Kids Review

It’s a hot day in New York City. Telly's (Leo Fitzpatrick) favourite pursuit is deflowering virgins. One of them, a year ago, was Jennie (Chloë Sevigny), and their encounter infected her with HIV. Telly does not know of his infection, and Jennie has to warn him before he infects any more teenage girls...

Released in 1995, Kids was the controversial film of its year. Intended as an Awful Warning of what today’s teenagers are doing, it survived censorship battles on both sides of the Atlantic, of which more later. Now that the fuss has long since died down, the film can be reassessed. You shouldn’t have to pretend a film is a masterpiece in order to defend its right to be made and shown. Just as well, as Kids increasingly looks shallow, not to mention exploitative and prurient. Former photographer Larry Clark has gone on to make Another Day in Paradise, while scriptwriter Harmony Korine – a teenager himself at the time – has become a director with Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy. Kids was Chloë Sevigny’s debut, and she gives far and away the best performance here, making Jennie’s plight genuinely moving.

Clark and Korine aim to confront the audience with unpalatable truths. Confront they do, from the opening scene of a big close-up of a kiss. The camera lingers over the bodies of the young cast: even though you know that the cast were over the age of consent (certainly those participating in sex scenes were), this can’t help but make you uneasy. Although the film is set on a very hot day, you wonder if every teenage boy in the film really would walk around topless? In her only scene, Telly’s mother is seen breastfeeding his younger brother: Clark moves in close, to make sure we get a good look. I’m not qualified to judge the authenticity of the film’s setting, but false notes keep getting struck: Would teenagers use words like “devirginise”? Given his predilection for virgins, how did Telly become HIV Positive in the first place? In any case, HIV infection via the vagina isn’t as easy as the film implies. For all its verité style, Kids is drama rather than documentary, no doubt selection and heightening are part of the script, but it seems too narrow. These teenagers talk about sex all the time: do they never watch TV or follow sports?
Kids was shot with grainy natural-light photography and some rough sound, some of it noticeably out of synch. Momentum’s DVD (on their World Cinema Collection label) is in non-anamorphic PAL, framed correctly at 1.85:1. Given the (deliberate) limitations of the original, there’s nothing much to praise or complain about the picture as it gives a more-or-less accurate record of what was seen in the cinema. The same applies to the soundtrack, which is 2.0 Stereo non-surround, using left and right mostly for ambience. The dialogue is mostly clear enough, but unfortunately there are no subtitles. There are eighteen chapter stops. The only extra is the trailer (non-anamorphic 1.85:1, running 1:35), a quickly-edited collection of shots from the film separated by critics’ quotes, set to a punk song.
Kids was initially given a NC-17 rating by the MPAA. Miramax, by then owned by Disney, set up a non-Disney subsidiary company, Shining Excalibur Films and released the film uncut and unrated. (Michael Brooke has reviewed the Region 1 DVD release.) However, when Kids was submitted to the BBFC, two cuts were made due to the Child Protection Act: a young child being kissed on the chest and (later) the same child lying asleep while a sex scene was in progress. The latter cut was done by removing the middle of a slow panning shot, with awkward results. For those who do want a copy of this film, I’d have to recommend the Region 1 version for its completeness, though I doubt there’s much otherwise to choose between it and this Region 2 disc.

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Last updated: 27/05/2018 02:45:08

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