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Rome Interview: Larry Clark On 'Marfa Girl,' The Role Of The Writer & How He Became Fearless

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist November 23, 2012 at 9:02AM

In the 17 years and 6 films since his excoriating debut "Kids," Larry Clark has gradually slipped off many radars, as detractors claimed that precisely what had so shocked and impressed in his early work (explicit sex, violence and drug taking amongst photogenic teenagers) was becoming irrelevant at best, and exploitative at worst. But perhaps his latest film, "Marfa Girl," the first in a mooted trilogy, which won the top prize at the Rome Film Festival, will change their minds.
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Marfa Girl
The film features many scenes of characters telling stories from their past. How much of that was scripted, and how much improvised, because the reminiscing feels very real?
I would wake up every morning and write for a couple hours, I would dream about it and I would write, then I’d talk to the actors and tell them what I wanted them to do, and I would have them mix in some of the personal stuff that I knew about them. When I cast in Austin I didn’t talk at all about the characters they were playing, I asked about them. I was told people don’t cast that way, I dunno how other people cast. I cast more like a psychiatrist -- I’m interested in the people and where they come from. And so I was able to play on that, and then during the film I would surprise them I would say, “Talk about what you were talking about then” and they were very cooperative and quite wonderful, everything was magical and just worked.

Everybody in the film has a different philosophy of life and I wanted to get their backstories and find out why they are like what they are like. And so at some point they all tell and everybody’s is different, so you see there’s kind of like a micsrocosm of America, of what’s going on with racism, with immigration and all that. And how, with the internet now, everybody knows everything and the sex and drugs.

Marfa Girl
There are several sex scenes, however we did note the difference in the treatment of the consensual and the non-consensual scenes -- we really only ever linger on the former. Was that a conscious decision?
I love the sex scene between Adam and Inez because it is so tender and so real, it’s like little puppy love, so innocent and they were actually kind of falling in love on the set and it shows in the film. And the rest of the sex scenes I would just think about different ways to do it, and it was fun to make it up on the spot. 

This film feels a little different in structure from your others, did anything change in your approach?
What happened was the last two films I wrote myself -- "Wassup Rockers" and "Marfa Girl." I‘d been talking to writers and I found out that all these writers have these rules, there are certain ways they do things, and I probably should have snapped to this earlier but I don’t need no fucking writers, and I hate rules, and so I said I wanna make a film where I only put in what I’m interested in. And I don’t care about getting from here to there, only what I’m interested in, and I’ll figure a way to make it work. And the freedom made me so happy. Coming from the art world there are no rules, and once you start playing with rules then you’re in trouble, so this was really freeing.

I happened to mention to a writer that in my new film I’ve a character who is a masochist and likes to get beat up and I also have a kid who is kind of starting to get into spanking a bit, sexually, and he said, “Nononono, you cant have two characters with the same [thing]… that’s the rule" and right away I said "Fuck writers, fuck you people." 

Marfa-Girl-
You once said that you wished a teenager has made "Kids," but a teenager could not have done so, because of a lack of the perspective and clarity that only comes over time. How do you feel your perspective has changed in the years since "Kids"?
I’m fearless -- I think I’m much more fearless. There’s no fear at all anymore more. It’s gone completely and there [used to be] always fear, especially when you’re young. My first book "Tulsa," it was literally, I thought very seriously about burning the negatives and shooting myself. Or publishing the book, and I chose to go for it. Because no one knew about that world, I was taking a chance, I was going into uncharted territory. 

I don’t care anymore I’m comfortable doing exactly what I want to do, making exactly the movie I want to make. I’ve always done that, I’ve never compromised, but now there's no fear.

"Marfa Girl" is available for download now for $5.99 at larryclark.com

This article is related to: Rome Film Festival, Larry Clark, Marfa Girl, Interview


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