LARRY CLARK ON TEENS - CRASH Magazine
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Crash_Larry Clark Interview

LARRY CLARK ON TEENS

By Crash redaction

AMERICAN FILMMAKER AND PHOTOGRAPHER LARRY CLARK DECIDED TO SHOOT HIS LATEST FEATURE, “THE SMELL OF US”, IN PARIS IN 2013. SET IN THE INVISIBLE BUT RELATIVELY POSH WORLD OF MIDDLE-CLASS FRENCH TEENS, THE FILM SHOWS DRUG USE AND PROSTITUTION AS RELATIVELY COMMON PRACTICES, ALONG WITH SKATING SESSIONS ON THE PLAZA OF THE CENTRE POMPIDOU. WITH “THE SMELL OF US”, LARRY CLARK ONCE MORE INDULGES NHIS INTEREST IN A TOPIC THAT FIRST GRIPPED HIM WITH THE RELEASE OF HIS 1971 BOOK OF PHOTOGRAPHY, ENTITLED “TULSA”. THIS TIME, CLARK HAS ENLISTED A GROUP OF PROMISING YOUNG ACTORS WHO LITERALLY STEAL THE SHOW: LUCAS IONESCO, HUGO BEHAR-THINIÈRES AND DIANE ROUXEL. DOMINIQUE FROT IS ALSO UNFORGETTABLE IN HER ROLE AS MATH’S SPECTACULARLY LUNATIC MOTHER.

What story did you want to tell when you started work on the screenplay with french poet scribe?

The majority of the film is based on real people; that was where the movie came from. When i started to write the story with scribe, i didn’t know what the film would look
Like, except in general terms. So it was kind of an unknown world. The film is about what’s happening with young kinds today; and one of my ideas, when i was talking with the writer, was to show what has changed with the internet now. I wanted to show how everything is so quick, how it is so easy for kids to get in trouble with the internet and with their computers. And how everybody is collecting evidence… kids go to parties and their sex life, their fights, everything today is filmed, documented, photographed.

This is the first time you have depicted parisian teens along with adults, too. what surprised you about them during then shoot?

It was so intense while i was making this film, especially a difficult film like this, where we had to work so hard and move so fast, and so many things had to happen to make it surprising. In the middle of the film, some of the cast members went on strike because they were tired. They didn’t realize how much work it would be. So i said, “what the hell? What do you mean you’re going on strike?” And i was told, “oh, that’s very french!”…… Which for me wasn’t an explanation at all! The only way to keep the film moving and working was for me to jump in, which i hadn’t planned on doing. So i had to curate three different jobs for this movie: director, screenwriter and actor. It felt like i had been stabbed. I had to make a lot changes to the script and find new solutions to keep moving on. It was pretty intense. It was difficult, but also fine with me, since that’s what i asked for. And i certainly got it!

What changes did you have to make to the original script?

One of the last scenes where math comes home and finds his mother, who is very sick. That scene was entirely improvised. And dominique frot, who plays the mother, did such a wonderful job. Her interpretation of the mother provides clues to help figure out who math really is and why he behaves the way he does. That wasn’t in the script at all, and the new scene completely changed everyone’s perception of the film.

What is your take on that scene between math and his mother?

It reminds me of “ken park”, where adults use kids to meet their own selfish needs, with no real concern for the kids at all. Though i made it, it’s still tough to say how it all came together while we were making it. It came out the way i was feeling it, or the way they were feeling it.

From the moment the kids get involved in prostitution, it seems like there is no going back. are these events inspired by their real lives?

Their future is unknown and we can’t really tell what is going to happen to them. There is a scene at a party where they are looking at each other; there is a close-up of math’s eyes and one of michael pitt’s eyes who has a minor rôle and who is a bit older, and they have the same kind of blue eyes. Maybe michael pitt is math in the future.

Lucas ionesco, who plays math, is the revelation of this film. he seems to glow like an angel in baroque paintings. what did you think when you cast him? Did the film complete change him?

I do think the film is about him. He is the main character. It all revolves around him. It was difficult for him to play that role and to do what he had to do. He was incredible. He really does have those looks, and the camera loves him. Everybody was great in the movie. Marie played by diane rouxel was perfect.

Why did you decide to end the film with the kids trashing an apartment belonging to math’s last client – played by philippe rigot – and then stabbing the man in the back with a shard of glass?

To give them all justice. I mean, it is about real life but it is not real life, it is still a movie. It may make the audience see something that they can take away, based on their own
Experience. It is always about that in my movies, what people can take with them. It is cynical to explain it as a filmmaker; it is so much about theory, and so many different things.

You have referred to “the smell of us” as a manifesto. What makes it a manifesto? Especially since there are two versions of the film: the director’s cut and theatrical cut…

So many things happened when the director’s cut was made. The main character in this cut is me, which is interesting to do and think about. The theatrical cut is a more straightforward story intended for everyone. I’m not sure; you know, everything was done in the moment. The scenes just seemed right. The director’s cut is important for me to see just how far i went with this film. It’s a difficult film and not very easy to explain at all. Some people saw the movie and said they just had fun!

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