My attention was diverted towards Larry Clark at the end of 2011, when visiting Moderna Museet in Stockholm, I discovered some photographs which belonged to his famous Tulsa series. I got shocked by its realism, the portrait of a white trash American generation, echoing all the decadence coming from poverty, drugs and sex becoming something nasty and filthy. His extreme style was really appealing, and felt in love with his photos right away.
When looking for more information, I discovered that this photographer, Larry Clark, was the same guy who conceived and delivered one of the most shocking films I watched when I was a teenager, Kids, which shared lots of identifiable resemblances with Tulsa series images, in fact, the film made me think of sequence of captures put into motion.
Since I related his photography to Kids and Ken Park, I decided not to miss any update and started following his movements quite close. His last movement has been Marfa Girl, a film which is not being released in movie theaters nor DVD, and instead, at a quite reasonable price, USD 6, it’s available to be watched online on the director’s site.
Seemed like a perfect plan for Sunday evening.
Marfa is a small shitty town in the middle of nowhere in Texas, 69 miles far from the border, where there’s nothing much to do. There’s a curfew for teenagers to be on the streets at night, physical punishment is not only valid but also compulsory at the high school, and people feel threatened and harassed by the Border Patrol units.
Adam (Adam Mediano) is 16, half white half Mexican, still attending high school, who’s always moving around with his skate board. His mum, Mary (Mary Farley), is bird obsessed who treats her pets as if they were human. She’s a genuine hippie. Adam’s got a younger girlfriend name Inez, truly in love with him, however Adam’s also having sex with his 23 year-old single mom friend, named Donna (Indigo Rael), after he surrendered to her seducting skills.
One of the Border patrol agents, Tom (Jeremy St James), is constantly harassing Adam and his mother, being obsessed with both them and trying to get closer using any excuse. He’s apparently concerned with the lack of education and discipline the kid receives, and aims to be kind of a role model for him, and a respectful man to Mary. Tom is constantly acting out of line, treating Mexican residents as if they were shit, in a very racist manner, and always bothering people around him, feeling superior thanks to his badge.
A young and beautiful super hippie artist (Drake Burnette)sponsored by a company, is staying in town for a while, looking for inspiration in the naked bodies of the guys she ends up hanging out with, mostly Mexicans. In this way, we’ll be introduced to the stories of their lives, realizing how their roots and earlier stages have marked their paths and personalities forever.
Marfa is depicted as a town where nothing happens, poor, decadent, with less than 2,000 inhabitants. Local teenagers try to find some source of entertainment by skating, playing some weird music and smoking pot.
Adam is at this turning point at which he’s still childish innocent, however he’s becoming a man, getting in trouble for cheating his girlfriend, and screwing Donna. As not many guys were available in town, seems like young women are interested in new flesh, and Adam is a white and empty book perfect to fill in with the wisdom of the experience he hasn’t yet lived through.
Many isolated stories coming from people take part of a net, Marfa Girl is sewing in order to find the inspiration she needs to keep on working. Thus Rodrigo and Ulysses share with her their own personal points of view about life and sex. She acts as the link among all the men in town, both young and adult.
On the other hand Adam is the connection among the female side of the story. Sooner or later he deals with all of them: his teacher who spanks him before letting him feel the kicks of the baby in her belly, her mother who loves him but is more concerned about her birds, Inez, Donna…
Marfa girl and Adam are quite alike, with the difference of age and experience. At some point she gives him tips, and likely they’d eventually end up in bed together.
They’ve been raised up in freedom, against the violent discipline Tom, the border patrol, received, which caused him deep traumas and damaged him for good.
The feeling of emptiness, the absence of morality, the lack of values and a prominent sense of despair are easily noticeable. The only possible future involves getting away from that shithole, but the problem is that the boredom itself drags you down, and you end up swallowed by the town regardless.
Clark’s films are characterized by being too real. Unknown and inexperienced actors who keep their own names for their roles in the film, they don’t seem to be acting but living their own lives caught by Clark for a while. As if part of their vulgar intimacy was stolen and recorded. Performances are, for this reason, appallingly convincible. Plots are not strong at all, there are certain peaks at the end of the story, but Marfa Girl is as visual as a documentary, avoiding all the narrating parts.
I’ve always felt amazed by the ability of the director of turning trash into something beautiful. Environments he choose are rough, extreme and very excessive, too alien for average audience, born and raised in what we’d call normal circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether the location of his stories is Manhattan or a remote town, there’s trash and dirt everywhere. Clark digs and finds his treasures.
From Tulsa to Marfa, years have gone by, but society has been decaying, and new generations we like to relate to Our Future, are more and more fucked up.
There was also a reference to one of my favorite novels, which also made an impact on me when I was a teenager. I’m talking about Ulysses’ tattooed arm related to the Lord of the Flies, which is actually the story of the evil in childhood and youth, the practical example of how kids are not as good and innocent as per common belief.
Adam is not a bad kid, he’s just trying to survive without harming nobody on purpose. However stop thinking for a while. He’s got a girlfriend he trust 200%, but he’s cheating on her with a single mom. And he’s aware eventually their affair will be discovered, putting his relationship with Inez into risk, but he just doesn’t care.
The older generations aren’t much better, and all of them are now suffering the consequences of events or mistakes in the past, when they are same age as Adam. It’s as if karma was directly ruling Marfa.
I enjoyed Clark’s new work, seriously. Photography is excellent, performances are too real, and even though the plot is not appealing, the final result is excellent, leaving at your own will the kind of conclusion you might get from it. Don’t expect a love story, jokes or a bunch of stunning actors. What Clark aims to share goes beyond anything physical. He just wants us to see places like Marfa exist, involving much drama.
In case you’re still interested, remember Marfa Girl is not being released in theaters nor DVD. You can watch it online on Larry Clark’s website. Hope you like it.