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Larry Clark’s Latest ‘Smell’: Intermittently Interesting or Just Plain Creepy?

Larry Clark's Latest 'Smell': Intermittently Interesting or Just Plain Creepy?

Larry
Clark’s latest effort in chronicling wasted youth, “The Smell of Us” plays Film
Comment Selects at Lincoln Center February 26 at 8:45. The film, set in France
continues Clark’s documentation of teen skateboarders having casual sex that
began with “Kids” and continued through “Ken Park” and “Wassup Rockers.”

Here the jaded youth are so bored
they deaden themselves to real emotions, the only feelings they have are the
tangible smells of armpits, asses, crotches. One character, a rent boy,
complains about the taste of blood in a client’s semen, while the disaffected
Math (Lukas Ionesco) has his toes sucked by a john. “Fuck my nose with your
toes!” the client exclaims, in one of the more amusing moments in “The Smell of
Us.”

However, most of the film is sad, as
these characters are largely numbed by drugs and have sex for money they may
not even need. This, of course, is Clark’s point, albeit a variation of the
same one he has been making since he started making films and taking pictures.

While mostly plotless, there is
narrative strand in which JP (Hugo Behar-Thinières) expresses his love for
Math, who only fucks men for money. When JP’s parents confront their son about
his prostitution, it is one of the few dramatic moments in the film. Yet Clark
is more concerned about creating a mood than emotion. A sequence in a nightclub
featuring sweaty, naked young torsos dancing, or a scene in which JP dances
naked with Marie (Diane Rouxel), are more erotic than the copious and explicit
sex scenes that pepper the narrative.

The film is alternately fascinating
and frustrating; viewers may watch with horror or anger (or simply disgust)
when the teens bash a car and set it on fire, or destroy the apartment of one
of Math’s clients, whom he drugged to avoid having sex. But the film fails to
engage as the characters just skate, or sit around doing little more than
talking or filming one another.

Ultimately, “The Smell of Us” is only intermittently interesting.
Or, it is just plain creepy, as when Math’s mother (Dominique Frot) starts
coming on to her son, wanting to suck him off, and more.

Clark seems to be determined to
shock viewers with his characters’ bad behavior, but mostly, he just bores
them. Maybe too many Larry Clark films have become jaded.

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