Decadent young skaters in The Smell of Us
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2014: Larry Clark's new film, a French-Belgian co-production, immerses itself in the murky world of adolescent male prostitutes
After the teenagers of The Goob [+see also:
interview: Guy Myhill
film profile], the young rebels of They Have Escaped [+see also:
interview: J-P Valkeapää
film profile] and the adolescent deities of Métamorphoses [+see also:
interview: Christophe Honoré
film profile], now Larry Clark's lost boys have arrived at the Lido with The Smell of Us [+see also:
interview: Pierre-Paul Puljiz
film profile], part of the Venice Days selection that seems to be focusing on the world of youth more than ever this year. This time around, the lens of the American director – the widely acclaimed author of Kids and Marfa Girl (Best Film at the 2012 Rome Film Festival), and always interested in the world of teenagers – is pointed at a group of skaters in the shadows of the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris (the film is a French-Belgian co-production), jumping around on their skateboards, smoking joints and selling themselves to whoever makes the best offer.
The prostitution of these decadent young people, drawn to easy money and promiscuous to the bone, is at the heart of Clark's story, which at first glorifies their naked, sweaty bodies, then goes on to humiliate them as they are being subjected to the filthy old men caressing them inappropriately and to other kinds of disgusting sex. Among all of them, Math (Lukas Ionesco) stands out, Apollonian with his blond curls, who “is the stuff of dreams” for his clients and provides his friend JP (Hugo Behar-Thinières) with advice on how to prostitute himself without giving too much away. “I've wanted to make a film about French youth ever since I presented Kids at Cannes back in 1995,” explains Clark, who, for the first time, appears in his own film, in a cameo as a homeless person. “I wanted to show how these guys behave and move around in this new society altered by the internet, which makes them vulnerable to people who want to take advantage of them and allows them to earn money the easy way.”
Indeed, there is nothing easier than finding some sort of nickname and offering your body to others online. In the film, four guys are doing exactly that, while another (in a way the director's alter ego) shoots videos of them with his mobile phone as they are having sex, flying around on their skateboards or smashing up a client's apartment, all set to some great indie music selected by British music supervisor Howard Paar (The Big Lebowski, Monster), and with surprise appearances by Michael Pitt (who previously appeared in Clark's Bully), who every once in a while enters a scene with a guitar and starts to sing.
“Scandalous” is the label often applied to the films of Larry Clark, and this one will not prove an exception. The director is uncompromising when it comes to representing human degradation, particularly the kind that sees more-than-mature people – both men and women – take advantage of young, beautiful bodies, literally frothing at the mouth. The detailed shots of pubic hair, abdomens, necks and feet are definitely a bit voyeuristic, but they help to make these figures palpable, presented in a way that brings carnality to the forefront and wants to make you experience what that flesh smells like.
(Translated from Italian)