Marfa Girl: Rome Review
Rome Film Festival (competing)
Adam Mediano, Drake Burnette, Jeremy St. James, Mary Farley, Mercedes Maxwell
Larry Clark's latest will stream on his own website starting November 20.
ROME -- It’s been seven years since photographer turned filmmaker Larry Clark (Kids, Wassup Rockers) made a feature, but things haven’t changed all that much for the one-time cineaste maudit, whose latest work, Marfa Girl, offers up more of the same: more skateboarders, more underage intercourse, more weed puffing, more meandering storylines, and more handsomely mounted images of suburban decay. With slim possibilities for U.S. distribution, Clark has opted to release the film on his own website, which may be the best way to reach viewers who still admire his crude tales of teenage malaise.
Shot in the thinly populated city of Marfa, Texas, located just a short drive from the Mexican border, the film centers on a group of family and friends who spend much of their time wandering around town, drinking, chatting, smoking, spanking (as practiced by a pregnant high school teacher played by Lindsay Jones) and more often than not, fornicating.
Indeed, this wouldn’t be a Larry Clark movie if there wasn’t at least one scene of a young couple going at it in graphic detail, and although this takes some time to happen, the film eventually indulges in an array of short and suggestive sex sequences. The rest of the time, the characters seem to be either talking, speculating, or in the case of the titular heroine (Drake Burnette), philosophizing about anything to do with copulation, cunnilingus, uncircumcised penises or horny young Mexican boys, including 16-year-old Adam (the rather touching Adam Mediano), who’s more or less the hero of this loosely told story.
A subplot involving a border patrol officer (Jeremy St. James) with some serious sexual hang-ups doesn’t help to elevate the level of drama, and the way the characters are brought together in a violent finale feels completely tacked on to what’s otherwise a minimalist, documentary-style narrative. Slightly better are some rather amusing dialogue scenes which occur late in the game, including a long talk between Adam and the Marfa Girl (who’s supposed to be a visiting artist) that allows for some outre one-liners (such as: “My p---y isn't a bowl of dog food.”) to be tossed back and forth.
As in the other movies by the author of the now classic monograph Tulsa, the cinematography (courtesy of D.P. David Newbert) is both raw and soigne, capturing the sad beauty of Marfa’s ranch homes, trailer parks and abandoned warehouses through strong natural lighting and some lovely framing. Still, it’s been a long time now that such imagery has not only graced movie screens but also music videos, commercials and fashion editorials, and Clark has had such an influence on contemporary visual culture that his own film looks to be nothing new at this point. (A scene where Adam watches the sunset as a horse rides by feels especially like it was ripped out of a Levi's ad.)
The action is accompanied by a low-key score from indie composer Bobby Johnston (Cherry), which is mixed in with live performances by the aptly named amateur beat makers, Party with Death.
Production companies: Evil Sherman Corp.
Cast: Adam Mediano, Drake Burnette, Jeremy St. James, Mary Farley, Mercedes Maxwell
Director, screenwriter: Larry Clark
Producer: Adam Sherman
Director of photography: David Newbert
Art director: Fernando Valdes
Music: Bobby Johnston, Jessie Tejada
Editor: Affonso Goncalves
Sales: Evil Sherman Corp.
No rating, 106 minutes