Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kids (1995)

It sucked when I was a teenager and it still sucks today.

Kids is featured on Whitney's "Top 5 Movies I Dont' Ever Want to Watch List." I had seen it when I was younger so I knew what was coming. Having seen it before, I really tried my best to go into Kids with fresh eyes, which I pretty much did. I told myself, "it's been a long time since you've seen it, it's probably not nearly as bad as you remember." I was wrong.

I would have loved to record a collaboration with Rob over at Natsukashi for this one. Larry Clark's 1995 pseudo-documentary about a bunch of sexually aggressive little shits even worse than I had remembered. My memories, though not exactly nostalgic, included a scene where a kid drinks red Kool-Aid from a tampon, a vicious gang beating, and a rape scene involving an unconscious girl who just found out she has AIDS. That's just the stuff that I remembered. As I watched Kids again, it quickly became clear that there had been quite a lot that I had forgotten. Now I'm going to have to forget it all over again.

Kids was written by an 18 year old Harmony Korine. For those of you who aren't familiar with Korine, he's made movies like Gummo which is one of the most off-putting films I've ever seen. Other titles include and Julien Donkey-Boy and The Diary of Anne Frank (Part Two), the latter "used three movie screens to alternately show such disturbing images as a mentally handicapped man in a soiled diaper and the burying of a dead dog." (source) Gummo, in my opinion, is really interesting while Kids is not.

I can't say I've ever met someone who really enjoys watching Kids. I'm sure they're out there and we've probably met. But, for as long as I can remember, no one has ever told me that Kids is a movie they like. I'll let Dennis Schwartz over at Ozus' World Movie Reviews sum up what this movie is like. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, Schwartz gave it a coveted "Fresh Tomato" indicating a positive review. Granted, his full-length review allows a little explanation, but I'd say everything was summed up nicely in this sentence.

How does someone writes that and then click the "Fresh Tomato" button? Yikes.

There is very little redeeming qualities in Kids. Yes, the shooting style made the film's contents appear to be more realistic. Thanks. That doesn't change the contents. Here's just a laundry list of things I hated about this movie.

1. No one to care about. From Minute One, every character depicted is shown to be irresponsible, selfish, and disgusting. I understand having a single character like that, even a group of them, but every single character? That just doesn't work. When we begin to care about one of the characters they do something awful. An interesting result of this, however, is that these people come off as some sort of plague, infecting and corrupting all those they come into contact. When an innocent, young girl named Darcy begins to spend time with the film's main character, it's clear that her innocence won't be long-lasting. One of the last scenes sees to that.

2. Messages are convoluted and ineffective. The characters do whatever they want without facing any consequences. Even the one girl who gets AIDS doesn't care enough to stop her partner from passing the virus along to other people. It would seem that Clark would rather settle for shock value rather than putting the work in to make compelling narratives that actually say something. Scene after scene refuses to contribute anything to the film other than to add imagery to a constantly growing stockpile of perversion. By the end, that's all the viewer is left with. Clark shocks the viewer and then leaves them with an impression that seems to state, "well, that's just how life is." In Clark's world, even getting AIDS doesn't need to impede or hinder the rest of your life. It'd be a nice message if it wasn't accompanied by a side note that says " just keep sleeping around."

3. It could easily pass for a kiddie porn film. That might be good news for some *coughseeabove cough* but that's definitely enough to stop any form of recommendation coming from me. Young kids walking around in their underwear, or less, playing out sex scenes. What is this? A FOREIGN FILM? I think not! But in all seriousness, the movie made me feel really uneasy and not in a good way. Gummo made me feel really similar but the difference with Gummo was that that discomfort was paired with effective performances, an impressive style and art direction, and a strange sense of comedy that kept the film from completely alienating everyone viewing it.

Well, Whitney, thanks for letting me revisit something that would have made my "Never Watch Again" list. As I said earlier, my feelings towards Kids haven't really changed since my teenage years. I just hope that since than I've figured out a better way of communicating why it makes me want to drink from a tampon soaked in formaldehyde.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who is an English professor was in college studying film at the time this was released, and, at the time she liked it because it was deemed 'cool' to like it from a pseudo-hip, avant film school student perspective . (She was actually considering doing an episode with me on it) as she views it as trash today in every sense of the word.

elgringo said...

I am so happy that I wasn't put in a situation where I was pressured into liking Kids. Blue Velvet, on the other hand, has been shoved down my throat since the first moment I enrolled for classes. However, Blue Velvet has truckloads of talent behind it and I've come to it over the years. I hope you guys do do an episode on Kids, I'd love to hear it.

Joe Doudna said...

HAHA, KIDS. Its been so long since I've seen it I'm not sure I can really comment on it ... But I'll try my best. I saw it in a theater ...

... it was in focus ...

... haha. No really, I saw it with a group of friends, and I remembered we liked it. I don't know if 'like' is the appropriate word to use, but I know I didn't like it enough to ever watch it again. It's a tough watch. I would agree with all of your points, but I wouldn't un-watch it. I'm not sure how I would like it now, and I'm not really all that interested in finding out.

Take care Scott, I'll call you soon.

elgringo said...

Yeah, I wouldn't say that I'm sorry I watched it...maybe a repeated viewing was a bit much. At least I'm able to talk about it now. Maybe in 5 years I'll watch it again and see if anything has changed.