Dir. Larry Clark. 2005. R. 111mins. Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa, Milton Velasquez, Yunior Usualdo Panameno, Lilliana Rodriguez.
Photographer-turned-filmmaker Clark has made his name by exploring the erotic charge of the teenage body. His fans will tell you that his photographs (collected in the books Tulsa, Teenage Lust, etc.) and films (Kids, Bully, Ken Park) expose social taboos by honestly depicting the world of teenagers. If you don’t buy that line, then Clark is a creepy old perv who photographs teens, and especially teen boys, in various states of undress. His work is either an interrogation of how we sexualize teens, or an ephebophile’s wet dream.
Wassup makes a pretty solid case for the latter. In this film, Clark works with Latino teens he met hanging out in Los Angeles, who play fictionalized versions of themselves. They pay a visit to Beverly Hills, where they encounter a series of stock characters (hot-to-trot rich girls, preppy boyfriends, a gun-toting Clint Eastwood type) who obstruct their efforts to get home to South Central. It’s shockingly amateurish stuff, badly acted and poorly filmed.
But the real subject here is these boys’ bodies. Clark’s camera slides over their often shirtless torsos like a caressing hand. To give you an idea of how icky this gets, the publicity photos include one labeled “Kico: Single Chest Hair.” If that piques your interest, grab your dirty raincoat and tissues and get thee to the theater. It just gave us the creeps.—Hank Sartin