Of course, considering that France is currently at the forefront of producing pornographic arthouse films with oftentimes unsimulated sex as reflected by cinematic works by Catherine Breillat, Leos Carax, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, Patrice Chéreau, Alain Guiraudie, Gaspar Noé, Laurent Bouhnik, and Jean-Claude Brisseau, among various others, there is no question that Clark picked the perfect place to make a film featuring incessant sleazy sex scenes featuring scrawny and oftentimes racially ambiguous teenage skater boys that seem just as excited about trying out a new dick as they do a new skateboard deck. In fact, not only is The Smell of Us (2014)—the director’s last film since his somewhat mediocre racially-charged Mestizo twink fest Marfa Girl (2012)—arguably Clark’s most decidedly debasing and just all around sexually deranged film to date, but it is indubitably his most flagrantly faggy, as if the auteur felt he could only get away with achieving his dream of making a full-homo flick if he created it in France. If his trademark motif of shirtless armpit-scratching and ball-grabbing skater boys in his previous films was not evidence enough of Clark’s affinity for fresh young cock, the filmmaker’s latest film unequivocally demonstrates that he is hot for sweaty skater twink twat. While somewhat aimless and devoid of a storyline like most of Clark’s films, the film’s most prominent subplot involves a doomed love affair between an emotionally detached and exceedingly epicene skater boy with serious mommy issues and his gawky Quadroon-like comrade who is emotionally tortured by the fact that his best friend sells his bunghole to dirty old men but refuses to be his lover or even have sex with him. Part skater crypto-porno and part hysterical homo romantic tragedy, The Smell of Us is, for better or worse, the sort of joyously debasing and rudely in-your-face art-porn trainwreck film that only a dirty old man like Clark could have assembled.
Somehow both decidedly dejected and enthralling, the film is probably the best example of Clark’s expertise when it comes to both exploiting and exposing the forlorn fates of a group of supremely shortsighted and oversexualized frog fuck-ups whose self-destructive sexual promiscuity seems to be their only true reason to live. Also, somewhat ironically, despite being an arthouse flick where the American auteur demonstrates his ostensible artistic cred by making a film in France, the flick confirms the vaguely misguided American belief that all Frenchman are faggots and all frog broads are lecherous and cunty whores, as The Smell of Us ultimately reveals Clark to be the stereotypical American philistine. Listed as one of the Top Ten films of 2015 in Cahiers du Cinéma and beloved by none other than John ‘Pope of Trash’ Waters, Clark's film might even be described as underrated in the sense that it more or less remains unreleased in the United States and is more interesting and entertaining than the majority of critically acclaimed films that have been defecated out of Hollywood over the past couple years.
In terms of classic frog flicks about prostitution, The Smell of Us undoubtedly makes Godard's classic Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux (1962) aka My Life to Live seem like an archaic Lifetime movie by comparison in terms of sheer energy and audacity (though, to Godard's credit, he also played the dual role of the director-pimp when he directed his then-wife Anna Karina in that film). Indeed, Clark may be an odious sexual deviant of sorts that has made a living out of exploiting mostly screwed-up and oftentimes drug-addled adolescents during their most vulnerable and unflattering moments, but I cannot think of a more able filmmaker when it comes to capturing the volatility, spontaneity, sexual goofiness, and raw energy of youth. Additionally, for all the film's ugliness, it manages to capture the beautiful spirit of youth, which is something that I think that most people can admire, even if they do not want to admit it. Notably, the great reluctant fascist turned meta-nihilist philsopher Emil Cioran once described his adopted hometown of Paris as an “apocalyptic garage,” which is indubitably both a literally and figuratively immaculate way to describe the foredoomed urban pandemonium of perversity depicted in Clark's film. Slightly more than just an all the more debauched frog Kids, The Smell of Us is an unsentimental look at some of the youngest and most irredeemable members of a dying nation as seen from the somewhat cockeyed perception of an American Vietnam War vet who sure loves his shirtless boys, even if they are not exactly worthy of love, let alone sympathy. In the end, for various reasons that relate to both the film and my own skateboardcentric youth in relation to said film (incidentally, I initially discovered Clark and Korine due to my juvenile love of skateboarding and not because of cinephilia, which came much later), I cannot help by recall French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud's words, “Idle youth, enslaved to everything; by being too sensitive I have wasted my life.”