2001-2010DramaEdward LachmanLarry ClarkQueer Cinema(s)USA

Larry Clark & Edward Lachman – Ken Park (2002)

We all know that the white-bread cookie-cutter suburban lifestyle has its own dirty secrets, but when his camera explores the limits of this seemingly serene and ubiquitous American lifestyle, Larry Clark gives us a horrifying yet touching glimpse of what happens behind finely paved driveways and cute lawns.

The film itself portrays so many “unshowable” taboos—a threesome between three adolescents, a teen who masturbates on camera while asphyxiating himself, a tough-love alcoholic father attempting to give his son a blowjob—that you are tempted to delegate the film to nothing more than a provocation film. Yet, frighteningly, Larry Clark is able to pull off filming these morally antagonizing subjects with so much perception, light, and even humanity that he leaves the viewer stunned—stuck between laughter and disgust, horror and compassion, not knowing what we should feel or what we are.

His camera is like a loving scalpel carving away the facades of middle-class monotony to reveal the dark secrets smoldering beneath the surface. With x-ray vision, his camera pierces into some of the more marginal families of Visilia, California to reveal, if we are willing to admit it, that the situations portrayed in the film are not so much unrealistic as hyper-realistic. Reality is taken only one tiny step further than most people would take it, and Larry Clark films the movie as if unconscious desire, unknowing love, adolescent rage could be caught on film. And perhaps that is what is most provocative about the film.

It would be overly simplistic to criticize or laud the film for showing ejaculation, or a tryst between a teenage boy and his girlfriend’s mom, and in fact it would seem foolish to criticize or celebrate the film for showing these things at all. This is Larry Clark’s style, and in fact, the right question to ask would be more “Why don’t they show these things in other films?” Especially when it is specifically the portrayal of these “hard” images that gives the film its tenderness.

When we see Shawn (James Bullard) first go over to his girlfriend’s house, his first words are “Can I eat you out?”, but as the scenes unfold, we are slowly revealed the complexity of the relationship, how much in fact the mother needs Shawn in order to feel comfortable in her aging body, and how much Shawn needs her to feel comfortable with his own sexual explorations—to know that he’s good in bed, that he has a big dick. And these concerns, and worries of all the various characters are all too-real. Have we hidden away these fears of getting old and sexual nervousness and illegitimate desires so deep that we can no longer admit they exist? Larry Clark reminds us, that not only do they exist, but they manifest themselves under roofs of people we live with and next to.

The culmination of the film, which ends in a tender threesome, also reminds us of something vitally human, that our escapes into the bodies of others are some of our most complete moments; or at least naďve searches for this serenity. When you watch the threesome unfold, as graphic as it may be, it never comes off as uncaring, crass or derivative as a porno, and we understand that for these Kids, their sole escape, genuine and complete, and in fact the only thing they have control over in their lives in those brief moments when their parents are out working or drinking, is their bodies and who they fuck.

It is a shame that Ken Park, which shows Americans in all their inglorious un-airbrushed reality will not be seen because of the perceived immorality of it all. It’s also too bad that a film such as this will be rejected by mass audiences for its perhaps dark, but intensely human regard about the particular plight of American youth. But what is most unfortunate, is that the qualities of this film will fall through the cracks of the controversy that it stirs, and it will be remembered as a conversation piece about censorship, rather than a mature and honest film about our damaged, dislocated society and the indelible imprint it leaves on its youth.

1.55GB | 1h 32m | 1024×576 | avi



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