Kids (1995)

Kids

Kids get old. And kids get complicated. Children grow into older beings, they change over the course of life and develop. Into what? Whatever makes them, moulds them. The experiences they gather impress themselves on them; the conversations, the actions, the dreams and lies and everything else in between. All the time they spend moving through their own cities and their own social connections, it builds up like the pages of a book, one after another.

Kids (1995, Dir. Larry Clark) has gotten old. And the impression Kids leaves, it’s legacy, is still just as complicated and ambigious as before. Kids is not the unknown debut it used to be, it comes to any new generation with a different understanding of the one which existed with it in 1995. All the impressions it’s made on those who watched it, those who were inspired by it and revolted by it, its’ legacy which has built it up into a cult film have left their marks on the minds who’ve witnessed it.


It will always be complicated to talk about Kids, if only because its subject matter will always be provocative. Built into the film’s DNA is the idea of exposing a world which for most parents, and most of society, is invisible. It’s the filmic equivalent of turning over the rock to expose the underground world of creatures beneath it, to show what was previously hidden. It follows its characters through the streets of New York in a way which is rarely portrayed by glamorous, conventional cinematography. It spends time on the streets, not just to shoot B-roll or to exterior shots of faceless skyscrapers. Larry Clark’s background in street photography no doubt pushed this ethos from the beginning, but the camera work of Eric Edwards and Clark together is motion picture photography, it’s interested in how the figures in its landscape, move, act, see and communicate. It’s handheld, docu-drama/cinema vérité aesthetic pushes you to see the city from the kids’ level, bringing their perspective into focus and ramping up its intensity.

Because being a kid, especially in the world of Kids, is intense. The stories of Telly, of Casper, of Jenny, Darcy, Ruby, and every other figure which moves through the story, are stories which reflect the blurred, ambigious lines of the darker stories of a lot of kids growing up. A lot of stories have passed through my head, stories of friends and friends of friends, of people I’ve never met before. Stories of kids being exposed to things they shouldn’t do, doing things they have been told not to, exposing themselves to parts of life they are supposedly too young for. Harmony Korine went on record saying besides the AIDS storyline, pretty much everything in the film was events he’d seen happen. The questions and ramifications of Kids authenticity have caused debate and even the production of a new documentary by one of the cast members, but what Kids shows to those who have experiences which resonate with it, is a reflection of the stormy seas kids sail in their journeys of growing up.

The power of placing certain events in frame, certain stories, certain stylistic choices, is what makes up cinema. Watching Kids, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by its most pitch-dark moments. It is unrelentingly strung out, and the film often feels like a warped spiral downwards, as the haze of murky actions, murky behaviours, and murky consciences continues to bleed into your head too. Seemingly too young for self-awareness, the kids continue to charge forward not just with the recklessness of youth, but with a fiery combustibleness that often burns the people around them. But their lives are left darkly unreflected upon (save the ominous last line), the conventions of cinema do not twist around the story to make an audience feel satisfied that ‘justice was served’. Real life, all it’s ugly thorns and painful experiences are often left unrepented for, unexamined. For Kids to do justice to that world, to even lay any claim to authentic roots, it portrayed those events as the kids would handle them, whatever the cost.

I don’t have much more to say about Kids, simply because Kids does not have a lot to say. It is a film which shows, which spends time showing you what the lives of people you’ve never even met are like. The experiences of life are often disordered, chaotic, fragmented and more dangerous than we’d ever like to imagine, especially for our children. Humanity’s precious children, the little babes in our beds, grow into a world and take their place in it. Kids is far more honest about that world than so many coming-of-age tales, it bleeds through the cracks of society’s walls. It condenses the experiences on the fringes of young adulthood into an hour and a half of spiralling, fragmented faces and warped moralities. The lives, the experiences, the possible horrors of what it can mean to be a kid are kept here as a cinematic record.

Because kids get old, and they forget what being a kid was like. As an adult, the urge to nostalgise your childhood, to romanticise it and cleave from your memory all the unholy relics and thorns that actually being a kid can experience. Life may not be as high-octane, as chaotic and cruel as the life of the kids in Kids, but if you can’t see any part of yourself and the child you were in any of their faces, any of their smiles or their tears, you’re denying the life you once lived, thorns and all.

-Alex

P.S If you liked this, follow us on twitter here for updates or follow us on wordpress. If you liked this, please let us know or share it around! We here at FilmPravda love film and talking about it, so let us know if you got something to say!

Advertisements
Kids (1995)

Spiritual Succession – Dazed And Confused/Everybody Wants Some!!

Dazed And ConfusedEverybody Wants Some.jpg

Being young is difficult. It’s not as difficult as being an adult, but it is still a difficult rite in its own ways, plus its a hell of a lot of fun growing up. As I have just passed the finish lines on my teens (hello 20) it’s both apt and odd that I should find an interest in these films now. Apt because they are perhaps the more authentic remembering of teenage hood/early adulthood, with much less of the misty eyed nostalgia masking the awkward pains and truths found in the time, because when you’re growing up, you’re not always growing up. Mainly in any direction you find yourself flying in And its odd, because well, I’m just about out of the Dazed and Confused era equivalent in the UK, and just about to enter the Everybody Wants Some!! era which is the equivalent here in university, and waiting in the limbo between, it’s odd watching Linklater cover the same track of time, 23 years apart (Dazed And Confused released in 1993, Everybody Wants Some!! in 2016).

Anyway enough about me, let’s talk about films.

DAZED AND CONFUSED

Dazed and Confused is a film made in 1993 about 1976. About May 1976. About the last day of school at Lee High School in May 1976, and what the kids are trying to get up to on their last day of school. It features a very large ensemble cast, containing some names which would rise to prominence, mainly Matthew McConaughey who stars in an iconic role, and Ben Affleck. But the film is not about any one star, so I should adopt the same mentality. The film follows characters across the whole social strata of the high school spectrum, from sports jocks to poker playing intellectuals, from angry seniors and hazed freshmen to faux greasers and far too real stoners. It’s a testament to the far more real truth of teenage life, as the sectioned off tribalism people often assign to young people (here are the goths, here are the jocks, here are the nerds…) actually ends up seguing into a blend and mish mash of people who come together, interlocking at different points and exiting in different and random trajectories, but still for a short time, together.

The film springs affection towards everyone involved, bar Ben Affleck’s sadistic O’Bannion, but even then he’s portrayed with an amusement rather than a terrifying danger. It’s drama is both low-key and extremely natural. The artificial dramas which say, permeate a film like Mean Girls, are completely absent here. The bonds of friendship aren’t elevated to a melodrama, but allowed to flow and segue into one another. Alliances and enemies are formed, but never with malicious motives or intent. The freshmen are condemned to be paddled because…well they’re freshmen. Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), the young weedy freshmen who we follow is offered a token a friendship from Randy, our resident cool guy who’s friends with everyone, because there’s no need to be a dick all the time. The party that was supposed to happen just kind of forms in a different place, and hell they’d manage to entertain themselves somehow if it didn’t. After all, they just wanna have a good time.

Interestingly, I read the script alongside the film, and there are a hell of a lot of marked differences. The script spends far more time with the intellectuals/poker players, and is far more idea-dialogue heavy. It touches on low-key racism due to Vietnam, race relations, slagging off Nixon, and all the kind of stuff that is not hard to imagine that Richard Linklater heard when he was in high school, but exactly the kind of substance to make producers sweat and editors cut. It’s not the most relevant point, but it was very interesting to see how the power of removing content from the film both narrows its focus (so the film becomes mainly a quest for just having a good time and being youthful) and also cuts away part of the experience of youth (notorious for being highly incensed, being exposed to the undersides of politics for the first time, and being mouthy about shit you believe in).

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

So where Dazed And Confused starts with an ending, Everybody Wants Some!! ends with a beginning.

I haven’t much experience with Linklater’s work outside these two (School Of Rock), but it is both a spiritual successor to Dazed And Confused and according to Linklater, a sequel to his hit Boyhood.

Everybody Wants Some!! follows Jake (Blake Jenner), a freshman at college on a baseball scholarship, and getting to grips with his new cohorts in their state provided house, who are a colourful cast of sports jocks, all beer, babes and baseball. I’m just going to talk about the film on its own here, as comparisons are down below.  It again has that same loose, free-wheeling structure following Jake on the weekend before class starts. It’s very much concerned with identity, as the new environment, people and cultural camouflaging they do to get laid, with them taking on disco and country western personas in the same night, before getting roped into a punk concert, leads to Jake having a full on identity crisis, still in a very low-key, enjoyable way.

But everybody involved is performing, bigging themselves up and putting on facades to present to try to entice…well anyone who’ll listen. There’s no real bad person involved, no antagonists or mortal enemies, just people navigating people. They are bonded by their similar tribal desires, to be the best in everything, games, sport, women. It’s what causes the conflict and camaraderie. If you can’t get on board with their aims and their ideas, then you’ll not like them. And while their politics is not PC (I heard a lot of swirling noise going on about the gender politics of the film is rather old-fashioned), their intentions aren’t malicious. They’re just guys who are confident in the traditional masculine role.

That said, the limitations imposed by following a group of frat boys very closely are real. If you don’t like them, then two hours of them being themselves is going to be nothing but aggravating, so be forewarned. But its a film filled with joy, nervousness and sadness mingled in its core.

THE TWO FILMS

Okay so I prefer Dazed and Confused. It’s not to the detriment of Everybody Wants Some!!, but Roger Ebert referred to Dazed and Confused as “art crossed with anthropology”, and there’s more meat on the bone of Dazed and Confused because there is a larger spectrum of people on offer. But both films share so much spirit.

Perhaps the most important point is that not only does Linklater de-romanticise teenage hood, and make it far better for doing so, he also refuses to conform to a certain bias in portraying high school students. There are grounds for a relationship between the kids who were bullied in high school and the kids who would write movies. Especially since the 80s (call it the Spielberg effect, considering he was a massive nerd and outcast in the bunch of filmmakers he called friends, all those mental New Hollywood lot), the nerdy kids become the hero, the dungeon and dragon players who become the heroes of their own fantasies. They are the victims of the slack-jawed dumb jocks, the bullies who exist to make their lives miserable.

Linklater, who did not experience life in that way, doesn’t lie to us. The closest thing to ciphers or lead characters are both sports stars who are both intelligent, something akin to a mirror of his own personal experience. He was a starting quarterback, like Randy Pink in Dazed And Confused, and he went to college on a baseball scholarship like Jake in Everybody Wants Some!!. And so we get a view from the top of the pyramid, and a refusal to conform to that idea of dumb sport blockheads which permeates American film culture. Sure the bad apples exist, but the bad apples are their own entities. They’re not trying to escape, they’re trying to grab as much as they can from the real world.

There’s also a thin line of pain that runs deep in both films. Both films feature a singular character who is borderline sad and desperate, simply because they’re old. They display exactly the same characteristics of the youngers, but their very imitation is what makes them sad. In Dazed and Confused the character is Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), who is venerated because he’s an older guy, but is rapidly on his way out, when age is no longer treated as a good status. He’s stuck in high school mode but he’s already out. In Everybody Wants Some!! its Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), a hardcore stoner who is dropped from the team and the college mid story when its found out he’s actually 30, and goes from college to college faking his records so he can continue living the student life. If there’s one thing more difficult than being young, its being old wishing you were still young.

It’s like the young people exist in this fragile glass cage, and before you know it will be pushed out into the big wide world. And then there are people who watch from the outside, desperately trying to seek (in vain) some way back in. And you obtain both a mixture of pleasure and pain watching them, because you miss it while simultaneously being glad it’s over, and are either taking part vicariously in their joy or suppressing your pain in wishing you had the chance to do it over again. Or perhaps both.

But for every moment of pain, there’s a moment of happiness created too. And they’re not big dramatic peaks, filled with the highest drama, they’re embracing the small comforts and the thrill of hanging out. Tiny moments which add up to friendships and experiences you recount 20 years later and laugh to yourself about. By removing the melodrama all that’s left is the real drama of living, and the authenticity of the teens, mawkish and stumbling as it may be, is revealed. So too does it allow the audience to connect in a much richer level, which may explain why Dazed And Confused has taken such an iconic place in cinema history. Because the worlds aren’t inhabited by grand heroes, damsels in distress or monstrous villains, and most of us will never come into contact with anything resembling that. Fantasy plays on our ideals and dreams, but Linklater just stylises and compacts reality in an affectionate way, and so suddenly we can empathise and relate in a much more intimate way because the mirror looks so much like us, not just who we imagine ourselves to be.

If you didn’t care for any of this, at least acknowledge this: the spirit of Dazed And Confused is alive and well in Everybody Wants Some!!, and the spirit of Richard Linklater is one which you can smile along with, because life is rough, and we all just want to have a good time.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from an interview by comedian Marc Maron:

 

-Alex

(P.S, there’s a scene in Everybody Wants Some!! where Jake recites some Camus indirectly, about the myth of Sisyphus and baseball, and its the most teenage thing ever.)

If you liked this, follow us on twitter here.

 

 

 

Spiritual Succession – Dazed And Confused/Everybody Wants Some!!