Ken Park focuses on several teenagers and their tormented home lives. Shawn seems to be the most conventional. Tate is brimming with psychotic rage; Claude is habitually harassed by his brutish father and coddled, rather uncomfortably, by his enormously pregnant mother. Peaches 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 # the result of suburban ennui, a teenager's inherent sense of melodrama, and the disturbing nature of their home environments.Written by
Reading the local (Belgian) reviews for this movie, you'd seriously think we're moving back in time. Critics seem to be bending over backwards in their defense of sexually explicit imagery (okay, there's a little bit of what could be considered hardcore footage here, but nothing on the level of, say, BAISE-MOI for instance), once again trying to establish the thin line between art and pornography, forgetting (conveniently, perhaps ?) to really focus on the film instead. Could it be that Harmony Korine's razor sharp screenplay, largely based on the personal experiences of some of director Larry Clark's friends and models, actually hit too close to home for a lot of people to admit ?
Though the sleepy suburb in this movie might qualify as quintessential Americana by definition of many, I can assure you that the stuff that happens over there takes place all over the world. A lot of things both the adolescents and their parents go through were instantly recognizable to me personally, and I'm a 35 (going on 36) year old employee from that minuscule ant heap of a country called Belgium. How's that for universal appeal ?
Too many adult viewers would still seem to prefer to deny the very possibility that their teen-aged children harbor strong sexual desires, let alone the likely consequence that they've already acted upon them ! It may strike some as slightly unsavory that now 59 year old Larry Clark addresses such issues (especially given the level of unflinching honesty and carnal frankness demonstrated here), as he did in both KIDS and BULLY previously, but nearly no one else apparently dares to come anywhere near this topic as of yet. Much more than simply courting controversy, Clark (and co-helmer Lachman) have crafted a beautiful, funny, touching, heartbreaking and absolutely haunting (those final frames with the titular Ken Park will be etched in my mind for life) work of, yes, art.
A lot of older viewers have remarked that the film is somehow unfairly slanted in favor of the young characters (compelling actors the lot of them), rendering the adults as grotesque caricatures. As far as I'm concerned, only very inattentive viewers could ever come up with that assessment. Tate's grandparents may initially come across as whiny and pathetic yet there's a sweet little scene later on that shows their genuine affection for one another. It is both telling and sad that their grisly fate apparently elicits far less shocks from its audiences than those scant minutes of groin action. A world gone mad, indeed.
Claude's macho dad is another case in point. His ultimate transgression towards his son manages to be both disturbing and weirdly touching. Each adult character (let's not forget Claude's mom, engagingly portrayed by the underrated Amanda Plummer) gets at least one scene where the admittedly stereotypical surface is scratched away and subtleties like a single wounded glance can turn the whole story on its head. I sincerely love this movie precisely for doing just that.
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