Rough '. Rider
He used to be an outlaw. Then art saved his life. Now, Larry Clark, director of Kids, is back with another controversial film.
Words: Hannah Fries
Larry Clark, director of Kids and now Another Day In Paradise, is in a disgruntled mood. ‘In the middle of the film,’ he practically growls, ‘there was a rough sex scene between Bobbie and Rosie. I wonder why the fuck it’s not there now?’
Clark is the kind of man who is bound to fall foul of censors, because his life story is shocking and the material he puts into his work is equally so. A photographer and artist for over 30 years, Clark has covered some thorny territory including his years as an outlaw in the 605 and 70s. Tulsa, his book of photographs of himself and friends from those years, is a classic. ‘As a visual artist you can be controversial, but it’s not like you are forbidden from showing your work,’ he says. ‘With film, it’s a totally different story.’
Clark’s censorship trouble began when America’s ratings board, the MPAA (which is heavily influenced by the Hollywood studios), refused to give his debut feature film, Kids, a certificate. ‘I didn’t expect trouble. I thought Kids was an art film,’ he says. ‘But the film was so different that it just freaked people out. It was too real. We had fights with the ratings boards; they wouldn’t give us an R (equivalent of the UK’s 18) for that movie. They wouldn’t give us a rating that we could play in the theatres. We had to break new ground and get into theatres that had never shown an unrated movie before. The MPAA are still mad at me for Kids.
Another Day In Paradise has a more conventional subject, but it’s not often that an outlaw movie is inspired by the personal experience of its director. ‘I’m just trying to show it as real as possible,’ says Clark. ‘l’m dealing with a milieu that I’m very familiar with. I wanted to go back and do something about those years.’
‘Those years’ are something he won’t say very much about, except to define ‘outlaw’ as someone who is ‘out there, beyond the law, living on the road from day to day’ and that there was a period when it was ‘all about getting drugs any way you could.
‘The MPAA are still mad at me for Kids.’ Larry Clark
Biker: Larry Clark. director of Kids and Another Day In Paradise
There was excitement and some fun,’ he says, ‘but a lot of bad things happened. Lots of my friends from that period are dead.’ His voice is so low and gravelly at this point that it’s hard to make the words out.
Art gave Clark something else to live for, and by his own admission possibly saved his life. With over 50 one-person exhibitions to his name and work in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the LA Museum of Contemporary Art and the Guggenheim, his achievement is great. Martin Scorsese and Gus Van Sant acknowledge Clark’s work as inspiration for Taxi Driver and Drugstore Cowboy, and both directors have supported his transition from visual art to film.
Whether we get to see the full version of his latest film or not depends upon whether the offending ‘rough sex’ scene is restored. ‘It’s been put back in for Europe; it’s going to be in Germany, France, everywhere and it’s supposed to be here in Britain,’ Clark affirms. Let’s hope, for the sake of challenging filmmaking, that it is.
Another Day In Paradise opens on Fri 13 Aug. See review, right.
Another Day In
Paradise (13) 122 mins iii
Bobbie (Vincent Kartheiser) is a teenager fending for himself in a cruel world: he lives in a sordid room amid drugs and desperados and gets cash by breaking into vending machines. Seen through the eyes of director Larry Kids Clark, this is not a cool existence. It is a harsh one, hopeful only because Bobbie has got his whole life ahead of him, and beautiful only because of a loving girlfriend (Natasha Gregson Wagner). When an older more experienced criminal, Mel (James Woods), offers Bobbie the chance of escape there isn’t another option the teenager can turn to.
Another Day In Paradise is the story of four outlaws who go further down the wrong path than any of them have done before. It is also a study of relationships in extreme circumstances, and the attempt by four displaced people to create family bonds amongst themselves. The violent, brutal Mel and his childless, heroin-addicted lover, Sidney (Melanie Griffith) take a nurturing approach to Bobbie and his girlfriend Rosie, and even as they lead them into hell at least some of their intentions remain good.
Clark's keen eye for psychological detail ensures that this is not a run-of- the-mill heist/road movie. The range of emotion explored in the scenes between the two sets of lovers and in the surrogate parent-child relationship is impressive, at times comic, touching and lacerating; and it is finely performed. Unfortunately, the female parts are initially heavy with generic girly stuff (shopping, babies and boyfriends) and, frustratingly, Sidney and Rosie always defer to their men. Clark’s radicalism manifests in other ways: an early shot that catches Bobbie’s pubic hair recalls Kids and reminds us that taboos continue to define our cinematic experience. Neither this, nor the violence contained in the film is gratuitous. Such pain as these lifestyles know is understood and conveyed by the director and his honesty makes Another Day In Paradise a conscientious film.
(Hannah Fries) . Glasgow GFT from Fri 13 Aug.
Kid's stuff: Natasha Gregson Wagner in Another Day In Paradise
12-19 Aug 1999 THE us! 130