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Ken Park (2002) October 6, 2005

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

All those opposed to nudity, explicit sex and other more graphic forms of film erotica often try to hide their political and philosophical agendas by employing strictly artistic arguments. According to them, explicit erotica too often doesn’t serve any other purpose than to shock or titillate audience and thus hide the fact that a film doesn’t have artistic merit. One of the films where this argument could be made is KEN PARK, controversial 2002 drama directed by Larry Clark and Edward Lachman.

The film is set in Californian town Visalia and begins with the suicide of adolescent skater Ken Park (played by Adam Chubbuk). The plot continues to describe the lives four of his friends. Tate (played by James Ransone) lives with his grandparents and reacts to their kindness with increasing levels of violence. Claude (played by Stephen Jasso) is considered effeminate and gay-like by his macho father (played by Wade Williams) only to become target of his sexual abuse. Peaches (played by Tiffany Limos) lives with Catholic fundamentalist father whom he tries to defy by engaging in BDSM practices with her boyfriend. Shawn (played by James Bullard) is involved in sexual relationship with Zoe (played by Maeve Quinlan), mother of his girlfriend.

KEN PARK received great deal of controversy – in other words, free publicity – due to the scenes that contain non-simulated urination and sexual activity. When the authors like Larry Clark – who already created controversial reputation due to his tendency to make films featuring adolescent characters in the birthday suits or having sex – resort to this kind of artistic decision, it is usually not a sign of a great artistic confidence. Actually, according to interviews, Clark struggled with the ideas for KEN PARK for almost a decade before being provided with script written by Harmony Korine, who had written screenplay for his first and best film KIDS.

Although KIDS and KEN PARK superficially resemble each other in their naturalistic portrayal of dysfunctional alienated youths involved in various forms of social pathology, it becomes very clear that the first film, unlike KEN PARK, had something resembling plot and clearly defined characters. Korine’s idea to make KEN PARK deal with dysfunctional youths’ parents only resulted in series of unconnected vignettes and characters who tragically stereotypical – religious fundamentalists are suppressing incestuous urges while openly homophobic macho men are closet gays. In this kind of film, especially in the scenes when the audience is likely to pay more attention to someone’s private parts than characters or plot, any kind of stereotype only suffocates whatever meaningful content have been left on the screen. It is sad to see otherwise good actors like Amanda Plummer waste their talent and risk their reputation by appearing in films like this. It is equally sad to see young and good actors who might easily be branded by KEN PARK till the end of their careers. The movie is well-shot, but it is the only good thing that could be said about KEN PARK. Clark and Lachman tried to show themselves as uncompromising artists that would stop at nothing in order to bring ugly realities of the world to the screen, but the only ugly reality revealed was their own shallowness.

RATING: 2/10 (-)



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