Larry Clark can be hit and miss, for every Kids or Ken Park you can get Another Day in Paradise. Yet over the years one thing has become increasingly clear. Despite his penchant for pervy shots of pre pubescent boys with their shirts off, he offers a gritty shocking kind of reality that is totally alien to Hollywood. Wassup Rockers (Accent) is a departure for Clark. There’s no drugs or explicit voyeuristic teen sex here, yet there is the kind of desperate street realism for which he has made his name. It follows a group of hispanic skaters from south central, longhaired punkers in tight jeans who fly in the face of the baggy gangster rap norm. In the directors commentary Clark speaks of finding the crew at an LA skate park then taking them to various other skate parks every saturday for the next year. Whilst there’s something concerning about a 66 year old hanging with 14 year old boys every weekend, the first half of the film, coming from their own tales possesses a realism that could never be achieved without some degree of mutual trust. These kids are playing themselves. Unfortunately the second half, where Clark takes some artistic license and re-imagines them as The Warriors meeting Paris Hilton all becomes a little too slapstick, too kitsch, feeling forced, overly cinematic and very very dubious. Yet we’re under no illusions with Clark. Even his flawed films are morally questionable enough to make them essential.
Blacklisted by Hollywood and outed as a member of the communist party, Jules Dassin subsequently relocated to Europe where he would go on to create Rififi, one of the greatest heist films ever. Yet in 1947 he was still in the US working with Burt Lancaster on the prison drama Brute Force (Directors Suite) which offers old chestnuts like stool pigeons, unbreakable but moral prisoners (Lancaster) and a sadistic warden who drives the good and noble prisoners to a suicidal escape attempt. Unfortunately though due to Oz what may have been shocking at the time now feels a little dated. Naked City (Directors Suite) is a thorough yet gripping 1948 police procedural drama. Step by step it demonstrates how to solve a crime, in the way Law and Order and CSI have since replicated. It was also one of the early films actually filmed in the streets of New York, mingling actors and real people, often filmed in a van behind a two way mirror. Night and City (Directors Suite) is one of Dassin’s great films, not in the least due to the casting of dapper sleaze-bag Richard Widmark. Filmed on the streets of 1950 London it’s a hard boiled tale of a fast talking shyster who’s shot at the big time could also be his undoing. This is what noir is all about, the spiral out of control. “Harry is an artist without art,” offers a corrupt club owner about Widmark’s slimy character and the images of Widmark frantically fleeing a London dawn will stay with you forever.
You can file Breakin (Shock) under ‘lame fad dance films,’ alongside your Dirty Dancing’s, your Lambada’s (it was forbidden for a reason), and your Fame’s. Its appeal now is that it’s dripping with kitsch youth culture cliches and features an early appearance from a groovy Jean Claude Van Damme and Ice-T. Then there’s the immortal Turbo dancing to Kraftwerk’s Tour de France which rates alongside the opening to a Touch of Evil as one of the greatest scenes cinema has to offer. Some films are meant to be forgotten, this is too much fun to allow that to happen.
Afro Samurai (Madman) was cool in a dumb hyper violent rivers of blood, spaghetti western meets insane Japanese manga kind’ve way. The melding of Eastern folklore and hip urban Afro American culture was as equally opportunistic as it was inspired. Its sequel Afro Samurai Resurrection (Madman) reeks of cash in, with Samuel L Jackson returning as the voice of Samurai, Lucy Lui and Mark Hamil as the bad guys and of course RZA (Wu Tang Clan) providing the ultra cool score. It’s easy to be seduced by style, bask in the geysers of blood and hip hop beats, yet, well there is no yet, the blood and violence is super cool, sexy as hell and a lot of fun to bask in.