on May 29, 2009
"Ken Park" has been controversial because of its explicit presentation of actual sexual acts by actors portraying high school kids and because it has been banned in some English-speaking countries and has no distributor in the others. I suspect that the notoriety has overshadowed the actual merits of the film.
The plot is presented as several intercut stories. The stories themselves are almost completely isolated from one another aside from the fact that all the characters know each other quite well. The stories progress parallel to one another, and the characters have absolutely no interaction with one another until the next to last sequence. That scene may summarize the common attitude that prevails among these teenagers, but it doesn't pack much of a punch. In fact the whole movie doesn't pack much of a punch. I'm not sure it really tries to. It simply tells these stories directly with not moral judgments and lets them loose for the audience to make of them what they will.
That is not to say that the performances are weak. They aren't. Most of the young actors had only marginal prior experience in film acting, but they gave decent, workmanlike performances that were perfectly adequate. The supporting adult actors were better, but they generously avoided overshadowing the less experienced actors. So there's not any mismatch within the cast.
The cinematography, art direction, and editing don't call attention to themselves which in this movie is a good thing. The special effects in the violent scenes are believable and seamless. I liked the way the film looked.
The musical score is appropriate and not manipulative. It doesn't get in the way of our personal responses to the stories. That is a real strength in this film. The dialog is always clear. You won't miss a single line. So the movie sounds good.
So there is nothing really wrong with this film. The viewer will like or dislike this film mainly based on how willing he is to empathize with the high schoolers whose stories form the core of the movie. Those stories strike me as pretty extreme, and the characters are not particularly sympathetic, but if they achieve "buy-in," the movie succeeds.
Some will be offended by the actual sex in the film. Others will be offended that these actors are portraying underage characters. That's a matter of personal preference and values, but the sexual contours of the characters' lives are central to the film. So the film did not seem to be exploitive, prurient, or coy (like some of Larry Clark's earlier films were).
Taken in its entirety, the movie is pretty good and better than most of Larry Clark's earlier films.
on February 24, 2011
Larry Clark's Ken Park is probably unlike any film you've ever seen. The basic premise is easy enough : suburbia is not always the clean respectable place it seems. Underneath the normalcy there lies a world of secrets and terror worse than our greatest nightmares. People are trapped in this world and the only way out may be extreme.
Ken Park focuses on several teenagers and their tormented home lives. Shawn( James Bullard) seems to be the most conventional except for the monor fact that he's sleeping with his girlfriend's mother (Maeve Quinlan). Tate (James Ransone) is brimming with psychotic rage and living with his grandparents in a powderkeg on the verge of exploding; Claude (Stephen Jasso) is habitually harassed by his brutish father for his skating lifestyle and coddled, rather uncomfortably, by his enormously pregnant mother(Amanda Plummer). Peaches(Tiffany Limos) looks after her devoutly religious father, but yearns for freedom. They're all rather tight, or so they claim. But they spend precious little time together and none of them seems to know much about one another's family lives. This bizarre dichotomy underscores their alienation as the result of suburban ennui, a teenager's inherent sense of melodrama, and the disturbing nature of their home environments.
Clark doesnt shy away from difficult subject matter but sometimes he gets extreme. This film has been banned in many countries for its frank and disturbing sexuality even though the portrayal is far from erotic. While this is not a film that many will enjoy it does have much to recommend it. Most of its critics fail to view the film for its story and focus rather on the nudity involved. That said I find much to recommend this effort even though it is rather difficult viewing.
on January 20, 2010
This film isn't for everybody, in fact most would probably be put off by this film. It is gritty to the max. I have seen Kidz & Bully. This is yet another foray into the world of teen angst. As in all Larry Clark's films, he seems to portray teens with absolutely no direction that invariably does not end well. In Kidz. you had a selfish teen who only thought of his own desires and inevitably passed on AIDs. In Bully, which was actually based on a true incident in Florida, it ended up with murder of a not so nice teen. The teens portrayed in Ken Park, were not the creme of the crop by far, but yet another group of dysfunctional teens. They had absolutely no direction and lived for the moment. The oral sex in this movie is explicit as are some other scenes of fondling. If you are looking to be entertained, there is nothing entertaining about this movie. There is nothing ludicrous about the scenes portrayed in this film. They are just plain ugly as is real life in some situations.
I gave it 4 stars primarily because of the film quality and production quality, as well as story. This thing will only appeal to those fans of Larry Clark as I don't think anyone else will like it. He has never been shy with his direction and this is no exception. In this, there was very little restraint shown in what he wanted to do. You have been warned, so watch it if you dare.
on March 27, 2010
OK, so this movie may not be for the faint of heart. It deals with life, death and sex in a candid and explicit way. No candy coating, no frivolity. Just the what life deals these people. If you have sophisticated movie tastes, and are not prudish about sexual content (the sex scenes are not simulated), then give this movie a try.
This is gorilla film making. Ken Park is an incredibly difficult film to watch - in fact it will be impossible to watch for some. Yet, if you allow yourself to be taken into its world, the film paints a disturbingly accurate portrait of a certain culture which is not at all hard to believe.
We see the majority of characters longing, wanting to make a connection with other humans yet feeling alienated. We see, remarkably, the confusion and disinterest of a major portion of an entire generation that views life as hopeless.
The violence, nudity, graphic (and actual) sex never feel like exploitation or pornography, but they will surely keep a majority of Americans from viewing it. Good thing too, or they'd be asking for Larry Clark's head on a silver platter!
If you try to watch this with an open mind, and can leave your inhabitions and judgment at the door, it will be impossible not to be moved - and powerfully so - by this raw and disturbing film.
on July 24, 2013
This is one of the few movies I bought before watching, purely from its notoriety (and unavailability for rental). That was a mistake. I can usually take movies that are extreme. The problem is, it should be stressed that this is an EXTREMELY, EXPLICITLY UGLY movie. Not merely explicit. And it is very male-oriented, despite the cunning linguist shot on the cover (a scene which isn't nearly as explicit with her anatomy as you'd think - that angle hides a lot). The female presence in the explicit scenes is minimal, in some cases nonexistent (one scene treats you to an explicit male solo while he uses a noosette). So WARNING - unless you enjoy gay adult films, this might not be for you.
I give it two stars simply for its overall style, which would be quite refreshing if it weren't filled with the most unsavory personalities and actions you could possibly dream up. A couple of actors were also really good known characters, and it was interesting to see them in a project like this. The shots of Californian suburbia were also really interesting, and I had hopes for that during the opening sequence. Too bad this director doesn't have a lot of meaningful things to say, just the worst of teenage angst that those of us who lived through it already understood once we matured a little that it was nowhere near as important or any kind of revelation as we thought it was when it happened. It's really worth little more than shock value for its own sake, which is a pretty immature way of getting attention. But that's how kids this age often think, and that's what this movie portrays. It never finds a way to validate the way they did things that were outside the norm.
Just when you think this movie is ugly enough, a bit of male parental abuse is sprinkled in, in plenty of lingering detail.
I don't like using the cliche "I want 70 minutes of my life back", but in this case I do.
on January 25, 2012
Yes, it is pretty explicit in a porno kind of way and there were a couple places where I kinda wish I'd gotten a NC-17 version instead. There are things I don't really want to see. Having said that, it was not so much the images themselves but the context in which those images were seen that made it disturbing and in some cases hard to watch. Creepy. I have to give it a favorable review because it's one of those movies that has stuck with me even if I don't really want it to. Brain food or brain pollution? Enter at your own risk as some things cannot be unseen or un-thought - you have been warned.
on August 27, 2009
"Ken Park" might be Clark's best film, brilliantly negotiating the lines between pornography and psychodrama as he continues his investigation into suburban teenagers' struggles to survive in a world beleaguered by adult pathology. For all intensive purposes, this is an emotional horror film.
on July 8, 2005
Folks, this movie is alright, it's not THAT BAD. Probably the best-worded review I've read for "Ken Park" so far is on IMDB.COM. I think someone named "peedur" wrote it or something. Not that I agree with him 100%, but the good that can be taken out of this film is well expressed in his critique.
Look, FCC and MPAA, you don't want me to see something, then for Chrissake don't ban it. That just makes me want to watch it even more. In all honesty, I don't know if this film should be banned here in America. "Kids" and "Bully" made it through okay, even into theaters. When it comes to teens and sexuality, "Ken Park" might be Clark's most truthful presentation of it. Now I know that's gonna send many parents tearing their hair out, and screaming, "What can I do? How can I save them from this?" Well... you can't.
If you don't want to believe that any of what happens in "Ken Park" is real, then you'd better just not watch it altogether. Parents, the heartbreaking truth is that almost all of what happens in here has happened several times and will continue to happen unabated. I've never lived in Visalia, CA, but have spent ample time there. However, I was born and spent the first 19 years of my life in Fresno (the two are remarkably similar and close geographically). Same stagnant lifestyle, same tendency to listen to punk and hip-hop, same heat, etc.
I appreciate Clark's effort to humanize these kids this time; none of them are what I would call "bad." "Kids" made kids look bad. "Ken Park" makes kids look bored, which is what they really are. Don't scream to the heavens, asking why they would think to do such things, that's nonsense. Why do they smoke dope, drink ad nauseum, jerk off and have frivolous sex...? Because there - is - nothing - else - to - do - there. Gotta alleviate the boredom somehow. For instance, when the devout Father scorns his daughter with the Bible... referring to her as a beast and a whore... nope, she just a teenager. All teenagers are beasts and whores because YOU can't think of any other label for it.
Did I personally have sex with supple young teenage Filipino girls in their parents' Catholicism-adorned house? Actually, right in the parents' bed. I was only 17 at the time. I've challenged my father to a fight, I've gotten impatient with grandparents for taking too long a turn playing a game, I've sat around that living room watching MTV while hitting the bong and bitching about how I couldn't wait to leave the wretched town. I've done it; it happens.
Never jerked off to womens' tennis while asphyxiating myself with a robe belt, but...
It's areas like these that Clark starts to lose me. There is much more male nudity in "Ken Park" than female, so don't be expecting some wild teenaged orgy. There is not even that much actual sex in the movie. In fact, if the main characters in this film were but... 4 years older... I guarantee you this would not be banned here in America.
Visalia has - NEVER - looked as good as it does in "Ken Park" and never will again. It is photographed and directed by two ace DPs after all, so the screen composition, lighting and shading are all luminous and... for lack of a better adjective: warm. As in hospitable. The film looks more expensive than it is.
My favorite scenes are actually the opening scene and the VERY final scene. Without these strong bookends, I'd easily knock off another half-star. I personally detest Harmony Korine (the kid is just a pretentious skater prick that thinks he's Tarantino to the 12th power), however I do like this script... because it's ripped right out of the headlines.
Parents, this is not every teenager. It's really not. But it is a lot of them. "Ken Park" does not seek to illuminate the teenaged psyche en masse, but to offer examples of what we think is tragic and squalid... to be rather mundane existence. With the rather few exceptions of "shock for shock's sake" scenes, it deserves more credit than it's been given. Clark's best film is still "Bully", but "Ken Park" has its merits.
Only for those with less discriminating tastes, obviously. Tread lightly, but if you like your cinema to ignore boundaries (a la Miike Takashi) this one'll send you past the envelope.
3.5 stars, but I'll round up for audacity.
on May 4, 2009
Larry Clark's "Ken Park" is a divisive, controversial film for those who see cinema as strictly entertainment. On the other hand, viewers who approach this film as art, with an open mind, will see the beauty and tragedy of Mr. Clark's vision. Okay, let's just get one thing out of the way right off the bat - there is a whole bunch of nudity and sexual situations involving young actors playing teenagers in "Ken Park," and many scenes are purposefully uncomfortable. Topics covered in Harmony Korine's freewheeling screenplay include; incest, both straight and gay; teenage suicide; teenage pregnancy; auto-erotic asphyxiation; threesomes; a rat-faced skate-punk performing graphic cunnilingus on his girlfriend's mother, and bloody parricide. That said, the film is beautifully shot, and naturalistically acted, creating a very convincing slice-of-life. Make no bones about it, you will not be hit on the head with any traditional notion of plot or storyline, you are just given a snapshot into the sad lives of a handful of California teenagers. I guess this film is a litmus-test of some kind, but I thought that it was beautiful, terrible, tragic, and fascinating by turns. It definitely is an acquired taste, but then, I've dug all of Larry Clark's films, even his remake of "Teenage Caveman," which shares several young cast-members with "Ken Park." If you are feeling adventurous some night, watch this movie.