Wanting to make a film about
contemporary youth culture, photographer and underground documentarian
Larry Clark was roaming the streets of New York during the early 1990s
when he met the young and aspiring writer Harmony Korine. Clark asked
Korine to write a script for him, and the result was this story about a
colourful but still largely homogenous group of irresponsible teenagers
and kids who during a hot summer day roam the streets of New York fueled
by the desire to have sex and get high. The film was met with plenty of
criticism from a moral perspective, since the main thematic line is the
young lead character's sexual encounters (or rather hunt for virgins).
For this criticism to be valid, however, one would also have to claim
that Clark fronted his thematics in an exploitive manner, and so the
critics claimed just that. Their fault and misconception was to mistake
Telly's exploitation for Clark's - not an uncommon error by critics who
fail to see the work they're reviewing in a wider perspective.
The second point is the semi-documentarian feel Clark was able to give his film, owing to a combination of the aforementioned script and the fact that he populated his film with real people from the environments he depicted. Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Rosario Dawson and ChloŽ Sevigny were all discovered by Clark and/or Korine in New York City, and although they were largely untrained, their closeness to the characters and situations the depicted made their performances remarkably real.
The third and final point is the warmth and lack of judgement in Clark's direction. Despite the fact that Kids could and can be seen as social criticism, it is really more of a social commentary. Clark's version of New York is a warm and friendly place occasionally ravaged by chaos. Admittedly, he points out the meaninglessness and brutality these kids experience and inflict, and how this at worst can have catastrophic consequences. But there's a youthful vitality and a hint of optimism in everything they do - a sense of joie de vivre which, claims Clark, they do not spoil and undermine in and of themselves, but which the ravages of time and the eventual, unavoidable disappointment of lower-class urban adulthood will kill off.