Ken Park


Directed by: Larry Clark, Edward Lachman
Written by:Harmony Korine
Starring: James Ransone, Tiffany Limos, Stephen Jasso, James Bullard, Mike Apaletegui
Released: Unreleased
Grade: B

Ken Park rides to a skateboard park, pulls a gun from his backpack, and blows his head off.  It’s the opening scene of the year’s most talked about movie in Australia.  The irony is that the film has never been released.  The Australian Office of Film & Literature Classification banned the film in this country despite it has been shown at film festivals all over the world, including New Zealand.  All they needed do was let the film slip into cinemas and sneak back out.  There’d be little publicity and fewer people would have shown an interest in seeing it.  Now, it’s become somewhat of an obsession with underground screenings being held in cinemas across Australia and thousands more downloading it from the internet.

The film plays out like a documentary with director Larry Clark focusing on four simple teenagers living in California.  You may think their promiscuous tales are “controversial” and designed purely for shock value but I am certain these stories are more realistic than most (if not all) teen films coming out of Hollywood today.  Shawn (Bullard) is dating a girl from school but behind her back is secretly having casual sex with her mother, whose husband has left her unfulfilled.  Peaches (Limos) has a religious father who is completely unaware that she’s sexually involved with a boy her own age.  Tate (Ransome) is a confused boy who lives with grandparents and don’t seem to mind that he speaks to them disgracefully.  Claude (Limos) is being bullied by his step father who has no respect for him and seems intent on making his life a misery.

It’s clear that these children aren’t fully responsible for their misery and troubles.  Clark is clear to point the finger largely at the adults – those that influence and shape these lives.  Yes, there is sex in the film and yes, it is quite explicit.  It isn’t pornography though and the censors decision is dumfounding.  They have taken offence to the fact that the actors appear to be under the age of 18 even though they are not.  What a joke.

Once you remove all the hype, you have a film which is generally pretty average – some good points and some bad.  The narrative is weak and fragmented.  It’s just a handful of lengthy scenes (in that documentary style I spoke of).  This tends to make the stories drag.  A faster pace and more material would have increased my own interest.  Conversely, I have to applaud the courage of the actors.  They do some pretty confronting stuff on screen and credit to them.  You could say a porno star does the same thing but they don’t have to act – this cast does!

I’d love to be telling you to get to the cinema to check it out but alas, I cannot.  So instead, stick it up the censors and find a bootleg copy (or make one yourself from the internet).  This film is about more than just what’s on screen; it’s about standing up for free speech (a subject close to my heart).  A film about the troubles in society which was considered fit to screen at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals deserves to be seen my more than just a board of censors.