Clark gets his skates on

Deauville celebrates the director of Kids

by Richard Mowe

Larry Clark
Larry Clark

Controversial American film director Larry Clark, who is making his first film outside the US in French in Paris over the summer, is to receive a tribute and showings of his complete works at next week’s Deauville Festival of American Cinema.

The new film The Smell Of Us is about “self-destructive skateboarders” in the City of Light. The idea stemmed from poet Mathieu Landais whom he met during an exhibition in Paris and who ended up co-writing the screenplay.

Rocker Pete Doherety apparently plays a role in the film, but, as usual, the main focus for the Kids director is on messed up adolescents. Clark's sojourn at the Festival is geographically convenient as the Normandy watering hole is only two hours from Paris.

Clark, who directed sexually explicit scenes in both Bully and Ken Park, has returned to cinema after a long absence with Marfa Girl last year, which won a prize at the Rome International Film Festival and was released online.

“It’s about a group of friends without ambition, feelings or values on a self-destructive path but it’s not clear why,” says Belgian producer Pierre-Paul Puljiz.

The connection with Clark stems from Puljiz’ 2002 documentary about the filmmaker and photographer, Larry Clark, Great American Rebel. He was developing another documentary focusing on Clark’s famous photography book Tulsa — featuring previously unseen 16mm footage of his subjects — when the director asked them to work on the skateboarder film.

Clark was preparing his Kiss the Past Hello photography retrospective at Paris’ Museum of Modern Art in 2010. “Because he was working late he would leave by the back door giving on to the area where the skateboarders hang out around the Trocadero,” says Puljiz. “Larry also met a lot of skateboarders when he presented Kids in Cannes in 1995 and has been interested in the scene since then.”

Born in 1943 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Clark learned the art of photography at an early age. He started out assisting his mother, herself a photographer, specialising in photos of infants. With a keen interest in underground movements and the blossoming subculture of the 1960s, he began to photograph suburban America and its disaffected, drug-taking youth in his home town. He came to critical attention in 1971 with the photo documentary book Tulsa, composed of self-portraits and photos of his friends living on the fringes of society.

His subsequent books – Teenage Lust, centered on a Porto Rican hustler in New York, and The Perfect Childhood featuring photos of naked teenagers and press cuttings about youths guilty of killings – both feature an unflinching, almost-anthropological vision of his contemporaries and youth in particular.

The Deauville Festival of American Cinema runs from 30 August to 8 September.

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