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For the sake of your time, and mine, I'll skip the synopsis and get right to the point: Larry Clark's Wassup Rockers loses none of the Clark appeal, that his fans have grown to admire, in the switch to a softer film that Clark hopes will be more accepted by distributors than his previous movies. As most of Clark's fans know endeavors such as Ken Park, Kids and Bully have all focused around 'bad' kids, however, in Rockers, the kids are just trying to be themselves without getting harassed by their peers for not succumbing to the hip-hop element so present in their South Central neighbourhood. During the boys' eventful day in Beverly Hills, a parallel to The Warriors, a favorite of Clark's, can be clearly drawn. In short, this has been Larry Clark's best film to date. So great in fact, even my girlfriend who is not a fan of Larry Clark at all really enjoyed it.
Larry Clark is one of the rare active filmmakers in North America-and in the world-who makes films that are overwhelmingly important and immediate. Though on the surface his subjects are not openly political, nor full of grand pretenses, his films are among the most vital portraits of the cultural, political and social landscape of North America in recent years. In Wassup Rockers, Clark, the leading infant terrible of world cinema, has perhaps created his greatest polemic. He has put his fists down. After the roars of rage of his two previous films, Bully and the masterpiece Ken Park, the filmmaker lets more tenderness into his scenes than ever before. Ken Park certainly had moments of great tenderness, often between shocking moments (the concluding sex scene, which has been hailed by some as the most moving sex scene in cinema, certainly comes to mind), but Wassup Rockers has a different sense of tenderness. This portrait of punk-rock Latino solidarity, of Salvadorian and Guatemalan refugees in South Central Los Angeles, who belong only in their own worlds, is poetic and inspiring, like all of Larry Clark's films it is most beautiful in its portrait of the ugliness with which the world treats the wretched of the world, perhaps because it provides us with a sense of reality that we recognize. Like Kids, Wassup Rockers is set during one eventful, symbolic or completely meaningless day, in which they decide to visit the white man's world, of which they can only imagine, like all oppressed people think of their oppressors. Just wanting to skateboard (a fetish of Clark's) in the luxurious parts of Los Angeles is enough to change their world, as they battle bigot after bigot and are exposed to the extreme violence that lies beneath the surface of bourgeois comfort. There is one extraordinary scene between one of the boys (who, like all of the other main actors in the film, is a non-professional more or less playing himself, whose character, like the others, even has his own name) and a wealthy girl that he meets, both try and have a conversation with one another, but they are never really able to communicate, to penetrate and to break through the walls of social class that separate them, they speak different languages, one speaks of constant struggle, the other of comfort, one speaks of death, the other speaks of knowing only life, one speaks of friends, the other speaks of brothers, of comrades in arms. The images, sometimes extraordinary for the sake of being so real, are made even more powerful by the blaring punk rock which provides an incredible rhythm for the film, instilling in the film an unmerciful and energetic musical counterpart to the proletariat struggle depicted in the images of the film. As always though, a simple analysis of a Larry Clark film tends to never really capture his incredible sense of ambiance, because his objective is not to make a statement about anything that can be easily understood cerebrally, but to understand these kids, who live in constant marginalization without realizing it, who didn't choose the conditions in which they live but face them fearlessly, collectively, like a tribe going into battle, fighting together.
If I were to summarize this film in short, I'd have to call it a Comedy
that is somewhat like a mainstream version of "KIDS".
I've been a fan of coming of age films for many years. I've seen all of Clark's work, along with numerous international films such as Pixote, Nunmal, Timeless/Bottomless and many, many other films that fall within the genre. What I've always found appealing about Clarks work is the bleak outlook and hopeless feeling you'd get after watching his films. Even while many criticized Ken Park for being more shock then substance, it still gave me that "feeling" that KIDS did. This is what I had hoped for going into Wassup Rockers. I wasn't really concerned with the "shock value" of say a Ken Park, but I was looking for that same feeling I got after watching "Kids".
I didn't get that feeling.
Now while watching Wassup Rockers I'd find it hard to believe one couldn't make comparisons to KIDS. The movie opens with the camera pointed at a young boy named Jonathan, who basically outlines what we're about to see over the remained of the film. He talks about his friends and their habits, and the types of things he does or sees on a daily basis. It's very reminiscent of the begging of KIDS when Telly's commentary starts the film off discussing girls. You then have various scenes depicting some of the activities the youth get into. In KIDS you've see the skateboarding, the drinking, the blunt rolling and the girls.. In Wassup you see pretty much the same, minus the drugs and drinking, something there is NONE OF in this film. You do however get a scene in which two males are talking about their "first time", much like the scene in KIDS when Rosario Dawson and Chloe were in the bedroom with two friends discussing oral sex. It's not that this is a KIDS 'remake' more than it just felt very similar in terms of the content.
Now for the things that failed. First, this has to be the worst acted film Clark has worked on. I understand and appreciate the fact he found these kids in South Central on the street, but there were times in which the acting was so poor it just wasn't believable. I just couldn't believe one of the confrontations between a group of African Americans and the crew for example. It almost seemed like someone was standing off to the side waving "say something!". When speaking after the film Clark mentioned that the script was a mere 32 pages, and a lot was improve, and that would explain some of the acting. Think about this for a second. You found a group of kids who have never acted before and you ask them to improvise the majority of the script. While I'll admit this makes the film feel genuine at times, it also makes it feel forced at times as well. I'm also not sure how many Clark fans will find his 'upbeat' feel to be a positive change. One of the audience members asked "what happened to you?", even stating that "this film is a feel good film nothing like you've ever done before" upon which Clark responded by saying "I've done Ken Park That's as far as I can go with that. I wanted to do something new something different", and he has. The problem is I liked Larry Clark for that reason, and now I question if he'll ever go back. There is even a parody of Clint Eastwood in the movie, suggesting that it be taken light heatedly.
With all of that being said, I still think this is a big accomplishment for Clark. In my opinion, he went back to the film that started it all and created it in a format that could be enjoyed by more people. His discussed his experience at Cannes and the TIFF a year prior when introducing Ken Park as well. He wanted to be able to reach out to these "fans" he had, yet he couldn't due to their ages and his films ratings. Another one of his comments however may be a little more insightful into the real reason this film was made when he stated "This was the hardest film for me to make". In elaborating on the reasons he touched on a few things, one being investments. He suggested investors had written him off because they considered him "crazy", so it was very hard to get backing. Almost like nobody wanted to risk taking a chance on Clark after Ken Park. I myself wonder if this wasn't the real purpose of this film. He needed a film that could make some money, so he could continue to be a director. Some may refer to this as being a "Sell out" type film, but I won't be that harsh. I can see this film playing in small theatres in the US to be honest, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't get an official DVD release in the US also, something Ken Park has never experienced. I just can't seem to grasp the idea that one of the more controversial directors in America today has decided to create was seems to be an upbeat, mainstream comedy but hell, who am I? So where does that leave it? I didn't enjoy it as much as KIDS, nor do I think it's as good a movie. I'd also argue Bully was better overall. Ken Park on the other hand would make the more interesting debate. Ken Park was more memorable and enjoyable to me, but Wassup Rockers had a lot more substance to it. I guess that means I'm also guilty of the "shock" value Clark films can offer, something Wassup Rockers has left behind.
A good film indeed, but not typical Larry Clark. You can decide if that's a good or bad thing
I work with youth in Los Angeles, and Wassup Rockers is probably the most accurate non-documentary depiction I have ever seen of LA youth on film. Granted, the "acting" is choppy as it clearly jumps between the kids being themselves, and then saying scripted lines. But the characters are real. The most poignant point of the film was that murders are taking place in impoverished neighborhoods just a short bus ride away from the multi-million dollar homes and cushy lifestyles of Beverly Hills. The story was weak and lacked fluidity, but the reality of the characters made up for it twofold. With the exception of the "preppy" kids, who seemed a bit forced, the characters are all spot on for how LA kids today truly are. And the graphic descriptions of sexuality are not exaggerations. If you want to know exactly what the inner-city youth look like today, look no further than Wassup Rockers. This film is a must see for anyone who intends to work with kids, especially in an urban environment.
What an outstanding movie. This is easily up there with KIDS if not better. I need to see it a few more times in order to say for sure. During the Q&A after the movie Clark admitted that the goal was to make a film more accessible to kids so that they actually get a chance to see his movies. This means no more flying semen or murdered grandparents. This is a story about kids "from the ghetto" who don't quite fit in in the hood, and definitely don't fit into mainstream whitebread America, but that's all okay with them cause they have their freedom, and they have each other. I applaud Clark on this one. If you're a fan of the gratuitous 17 and under sex scenes then look elsewhere, Clark get the sex scenes done this time without going over the top. They're actually there as part of the story and not in the film for shock factor. Bottom line, amazing flick, and I hope it gets mainstream distribution. Of all his films, this one has the best shot of actually getting decent box office exposure.
Larry Clark is an intelligent film maker.There is no doubt about it. With "What's up rockers",he has given a human face to his film making career.Before this particular film most of his films were based on his personal experiences on dangerous psychology of young kids phenomenon. One thing which his fans and their parents will like is that compared to "Kenpark" there is much less controversial matter or rather nothing objectionable at all.This film does not preach but in an unofficial manner it has been successful in delivering its message of trust,peace, respect and brotherhood.A good aspect is that all the events of this film are in accordance with its pace whether they might be comical,sad ,hilarious or bizarre.One may also be tempted to rename it as "a day long road movie about Latino kids".This is only partially true as all communities made their presence felt.If exploration of young teenage minds is your favorite field of study, this is the film which you need at the earliest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Clark has an eye for kids, no pun intended. But his portrayals are often so racy and exploitative for most of today's youth, that the viewer can sometimes get confused with what of the content is based on reality and what is just Clark's semi-perverted imagination. Wassup Rockers is a mind-numbing stream of consciousness story about Mexican kids who dress like punk rockers(tight jeans, uncut hair), live in south central Los Angeles, and skate Beverly Hills/Hollywood for kicks. Their misadventures include getting funky with white girls, crashing a rich hipster party, and getting shot by Charlton Heston. Gee, sounds like some sort of counter-culture masterpiece right? Well, not quite. Of course, like other Clark movies, the kids aren't actors; they don't act. Most of them just kind of take up space. The worst part is the 10 minute long improv conversation between Kiko and one of the white girls in her bedroom. At best, it could be compared to a schoolroom skit on "diversity", but not convincing movie material in the least. The rest of the movie is just awkward and disorienting. Though I thought it god awful, I couldn't help but laugh hysterically at the completely accurate portrayals of wealthy hipster kids. Go see Wassup Rockers if you love skate montages and made-on-the-spot "hardcore punk" songs. The majority of the movie is said scenes. If you're not a fan, however, don't waste the 8 dollars.
WASSUP ROCKERS details the events that transpire over the course of
twenty four hours when a group of young male punk rock Hispanic skater
teenagers travel from South Central to Beverly Hills using every kind
of form of transportation that they come across. They end up opening
the eyes of a group of rich and spoiled young girls, getting chased by
the police, getting attacked by jealous jocks, and everyone else that
they come across, both gay and straight, end up all either falling in
love with them or being admirers of them. A couple people end up
actually dying too! This film has everything!!!!
No, but seriously, the plot of this film may sound kind of like a cross between Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Warriors, which isn't far from the truth. I'd almost call it a remake of The Warriors if I weren't such a purist. Either way though, I had so much fun with this film. Within ten minutes I ended up falling in love with all these boys and I especially loved how genuine they are about everything. They consistently remain true to each other, which is so rare in youth-related films today. They are all brave and good natured. They aren't violent, they don't do drugs, and they are charming in a weird way. I would probably not be bothered by the idea of them hanging out with my nephew. They really lend a lot of energy to the film, which helps the film stay more focused on the surroundings rather than plot, and this really isn't the kind of film that should have a plot, or at least a complicated one.
This film likely won't be everyone's cup of tea. The subject matter, relating to gang violence, punk rock, and skateboarding will not appeal to a lot of viewers. In addition to that, most will not appreciate the blatant stereotypes of all the characters surrounding this group of boys. I personally was not bothered by most of it. I felt that it somewhat helped define the characters a little bit more by allowing them to roam in an environment that wasn't reality and was somewhat simple. I did find the one scene with the Charlton Heston lookalike to be a little too tasteless, but I was too entertained and fascinated by what was going on to really be much bothered by it.
I think that this is one of Larry Clark's strongest films. It's not quite as good as BULLY, but it's not really the same kind of film either. WASSUP ROCKERS is really more of an entertainment picture. This is pretty much Larry Clark's lightest and most positive film, though when the darker situations come into play Larry Clark goes all the way with it. WASSUP ROCKERS is entertaining, moving, scary, hilarious, and bizarre. It's very fast paced, so even if you dislike the film it will be out of your system before you know it. In short, this is a great film and I applaud Larry Clark for pulling off such a fun film.
For the first 20 minutes or so of Wassup Rockers, I thought "been
there, done that." Meaning that, simply, Larry Clark has done this kind
of movie before, better, more wisely and with some extra depth on the
subject of stray kids doing their own thing without much parental
supervision. But then, finally, something started to take shape: the
film is, if about something, a class tale, with the South Central
Hispanics roaming around Beverly Hills just looking for a place to
skate and getting into various misadventures (some funny, some deadly).
And at the same time, even more than Kids, there's a raw quality to the
performances, with mixed results. It's like that docu-drama Streetwise
from the 80s with a touch of Ferris Bueller and then put to a
soundtrack of rip-offs or sound-alikes of the Casualties.
Part of the problem of Wassup Rockers is that it is not too interesting within its aimless structure. Having a film without much of a plot can work fine, they're made all the time in independent quarters in America and especially Europe. But it should amount to something by the end, and by the end of Wassup Rockers there isn't very much of a point except, well, don't go into Beverly Hills for too long if you're Hispanic and looking like a member of the Ramones by way of Tony Hawk. But within this jump-around structure, around some of the random sex scenes and skateboarding and the kind of cool scenes of the kids riding their boards to LA punk rock, Clark does create a fun B-movie. At the least, it's never boring, and if it isn't really groundbreaking or as revelatory or whatever as Kids (and it isn't) it does provide something of a small window into something we haven't seen before, or at least I haven't seen before.
Not all of the performances are below par, an in fact there's a charm and down to earth honesty to a lot of scenes (a scene that made me think a lot of Streetwise is when the kid Chico is talking to the Beverly Hills girl in their underwear in her bedroom - this is stripped down to the point of simple documentary, and it suddenly becomes affecting strangely enough). And, if nothing else, it works as a B movie, a kids-on-the-prowl story that should appeal most to anyone who likes to just roam around when they have nothing to do when they're 14 or 15. It's a minor work that has moments of real power.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I must confess that initially, I did not know what to think of this
film. As a professional film lecturer, I was looking for the single
unifying idea in the work, be it a visual motif or a thematic concern.
Finally, when I gave up any hope of finding that singularity, Wassup
Rockers began to make sense and become enjoyable. If you allow this
film to simply unfold in front of you and you accept what is happening
on the screen as being "realistic" for the screen characters, then,
Wassup Rockers is actually a thrilling experience. The film takes its
name from a greeting considered insulting by the Latino heroes of this
ultimately wild adventure tale. Although you don't know that when the
Wassup Rockers begins with a sly split-screen view of a 14-year-old Hispanic skateboard rat who tells the camera (and us) about how many girls he's had and other stories that aren't necessarily believable. Also, since this is a Larry Clark film, we focus on the boy's scrawny chest and the little wisps of kitten fur he has for a mustache. It is an odd beginning and it prepared me for a hyper-realistic documentary-like look into the lives of Hispanic skateboarders. But that is not what happened.
The narrative, once it finally gets rolling follows seven of these boys, the oldest being 17 and the youngest being 13 (or so he claims but no one believes him) as they leave their South Central neighborhood and bus it over to Beverly Hills to practice some skateboard jumps at the Beverly Hills High School. While there, they attract the attention of some pretty (but vapid) Beverly Hills High School girls and then, not surprisingly, the attention of some not so friendly Beverly Hills High School boys.
The Beverly Hills boys are rude and nasty and then the local police get involved and they get hassled by a real prick of a cop. Our poor Latino boys are seemingly miffed at this, but really, what did they expect? They went from their ghetto neighborhood to this expensive one known for its intolerance and they get hassled. Well, "Duh?" Did you think there would be a welcome wagon? It is at this point that the film turns and becomes either hysterically funny in a perverse way, or ludicrous in a disjointed way. Me, I threw sanity to the wind and just followed the hilarious misadventures as the boys try to get back home.
This adventure home takes on the surreality of The Warriors and an ancient Greek tragedy. Barely escaping their Beverly High School Boy tormentors, our Latino heroes snake their way back to South Central by trespassing through the backyards of the wealthy residents. Like Burt Lancaster heading home via swimming pools in The Swimmer, they are not taking a logical route, but a route through a tortured landscape where they will face many monsters each more grotesque than the next.
They are beset upon by frilly gay men who want to help them into modeling careers (but are more interested in their tight young bodies), by a vicious action star who shoots first and asks questions later (killing one of them, but the others don't seem to care much) and a drunken woman who playfully bathes one of the boys before electrocuting herself in a bathtub.
Yes, at this point Wassup Rockers goes down some very silly paths. It starts like the best of an Italian neo-realist film (early Rossellini) and devolves into scenes of Felliniesque outrageousness and fantasy. The shifting tone is occasionally disturbing; especially when one of the kids gets brutally shot in the head but then, someone being brutally shot to death over nothing is disturbing. I mean, you have no right to use lethal force to protect property. Only if you are in immediate danger can you defend yourself, but that was certainly not the case here. That the cops just glossed over this death seems very typical considering that the perpetrator is rich.
Over all, the film held my interest and I was relieved to see the surviving boys finally get home OK, although there was no good reason for them to go on this adventure to begin with. But then, that is true of most film adventures, isn't it?
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