Ken Park

By Brett Mullins

Released: 2002

Directed by Larry Clark and Edward Lachman; Screenplay by Harmony Korine

In many regards, it appears Director Larry Clark had an idea similar to that of Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer in developing Ken Park in so far that both films push the limit on the amount of socially taboo content a film can contain while remaining cohesive and interesting. Takashi Miike’s film chose to exploit the levels of violence and unrelenting gore; Larry Clark chose, instead, to explore beyond the boundaries of family and sex.

Ken Park is the story of the lives of several Californian skateboarding youth. The film focuses on four main characters in seemingly unrelated stories to paint a picture of life and clashing cultures in this suburban environment.

It is difficult to convey this film through words, because so much of the film plays of the audience’s perceptions and emotions. The film sets up the audience with moderately disturbing situations then brings it to a horrific climax again and again.

Each of the individual stories embody a borderline social taboo. Shawn shares his love for his girl friend with her mother. Claude faces a father who continually questions his sexuality and despises him for it. Peaches has a deeply religious father who constrains her freedoms. Tate is a mentally troubled teen living with his grandparents. Instead of a storyline that ties up the loose ends, Ken Park features a non-linear storyline. One critic described the film correctly in writing: “Less a film than a moment in time...”

From the beginning, the film hits the audience with its graphic imagery. This imagery is certainly not limited to the traditional blood and gore; many scenes depict seemingly legitimate sex scenes and many shots of full nudity. This element is the main contributor to the uneasiness the film stirs among the audience.

The film’s final scene features several of the characters having sex and discussing their fantasies. It it not clear whether this scene actually occurs. It is quite possible it is a manifestation of the characters attempting to express themselves without disapproval from the outside world. This is hinted at as the Claude speaks of a utopian-like society where the citizens just have sex all day long, nothing else.

This film exaggerates the extent of the culture class between today’s children and their parents a bit; it appears to only depict the most extreme situations. The individual storylines are a bit formulaic also.

This film takes the cake as the most disturbingly awkward film I’ve ever seen. If the audience cringes during this one, it will not in the way they are accustomed to.

Rating: 9/10