by Izzy Kalman (December 2006)
In the October Newsletter, I recommended the movie, “Bully.” I am currently recommending a movie by the same director: “Kids” (1995, Directed by Larry Clark). Like “Bully,” “Kids” is not easy to get out of your mind. It has been popping up in my thoughts repeatedly since I watched it. This is not a feel-good, uplifting film. It is painful to watch and is likely to leave you depressed. If you have kids of your own, it may make you feel like keeping them under lock and chain.
I don’t generally like to promote material that increases our hysteria about modern society. I think the media and the social sciences have already done more than enough to stoke our paranoia about the dangers facing our children. Every generation has railed against the delinquency of its youth, yet the millennia pass and mankind is still here. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate place for media to reveal the darker sides of life and society. “Kids” is a glimpse into the lives of a subculture of teenagers in Manhattan, but it can be any place, and while most kids do not behave as badly as these do, some obviously do, and most kids think and act like them to some degree. I could certainly recognize my own youthful attitudes and behavior in this movie, and I was what you would consider a “good” kid. And to be honest, adults aren’t always better than these kids.
The acting in the movie is phenomenal. How Larry Clark gets kids with no formal acting experience to perform so realistically and unselfconsciously, especially in the sex scenes, is beyond me. It is so natural that you are more likely to feel you are watching a documentary than a scripted work.
“Kids” is replete with sex, violence, vulgarity, and drug usage, and therefore I cannot recommend it to all viewers. There is one group of people to whom I would definitely recommend it — sexually active teenagers. Anyone who goes to health clinics to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases or for birth control aids should be handed a copy of “Kids” as a precondition to getting help. It may make them think twice before they engage in irresponsible behavior.