I saw KIDS when I was a kid. Perhaps I got confused, thinking that with a title like the one it had that it was meant for me. No, this film was for real. I remember feeling scared for my future… or that’s what my adult memory of watching that film is telling me. Let’s just say when I first saw it – knowing that kids could act this way (be really bad and sexually active) was a far cry from the light fumbles, and mildly racist, movies I was used to seeing in John Hughes movies I thought told me everything about teen life.
Browsing the HMV store during the rising inception of DVD sales (what – 2003?) I came across KIDS again. The cool cover of the hapless american teens reminded me instantly of a film that lifted the lid on a culture a far cry from most films out at the same time and acted as the anti-dote to another of my favourite teen movies that came out the same year – CLUELESS. Truth be-told I think I was attracted to the look rather than the substance of the film up until that point. Being as young as I was, I never fully understood the long and largely improvised dialogue that darted between the girls and boys during various scenes; I understood AIDS was bad, I saw what it had done to Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, and I knew Freddie Mercury had succumbed to it; smoking drugs and having sex? Well all of that was just a big no-no – pop culture taught me these things – still, I was curious.
As I got older and developed certain tastes and approaches to film and TV, the look of KIDS appealed to me greatly. It was gritty, cool and a ‘cult’ classic which equalled: NOT MAINSTREAM – a pretentious concept foisted upon every low-budget product in any industry. I discovered afterwards though that I genuinely loved/feared its context. I loved how the people in it interacted, how nostalgic it felt and the feeling of one day lasting for what felt like forever, this carefree, careless youth and self-inflicted hedonism. Also that conversations between a teenaged Rosario Dawson and her friends (including one of the films lead protagonists, Chloë Sevigny), is priceless. A frank, exploitative and self-aware debate about the state of a dire youth culture.
– all images courtesy of the film KIDS, dir. Larry Clark. 1995.