Cinophile: Kids

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Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone! Well, Pink Floyd doesn’t need to worry about this particular brat pack. They don’t really care what you think, which is why to this day Kids remains one of the most controversial movies ever made…

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Kids‘ cast were mostly all first-time actors, selected by Larry Clark to make the film feel more real and raw. Despite this, the dialogue was scripted and not improvised, thanks to Harmony Korine’s excellent script. He wrote it when he was only 18 – around the age of several of the film’s characters. Oliver Stone later tried to convince Korine to write a similar script for him.

Like the Seventies, the Nineties was a decade that really revelled in gritty films and edgy themes. The teen genre, pioneered by Breakfast Club, was also going through a lot of changes, producing classics like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You and Cruel Intentions. But some might say that Kids was the defining moment for the category. Others would argue whether it was a teen movie at all. Even today not everyone can agree if this was an artistic accomplishment or a shameless exploitation film.

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It was an uphill battle to get Kids released. Its controversial subject matter saw it banned in several countries and suffer massive cuts in others. In the U.S. it was rated NC-17, which forced the producers to buy the film back from the distribution company. But they funded the release themselves and ended up with a very healthy profit. The Weinstein brothers are thought to have earned at least $2 million each in profit from Kids.

Kids follows a group of young adults as they live their lives in Nineties New York. It is a world largely devoid of moral compasses or useful adults, where debauchery is the way to escape the humdrum of life. The film has two main characters – Telly, a loose cannon seducer of virgins, and Jennie, a former girlfriend who discovers he gave her HIV. As Jennie tries to find her ex, he goes about seducing his next conquest, both along the way giving a glimpse into the underbelly of the city’s youth culture.

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Larry Clark wanted to cast real “street” kids for the film. He chose the lead Leo Fitzpatrick after seeing a home video of him skateboarding in New York. His co-star Justin Pierce, who played Casper, broke his wrist during production after fighting with a bouncer. He can be seen in the pool scene holding his wrist high to control the pain.

It is almost certain that director Larry Clark took inspiration from The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll’s book about his teenage years in Sixties New York (and later adapted into the popular movie). Kids is not an adaptation, but there are many similarities. While Carroll’s linchpin was heroin, Clark focuses on sexuality. Shot in gritty doccie-style, the script is so natural it feels improvised. Kids pulls no punches and it is easy to see why it made such waves in 1995.  Larry Clark’s goal was to make a ‘real’ teen movie. It’s wrong to say he didn’t succeed…

 

 

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: February 3, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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