Dec 2, 2012

Marfa Girl

Picking up where he left off with Wassup Rockers (2005) – a relatively lighthearted work considering the director’s previous, more nihilistic efforts Kids (1995), Bully (2001), and Ken Park (2002) – quasi-pornographer and arthouse auteur finally releases a new feature-length work after a 7 year hiatus entitled Marfa Girl (2012) that once against focuses on the sexuality of Hispanic skaters and the white haters they face. Fed up with certain business aspects of filmmaking, Clark has decided to take a different and unconventional approach to film distribution when he released Marfa Girl exclusively on – his "first and only website" – on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 and claims the film will never be released in theatres or on DVD, stating this way he can “cut out the crooked Hollywood distributors,” which is undoubtedly a noble sentiment and certainly – whether one wants to admit it or not – the way of the future, as I for one cannot remember the last time I went the movies, nor can I recall a time when I was able to catch a Larry Clark film in the theaters. Although somewhat disillusioned with his work for the past decade or so, I make sure that I watch any film Larry Clark puts out, as his debut work Kids had a huge influence on me during my adolescent years, both as a budding cinephile who – being a preteen, I had only seen a handful of so-called ‘independent’ films – and as a skateboarder that for the first time was about to see a relatively realistic depiction of skaters in all their inglorious glory, thusly he will always remain a ‘distinguished’ filmmaker in my mind, even if he has yet to learn any new tricks over the years. The same can certainly be said of his newest effort Marfa Girl, a film that, like Clark’s positively partially pornographic work Ken Park – which has yet to be officially released in the U.S. since it completion due to copyright issues (the producer neglected to get music rights) – features explicit and some would say gratuitous sexual imagery (erect penises, candid beaver shots), albeit to a lesser degree. Like Kids, Ken Park, and Wassup Rockers, Marfa Girl focuses on a shirtless teenage skater and his youthful experiences with sordid sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. In the spirit of Wassup Rockers, Clark’s newest film also laments over the implied racial discrimination of a young Latino (or in this case “1/2 Latino”) by law enforcement, but instead of the concrete jungles of South Central Los Angeles, Marfa Girl is set in the desert wasteland of a quiet yet quaint West Texas town on the Mexico–United States border. Like a loose and lurid remake and cultural update of the underrated film The Border (1982) directed by Tony Richardson and starring Jack Nicholson, Marfa Girl is most provocative in its portrayal of white-brown relations and the corruption of certain members of the border control.

A lot of things have changed in American since the release of Richardson’s The Border some three decades ago, which is depicted most glaringly in Marfa Girl by the fact that two of the three border control officers depicted in the film are Hispanic, as is the lead protagonist and virtually every other male character in the film.  Of course, the brown border control bros are referred to as "coconuts" (brown on the outside and white on the inside), as prudishly insinuated by a rather pretentious and pompous bourgeois-born 'artiste' otherwise known as the "Marfa Girl" (Drake Burnette); a gross gal who flashes her pussy at teenage Tex-Mex boys, most notably the film's lead protagonist Adam. Somewhat inexplicably, virtually every single white woman is with a meszito man as if the film is a work of science fiction depicting a sort of dystopian (or in Clark's case, 'delightful') parallel universe. Indeed, I realize that miscegenation mania is now in vogue throughout the Occident and its bastard brother the United States, but I certainly cannot remember the last time I saw 5 foot 2 Mexican and a 5 foot 8 Europid walking hand-in-hand down the street, but then again, although almost always of a rather intrinsically ‘realist’ persuasion, Larry Clark’s photography and filmmaking has always been more about his self-indulgent idiosyncratic fetishes then an ostensibly objective portrait of wild boys and girls as a sort of contra Paul Morrissey of the far-left and advocate of adolescent flesh of the gangly, gawky, and particularly pedomorphic sort. Generally of a fiercely and fiendishly Freudian-kitsch persuasion, Clark’s films scream sexual pathology, but like Italian communist auteur Bernardo Bertolucci (The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris) before him, the voyeuristic American filmmaker passes the blame of perversion to the easy and equally clichéd target of the fascistic ‘authoritarian personality,’ and Marfa Girl is certainly no exception to this role to the point where one does not need a lot of speculation as to how the patently played-out plot in the film will play out. Centering on the purposeless yet promiscuous daily life of 16-year-old Latino libertine Adam (Adam Mediano) – the bastard son of an blonde Anglo woman named Mary (played by Mary Farley) and an absent and unmentioned Mexican father – who on his birthday receives some greatly gratifying fetishistic corporal punishment from his young pregnant teacher and Caucasian flesh from slutty girls (including his neighbor; an aspiring stripping/single mother of a 1/2 brown boy and the less than mystifying "Marfa Girl") aside from his Latina girlfriend, the young man’s fun is ultimately hampered by a hysterical and significantly sadomasochistic white border control agent who resembles a "human pitbull" in both his physique and character named Tom (Jeremy St. James), who stalks the boy, his mother, and his 16-year-old girlfriend Inez (Mercedes Maxwell). Constantly stalking ‘Mother Mary’ in a variety of curiously creepy and pathetically perverted ways, including knocking on her door and showing her pictures of diseased female gentitals, peeping Tom is a menacing man of the law whose foreboding presence erupts in the final minutes of Marfa Girl; a work of 'skin-deep' Mexicacaphilia and miscegenation monumentalization masquerading as high cinematic art.

Recycling one of the most spuriously shocking oral sex scenes from Ken Park and borrowing a beginners guide to the ‘Frankfurt school of filmmaking,’ Marfa Girl is surely an exemplary example of Larry Clark at his most artistically tasteless and vapid and personally cuckold-ish. As an apparently white man, Clark seems to get off to the idea of scrawny skateboarding Miguels filling the greasy ghetto tacos of whorish white women with their sour cream, not to mention the fact that the sole Anglo featured in Marfa Girl is a senselessly sick bisexual sadomasochistic who literally gets offs to the thought of his own father (and anyone and everyone else) beating the shit out of him. Indeed, if any semi-mainstream filmmaker epitomizes the earnestly ethno-masochistic and emasculated white ( non-Semitic) white man, it is Larry Clark; an unflinching and uninhibited purveyor of teenage flesh galore.  To his minor credit, Clark is one of very few filmmakers to take a marginal segment of Hispanic youth in America serious and giving a voice to the voiceless, if not in an emphatically eroticized manner not unbecoming of William S. Burroughs, except to a notably less esoteric degree.  Like William E. Jones' documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004) – a work about the particularly peculiar phenomenon of Latino Morrissey/The Smiths fans – Clark's Wassup Rockers and Marfa Girl only give a cursory glance at a customarily clandestine subculture, thereupon making these films somewhat spirited and spicy, if not sometimes dubious, cinematic voyages in voyeurism of the visibly vicarious sort by a filmmaker with a paradoxical and perennial case of Peter Pan syndrome.

-Ty E

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