked beautiful (with Ed Lachman lensing and co-directing, it would be disappointing if it didn't.) I'm going to give it a middling 2.5 stars, because I think it was that kind of film. The controversy, however, will keep it in the minds of Australian cinephiles for much longer - epic fail on the OFLC front.

No comments:

Post a Comment