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Marfa Girl review: Larry Clark’s bad kids visit the Mexican border

Larry Clark likes to make movies which shock. Particularly about teenagers. They fuck and swear and sometimes kill (Bully). On the other hand, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is on the reading list in most English language high schools around the world. Nothing Larry Clark has done can outdo the horror of those kids on an island.

Marfa Girl Adam Mediano Inez Mercedes Maxwell
Marfa Girl Adam Mediano with lovely Inez Mercedes Maxwell

Homo sapiens are a brutal and savage species, probably responsible for the elimination of Neanderthal man and since then we have sent thousands of species into extinction, from mammoths, to bison, to the dodo. If there’s a bad animal around, we’re it.

Clark like Golding is busy with representing the what is, ripping off of your rose-coloured glasses and then stomping on them to boot. Yes, your girlfriend in high school betrayed you. Deliberately. And your son’s girlfriend is probably betraying him now too. It’s just what people do. Your wife probably cheated on you at least once or twice too. Go and read Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees: how they mate and how they stalk their neighbours and kill.

Anyway back to Marfa Girl: it’s the same unlikeable group of teenagers smoking up and screwing as we’ve seen in other Clark movies. This time it’s on the US/Mexican border. There are some very dislikable adult border patrol officers and some slightly less dislikable promiscuous kids. It’s a film about ideas and loyalties. There are some extended Socratian dialogues between kids and cops, cops and cops.

Marfa Girl Jimmy Gonzales as Hispanic border officer Oscar
Marfa Girl Jimmy Gonzales as Hispanic border officer Oscar
Marfa Girl Jeremy St James as Tom
Marfa Girl Jeremy St James as border and customs officer  Tom
Marfa Girl Drake Burnette
Marfa Girl’s eponymous Drake Burnette

Those ideas are played out through the bodies and lives of the Clark’s kids. Unlike in a Rohmer film, ideas are not apart from human existence. Ideas have a real human price.

Performances are convincing all round from mothers to daughters to cops. I really didn’t like either Adam (Adam Mediano) or Marfa Girl (Drake Burnette). But that’s not their job to make me like them. Their responsibility is to play their role convincingly and that they did.

If you are looking to be uplifted or dream of a brighter tomorrow, no Larry Clark film is for you. If you are looking to take a cold hard look at today’s passage from childhood to adulthood, Larry Clark is your man.

Marfa Girl Adam Mediano Inez Mercedes Maxwell spin
Marfa Girl’s Adam Mediano with Inez Mercedes Maxwell: joy of teenage love

I’m not sure I liked Marfa Girl, but I respect the craft. Anyone concerned with border issues will find a lot to think about. There’s a tall pile of DVD’s of films waiting more important to me than Marfa Girl. While I respect Larry Clark’s craft (I was lucky enough to see a premiere of Bully at TIFF with Clark in attendance in 2001), one of the reasons I am among the first to watch and buy is its direct online distribution. Direct digital distribution is the only future for independent film. Larry Clark is both wise and brave to choose exclusively online digital distribution with no cut to iTunes or any other of the conglomerates.

It’s an experiment worth supporting. If works the quality and the honesty of Marfa Girl are what direct distribution brings us, the future of independent film looks brighter than it has in over ten years.

If you are on the fence, please give Larry Clark your support to send a clear signal to both independent film makers and to Hollywood. Give us something better than the sequels and focus grouped rubbish which commercial filmmaking has become and we’ll pay for it.

The online viewing experience was very easy. You pay via Paypal with no extended offer nonsense or other advertising and you get a login key which lets you see Marfa Girl in very good quality HD right away. Absolutely no problem playing it in the browser.

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