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Shock Corridor Cinema Presents a rare screening of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine's KEN PARK (2002).

Tue. August 24th 2004 8:30 & 10:15
KEN PARK (2002; 89 minutes)
Director: Larry Clark
Screenplay: Harmony Korine

Two Screenings: 8:30 & 10:15pm

Note: due to the film's candid sexual representations only those patrons 18 years of age and older will be permitted into this screening.

As is the case with most of Larry Clark's work, Ken Park has seen its share of controversy: banned in Australia, pulled from certain festivals, and only recently picked up distribution for screenings in the US (the film will see its official US theatrical debut this September). While its candid representation of teen sexuality is more explicit than anything exposed in Clark's debut feature, KIDS (1996), KEN PARK illustrates a certain tenderness for its subject matter, placing teen alienation in front of a similar compassionate lens that screenwriter/filmmaker Harmony Korine invoked in his debut feature, GUMMO - a film that challenges popular notions about poverty in middle America. GUMMO was infamously misunderstood by many of the popular critics who reviewed this film's run on the festival circuit and, by extension, forced its distribution to the margins [if you need any proof that GUMMO continues to be a popular film for youth audiences, try finding it on the shelves of your local video store - it always seems to be rented]. KEN PARK features Harmony Korine's first feature length screenplay in a film that was intended to be made before KIDS, but shelved when funding was initially offered for the latter film project.

KEN PARK follows the individual narratives of five teens, all of whom experience their share of difficulty and emotional pain when pressed by an insidious adult world. Under the sun lit glow of some superb cinematography, the characters are confined to the banality of the everyday in their central Californian suburban town of Visalia. In an effort to free themselves from the restraints of both parental authority (coded as a sickness) and the oppressive routine of suburban life, they create escapes for themselves that might make more than a few neo-cons flinch: Shawn performs oral sexual favours for his girlfriend's mom and as a result learns the anatomy of female genitalia; Peaches, a Latino teen who is constantly under the controlling gaze of her God-abiding father, seeks sexual s/m with her boyfriend; and in what is perhaps the film's most disturbing portrait, Claude is constantly berated by his hyper-masculine father for indulging in "ferry" sports such as skating - the heat between the two comes to a boil in what might be KEN PARK's most insightful moment.

Although simple in its plot structure and somewhat derivative in its thematic concerns, KEN PARK should be lauded for the way in which it holds the adult world responsible for teen alienation without oppressing the viewer with the conservative shock mechanics common to the dreaded After School Special - a strategic mode KIDS seems to revel in and to a large extent, undermines its otherwise poignant social realism regarding inner-city life in America. Once the ideological lines are drawn in KEN PARK, the sexuality becomes constituted in a tender coming of age statement, to the point where a threesome made up of three horny yet unloved teenage subjects appears quite natural, an experimentation that is represented as growth rather than delinquent nor coded as a perverse turn on for both its filmmaker and voyeuristic audience. In some ways, KEN PARK reflects a current trend in French Cinema (see ROMANCE, HUMANITY and FAT GIRL), films that involve explicit sex to both nurture character development and forge some insightful positions about subjectivity and the social world. Regardless of recent movements toward the contrary, it is without much doubt that KEN PARK will continue to be ghettoized by a prudish North American culture that would rather encourage repression in film vis-a-vis T&A conventions that flirt with teasing sexuality rather than explore the nuances of teen growth in all of its wonderfully difficult challenges.