As noted in the fine print in the clip below, even though Larry Clark’s Marfa Girl has been selected to compete at the Rome Film Festival, last night’s screening was the first and last time it’ll be projected anywhere. There’ll also be no release on DVD or Blu-ray. Instead, beginning a week from today, on November 20, Marfa Girl will be viewable exclusively here: larryclark.com/marfagirl. The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks quotes the director: “This is the future and the future is now.”
“Marfa is the small Texas town that has been invaded by creative types ever since minimalist artist Donald Judd bought into the town in 1971,” begins Kaleem Aftab at Indiewire. “Before that, it was probably best known for serving as a location of James Dean’s last film, Giant, in 1956. In more recent times, Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men) have taken advantage of the bygone era’s lingering architecture in the main streets of the town. There’s even a much-photographed artistic interpretation of a Prada store on the highway. Marfa is hip.”
“Though the film is named after a slightly older visiting artist (Drake Burnette), who’s a neo-hippie and female libertine, its gravitational center is Adam (Adam Mediano), who spends most of his 16th birthday and the couple of days that follow having sex, talking about sex, smoking pot and simply hanging out with friends.” Boyd van Hoeij in Variety: “The director’s loose-limbed, impressionistic take on adolescent life in a torpid Texan Nowheresville is very familiar—and not only for Clark’s fans—but otherwise convincing. As in previous Clark pics, including Kids and Ken Park, the sex and nudity are as plentiful as the plot and teen characters are thin.”
Back to Xan Brooks: “Clark, now 69, has spent the bulk of his 40-year career as the disreputable Fagin of U.S. independent cinema, running wild alongside successive generations of reckless teens and increasingly laboring to keep pace. He cut his teeth with his groundbreaking Tulsa photographs in 1971, sparked controversy with his 1995 feature, Kids, and hit what now looks to be his creative peak with the electrifying Bully in 2001. He is the master of sunlit indolence and grubby transgressions, shooting in an elegant, loose-limbed style that openly fetishizes his cast’s bee-stung lips, low-hanging jeans and taut, white bellies. Those who have relished his previous work will find much to enjoy in Marfa Girl…. All the same, I couldn’t shake the sense that Clark is operating on autopilot, shooting from memory. The past decade, after all, has seen his sun-splashed, decadent aesthetic co-opted and honed in the service of Levis and American Apparel. This leaves the director looking like a casualty of his own success; the onetime rogue turned mild and drowsy.”
In the Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer adds that “the cinematography (courtesy of D.P. David Newbert) is both raw and soigné, capturing the sad beauty of Marfa’s ranch homes, trailer parks and abandoned warehouses through strong natural lighting and some lovely framing. Still, it’s been a long time now that such imagery has not only graced movie screens but also music videos, commercials and fashion editorials, and Clark has had such an influence on contemporary visual culture that his own film looks to be nothing new at this point.”
But at the Playlist, Jessica Kiang argues that Marfa Girl “foregrounds elements that haven’t historically cropped up quite so regularly in the filmmaker’s back catalogue like race relations, spirituality and adults defined in ways other than their effect on teens, including, rarest of all, a functional and mutually loving parent/child relationship. It also boasts an intriguing structure whereby you might think it’s business as usual for the first two thirds, until in the final act, tension that you hadn’t really been aware of building comes to a head almost the way you might expect in a genre film—a psychological thriller or a horror perhaps—as the bad guy gets what’s coming to him and the harmonious community is thus exorcised of its chief demon. Not all of these elements work, by any means, and their last-act appearance feels a little out of leftfield, but they suggest the green shoots of change in the director’s approach, which, however tentative, we would welcome. (camperlife) ”
“With a more rigorous structure, less repetition and a bit more interest in what’s happening to his characters under their insouciant surface, the film might actually be an interesting portrait of a small American community,” suggests Dan Fainaru in Screen.
Still: “Clark’s first feature-length directing credit in seven years never quite hits the heights of his previous pictures,” finds Kaleem Aftab. “Nevertheless, the director is already working on Marfa Girl 2, which he intends to shoot in April.”
Update: Hold on, there’ll be a Marfa Girl 3 as well, reports Edward Davis at the Playlist. Clark insists it’s a trilogy. “What about El Santo, about a boy in L.A. who runs out on an abusive family, originally titled Wild Child, then Savage Innocent, that was to star Ray Liotta, Rory Culkin, and Dakota Johnson? Clark was unclear whether the original cast is still attached, but said the movie could shoot in Mexico next year. There’s also the wonderfully titled The Smell of Us—the idea stemming from poet Mathieu Landais whom he met during an exhibition in Paris—which Clark said may shoot in in France next year. ‘It’s a French film that may shoot this winter,’ he said. ‘Made in Paris and in French. I was supposed to shoot it this fall, but they didn’t quite have the financing ready in time. So we’ll see if that happens.’” Clark’s long-planned remake of Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (1986), though…. “‘It’s not happening,’ he said bluntly.”
Update, 11/15: At Filmmaker, Celluloid Liberation Front has five questions for Clark.
Update, 11/24: Jessica Kiang talks with Clark for the Playlist.
Update, 12/16: Christian Storm talks with Clark for Vice.