|Dir. Larry Clark - viewed 1-24-04 on dvdr
Grade 86 2002
Larry Clark has always built his films upon the basic conflict between teenagers with the (usually older) people who try to dominate them. Clark’s newest film Ken Park, breaks down the domination theme to the point where his characters are just abstractions that seem to live inside the self-contained film world of Larry Clark’s psyche: very much like what Todd Solondz did with Happiness and Neil Labute did with Your Friends and Neighbors or even the post-modern stew that De Palma has been working with since Raising Cain. What Clark does with Ken Park is basically raise the subtext of his previous film to the focal point, creating his most personal and meaningful work to date.
In one of the first scenes in the film Shawn has his younger brother pinned down to the ground as he taunts him “Tell me you love me! Tell me you love me!” The brother finally gives into his older brother’s dominance and concedes that he loves him, only to walk away saying that he “fucking hates him.” This is basically the thesis statement of the film, which then proceeds to offer many different variations upon this theme with its other character and story lines. The age gap present in this first scene is also present with Claude and his father, Shawn with his girlfriend’s mother, Tate with his Grandparents and Peaches with her father. Each of those relationships takes on a layer of sexual dysfunction: even the seemingly unrelated Tate storyline with his Grandparents erupts in sexualized violence, with a nakedTate penetrating his Grandparents on their bed with a knife after his bout of violent masturbation in his bedroom. The expressed sexuality is also an extension of the dominance explicated in the character’s relationships: Shawn and Tate are basically taken back into an infantilized state (see poster), Claude is raped as he sleeps passively and Peaches ties up and bites her boyfriend.
The title character Ken Park exists in the narrative as a breaking of the cycle and the only way he is able to break the cycle presented in the film is to die (which he does in the first scene as the credits roll). He is the only character who will not carry on the domination, as the film leaves an open question about his pregnant girlfriend (“Do you wish your parents had aborted you?”). The film suggests that the only future happy childhood available for Ken Park’s baby is without the presence of Ken Park, aborting the father from the family unit rather than the baby.