Larry Clark

Active - 1995 - 2018  |   Born - Jan 1, 1943   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Whether you regard his films a tragic reflection on the state of disenfranchised youth or exploitational trash that actually encourages the questionable behavior he claims to spotlight, there's no denying that former social renegade photographer turned controversial filmmaker Larry Clark has forced a generation of parents and children to take pause and consider their relationships to each other and the tragedy that can result from negligence and lack of communication. An artist who readily admits to his sometimes dangerous youth serving as inspiration for his often disturbing ventures into the world of teenage sex, violence, and drug abuse, Clark's films are consistent in their uncompromising approach to the darker side of teen angst. Often viewing such shocking activities in agonizing detail, Clark has been labeled everything from child pornographer to visionary genius. A photographer long before he moved into motion pictures, the future filmmaker led a sometimes violent youth during his tenure at Central High School in Tulsa, OK. Obsessed with capturing the sometimes morbid beauty of youthful depravity, Clark documented his youth in black-and-white stills (Tulsa) before studying under Walter Sheffer and Gerrard Baker at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, WI. Subsequently releasing such luridly titled photo collections as Teenage Lust, Clark moved into the realm of motion pictures in 1995 with the highly controversial Kids. Drawing equal measures of praise and criticism due to its unflinching portrayal of amoral urban teens, Kids sent the nation's parents into a frenzy of paranoia and became one of the first unrated films to receive wide release and general critical acceptance. With it's pseudo-documentary feel and startlingly frank dialogue, Kids proved an effective wake-up call to both teens and parents alike regarding such topics as drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and violence among disaffected youth. The film also proved a career igniter for its youthful writer, Harmony Korine, who subsequently forged a directorial career with such controversial Dogma 95 efforts as Gummo (1997) and Julien Donkey-Boy (1999). Wanting to take a more personal approach for his next effort, Clark referred to his questionable youthful exploits as the groundwork for the notably more polished Another Day in Paradise (1998). Though it sported such recognizable actors as James Woods and Melanie Griffith, Paradise retained the base of Kids' primary themes but presented them in a markedly more traditional and palpable fashion. Though Clark's own personal insight lent itself well to the tale of corrupted youth and the destructive life groundwork it can lay, once again the controversial nature of the film found it playing theatrically in only limited runs, only without the attention Kids had received (possibly due to its more conventional presentation). Though the film performed moderately well in limited release, it was soon relegated to showings on late-night cable television, where it would eventually find a somewhat receptive audience in those who had missed its obscure theatrical run. Undissuaded by the general indifference with which the public greeted Another Day in Paradise, Clark pressed on with his development of yet another suburban nightmare, this time rooted even closer to reality than his previous two efforts. Based on the chilling real-life murder of a Florida teen who traumatized those around him with physical and psychological abuse, Bully once again opted for a more traditional Hollywood-style approach and took Clark's familiar themes to the lengths of excess. Though some complained that with the excessive nudity and frequent teen sex scenes the film was more interested in flesh than substance (star Bijou Phillips lashed out at Clark following the film's premier due to some particularly revealing shots and one of the accused teens voiced strong objection to her portrayal in the film), Clark's supportive fan-base hailed the film as another challenging and effective effort from the fearless director. Next forsaking reality for a remake of Roger Corman's Teenage Caveman, Clark nevertheless retained his trademark theme of teenage rage while also finding time to include nearly enough sex and nudity among its young stars to qualify as softcore porn. 2002 found Clark re-teaming with Kids scribe Korine for Ken Park.

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