Before Larry Clark was a known figure in controversial filmmaking he was a brilliant photographer. Some might argue that his photography is considerably better than his films, and I'd have to agree. By "better" I mean that they have a deeper effect on you and, despite the often bleak subject matter, they are clean, provoking images with good form. However, Clark's first film Kids, co-written by Harmony Korine, should be considered his directorial masterpiece.
In the early '90s Clark shot a series of photos that were documents of New York skate culture and depravity within the lifestyles of young people. Clark enjoyed interacting with his subjects, often finding a muse and/or love interest among them. Many of those New York kids would later be in his first film, more or less dramatizing and extending what could be felt through the grizzly portraits of them. The energy of the film is fresh and the entire line-up, omitting the producer, was quite amateur; Korine was 19 when he wrote the script; Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloe Sevigny, and Rosario Dawson were all debuting on the screen. Clark's ability to compose a frame filled with images you can't ignore ultimately stabilized the film, and Korine's efforts, matched with an ambitious cast, made it something to be realized and respected.Continue Reading
Todd Solondz is, without a doubt, one of the best living American directors. His two works from the '90s, Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, served as groundbreaking material in terms of dark comedy and a ruthless exploitation of sorts. Some regard them as his best work with the knowledge that the films that follow only get harder to swallow. But it isn't just the steadfast exposure to topics such as backyard abortion and pedophilia that unsettles his audiences, but rather his approach. Through bright colors and jovial songs, Solondz mocks suburbia and the tortured souls of those suffering with mediocrity and mental illness to the point that it is hilarious. And while you feel bad, or perhaps uncomfortable with the development of each film, there is something about them that keeps you focused and satisfied. Storytelling is wedged in between Solondz's nastiest and most complex work, Palindromes, and those aforementioned ones that made him big. Being in the middle means that it is not as easy-going and lighthearted as the first two (if you could even call them that), nor is it as nuanced and off-the-walls as Palindromes. However, this is the movie in which no one is spared as he attacks the hidden comedy within racial taboos, servants, rich Jewish families, and our education system. To add to this lineup of targets was a fresh approach; the movie is split into two unrelated character developments, one called Fiction, and the other Non-fiction. The separation of these two storytelling methods was not only interesting in a way that pars with anthology Horror films, but gave meaning to such methods for anyone who fancies themselves a storyteller.
FICTION: In this segment we find Vi (Selma Blair), a pink-haired college student looking for substance in all the wrong places. She and her handicapped boyfriend Marcus (Leo Fitzpatrick) have a writing course with a professor of great prestige. Vi is just short of obsessed with him, though not because he's won the Pulitzer Prize for his literature, nor because he's a brutally honest teacher. Now's the time to mention that her professor is black. Solondz exposes her loyalty as a sort of Mandingo fetish, which causes an outrage in Marcus when he discovers that she and other white girls on campus seem to be under the same spell. Meanwhile, we see their classroom atmosphere develop as Professor Scott ruins his classroom's general hope of becoming writers. From there, we follow Vi as she pursues her professor and receives the lesson of a lifetime that is nothing short of brutal.Continue Reading