DVD Marfa Girl

DVD Marfa Girl
DVD Marfa Girl
Run time: 105 min
Rating: 5.8
Genres: Drama
Director: Larry Clark
Writers: Larry Clark
Stars: Adam Mediano, Drake Burnette, Jeremy St. James
Renowned and notorious photographer, artist, and filmmaker, Larry Clark has written and directed his new film… See full synopsis »
Plot Keywords: sex scene, nude drawing, crying, skateboard, female frontal nudity
Country: USA
Release Date: 2014 (USA)
Box Office
Budget: $2,000,000 (estimated)


  1. Larry Clark likes to make movies which shock. Particularly about teenagers. They f*ck and swear and sometimes kill (Bully). On the other hand, William Golding's Lord of the Flies is on the reading list in most English language high schools around the world. Nothing Larry Clark has done can outdo the horror of those kids on an island.

    Homo sapiens are a brutal and savage species, probably responsible for the elimination of Neanderthal man and since then we have sent thousands of species into extinction, from mammoths, to bison, to the dodo. If there's a bad animal around, we're it.

    Clark like Golding is busy with representing the what is, ripping off of your rose-coloured glasses and then stomping on them to boot. Yes, your girlfriend in high school betrayed you. Deliberately. And your son's girlfriend is probably betraying him now too. It's just what people do. Your wife probably cheated on you at least once or twice too. Go and read Jane Goodall's study of chimpanzees: how they mate and how they stalk their neighbours and kill.

    Anyway back to Marfa Girl: it's the same unlikeable group of teenagers smoking up and screwing as we've seen in other Clark movies. This time it's on the US/Mexican border. There are some very dislikable adult border patrol officers and some slightly less dislikable promiscuous kids. It's a film about ideas and loyalties. There are some extended Socratian dialogues between kids and cops, cops and cops.

    Those ideas are played out through the bodies and lives of the Clark's kids. Unlike in a Rohmer film, ideas are not apart from human existence. Ideas have a real human price.

    Performances are convincing all round from mothers to daughters to cops. I really didn't like either Adam (Adam Mediano) or Marfa Girl (Drake Burnette). But that's not their job to make me like them. Their responsibility is to play their role convincingly and that they did.

    If you are looking to be uplifted or dream of a brighter tomorrow, no Larry Clark film is for you. If you are looking to take a cold hard look at today's passage from childhood to adulthood, Larry Clark is your man.

    I'm not sure I liked Marfa Girl, but I respect the craft. Anyone concerned with border issues will find a lot to think about. There's a tall pile of DVD's of films waiting more important to me than Marfa Girl. While I respect Larry Clark's craft (I was lucky enough to see a premiere of Bully at TIFF with Clark in attendance in 2001), one of the reasons I am among the first to watch and buy is its direct online distribution. Direct digital distribution is the only future for independent film. Larry Clark is both wise and brave to choose exclusively online digital distribution with no cut to iTunes or any other of the conglomerates.

    It's an experiment worth supporting. If works the quality and the honesty of Marfa Girl are what direct distribution brings us, the future of independent film looks brighter than it has in over ten years.

    If you are on the fence, please give Larry Clark your support to send a clear signal to both independent film makers and to Hollywood. Give us something better than the sequels and focus grouped rubbish which commercial filmmaking has become and we'll pay for it.

    The online viewing experience was very easy. You pay via Paypal with no extended offer nonsense or other advertising and you get a login key which lets you see Marfa Girl in very good quality HD right away. Absolutely no problem playing it in the browser.

  2. Six years is a long hiatus, especially since Larry Clark was popping movies out almost annually for a while. After that much of a break, you'd expect a filmmaker to come back with something new, engaged with different subjects. But then again, this is Larry Clark we're talking about. All of his work is a variation on a theme. "Marfa Girl" takes a few new turns even if it's firmly rooted in the director's obsessions.

    The title is somewhat misleading. Yeah, the movie is set in Marfa, Texas. That's not the misleading part. Instead, the movie is actually about a boy, not a girl. Fifteen year old Adam, about to turn sixteen, is the protagonist. He skates, is in a band, occasionally enjoys a pot cigarette, is friends with a sexually liberated young mother, and is currently trying to get into his girlfriend's pants. His mom rehabilitates parrots and is heavily involved in the local spiritualist and art scene. She's friends with a twenty-something artist, the titular Marfa Girl, a young lady who believes in free love and equality of genders. Connecting all the story threads is Tom, a border patrol cop with sadomasochistic fantasies, misogynistic tendencies, and an unhealthy obsession with Adam and his mom.

    "Marfa Girl" is edgier then "Wassup Rockers" but is still more gentle then the majority of the director's films. As you'd expect, the film is loosely plotted, rolling from one encounter to another. The pacing is relaxed, instead of belabored. Once again, Clark has successfully put us into these kids' lives. There's not much of a score and what is there is odd, chiptune music. The film is named after its setting because Marfa is a character onto itself. It's clear that the odd mixture of artists, spiritualists, disaffected kids, and border patrol cops that makes up the town was Clark's main inspiration. After watching the film, you feel like you know what a day in the sleepy town must feel like.

    As is expected with Clark by this point, among the teenage sex scenes, drugs, and violence, are genuinely touching or intriguing moments. An early moment, when Adam's mom talks with a friend about loosing pets and reincarnation, really impressed me. Though the movie seems to implicitly suggest that the whole conversation is ridiculous, the emotion the moment sums up is true. Another stand-out moment is Adam and the Marfa Girl's discussion about sexism and double standards. This leads to an encounter with two Mexican border patrol cops, starting a heated conversation. Clark continues to do intimate conversation well. The Girl has a revealing conversation with the mellower of the two cops, about his military history. An earlier date with another artist is charmingly awkward. Even the villainous Tom gets a revealing monologue near the end. Surprisingly, the sex scenes, only a few of which involve teenagers, have a gentle, romantic tone to them, making this, perhaps, Clark's first legitimately erotic film.

    Adam is your standard Clark protagonist: Obsessed with sex with no clear direction in life. His sweet relationship with his Mom makes him different though. Adam Mediano has a natural charisma as an actor and it's not impossible to see him going on to a real acting career. Drake Burnette as the titular character does very well, being spunky and lovable. She can't make all her heavy dialogue work but the actress is still likable. I didn't care for what happens to her in the last act though. That felt unnecessary. I especially liked Indigo Rael as Adam's friend Donna. She's a complex character, a mother, a teen, and sexually open. Mary Farley is also strong as Adam's mom.

    Tom is the most fascinating character in the film. He's a total creep. Aside from needlessly harassing Adam, he makes sexist remarks to a young waitress, tricks a fast food clerk into a date that transforms into a possible sexual assault, and shows Adam's mom disturbing "blue waffle" pictures. For most of the film, he comes off as a thinly developed villain. His eventual acts of violence and sexual assault aren't surprising. Frankly, his admittance of getting turned on by violence is awkwardly presented and Clark falling back on shock value and boners. However, the character's monologue, were he discusses his past and his relationship with his father, are oddly powerful. Jeremy St. James actually gives a fantastic performance, making Tom an ugly creep but also, oddly easy to watch.

    The movie concludes with violence. You could say this is lazy. However, the middle section of the movie, which includes a long drug trip in a school gym, drags on. The whole movie sets up this conflict between Adam and Tom. The ending is a fine pay-off to this. The resolution puts a nice emotional bow on the story.

    So "Marfa Girl" is about half/half. It's a lot of the same stuff you'd expect from the director by now. Its dreamy tone is sometimes entrancing, sometimes boring. The script is unbalanced between captivating character study and directionless location piece. I both like the town and have no desire to ever visit it. All things considered, it's what I would expect from the director at this point in his career.

    Clark released the movie independently as a streaming rental through his website, with no intention of ever releasing it to theaters or home video. He hopes to reach the kids this way. Maybe he will. I don't know what young people will think out of "Marfa Girl." It won't change detractors mind and it could potentially either surprise or bore Clark defenders. Despite it's issues, it's still the filmmaker's best work in years.

  3. It's hard to believe that it was seven long years between the release of Larry Clark's Wassup Rockers and Marfa Girl. Clark's themes of destructive adolescent behavior, broken families, and teenage angst and sex are now more prominent than ever, and one would assume that Clark would be toying with every possible convention for the material in present times, when censorship restrictions is now far more liberal than it ever has been. However, Clark claims there is still apprehension towards his kind of material from "crooked Hollywood distributors," which is why he made the decision to release Marfa Girl on his website, with no plans of it ever coming to DVD or being released in theaters.

    It's sad when a man of Clark's caliber must resort to the broad and indistinguishable realm of online distribution to get his films seen but maybe that's for the better. He is not limited by any means, is his own boss, and still possesses the freedom to make the movies he wants to make. As a writer, I can respect that immensely. His film Marfa Girl could mistakenly be called a "return to form" for Clark, due to his lengthy absence, but just by watching the film you know he hasn't left. His last feature Wassup Rockers, however, felt nothing as much as a watered-down depiction of what Clark does best, which is handle the aforementioned themes.

    Marfa Girl concerns the town of Marfa, Texas, which is near the border of the United States and Mexico. The town is as sleepy as can be, often possessing a dreamy quality with its wide open spaces, soft blue skies, and frequently humble, muted colors. It concerns a number of people living in this town, mostly working class characters, one of whom is a teenager named Adam (Adam Mediano), a sixteen-year-old who is approaching his seventeenth birthday in a matter of days. He is beginning to become sexually curious, hoping to get lucky with his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Inez (Mercedes Maxwell), who he trusts completely, but also being tempted with sex from numerous other people, including his twentysomething neighbor.

    The titular character is played by Drake Burnette, a local artist who also looks to have sex with Adam. The film's powerhouse scene comes when Adam and her talk about sex beginning when Adam is in the bathtub and continues when the two walk out in public. The scene touches on every topic of sex, from pleasing a woman sexually to elaborating on the unfair double-standard of when a man or a woman have many sexual partners. It wasn't until I saw this scene did I recall how much I missed Clark's naturalistic conversations and his characters' curiosity and interest in sex. Clark doesn't stray from making the dialogs explicit as well, with both characters going into intricate detail about the mysterious ways of a woman's clitoris.

    A subplot involves Tom (Jeremy St. James), a lowly, misogynistic border patrol agent who sets his sights on Adam, Adam's mother (Mary Farley), along with Inez. St. James does great work here as a first-time actor, effectively creating an unsettling atmosphere whenever he steps on screen. His character Tom is an unpredictable one, with an early scene with him taking place at a restaurant where he remarks to a waitress about how her feet wouldn't hurt if she didn't have such gigantic breasts. Tom is a scummy character, doing a thankless job to boot. It isn't until Burnette's mysterious character strikes a conversation with two of Tom's Mexican coworkers, questioning if they feel guilty in any way for arresting their own people. The scene, which takes place inside an abandoned warehouse, is equally tense and unsettling, perhaps providing subtle commentary about how every encounter, no matter how trivial or meaningless, with the border patrol is in some way.

    Despite the seven year gap, Clark stills seems to be interested in the Latino, "skater-punk" lifestyle. Frequent scenes involve some sort of skateboarding, gathering, or languorously wandering the streets of Marfa. Cinematographer David Newbert knows how to capture the look and appeal of a sleepy town, tucked away down in Texas. The dreaminess of the film's aesthetic is something that I can't easily shake, similar to the gritty and dirty aesthetic utilized in Clark's previous films.

    Clark's directorial debut is Kids, which is not only one of the most powerful debut films I have yet to see but one of the most powerful films that I have yet to see. Its honest depiction of teenagers and the degradation of values is something scarcely brought up but brilliantly handled overall, making for an exceptional debut film. He went on to direct Bully, a film showing murder for the sick, sadistic crime that it is, and not cheaply portraying or exploiting its subject for something to laugh at or for cheap shock. Marfa Girl tackles the familiar themes of Clark's earlier works, and while that could easily be turned into a criticism rather than a strength (Clark is seventy and maybe should look into other themes), seeing something like this particular film makes me glad to have him back and know that he won't be limited in his approach any longer.

    Starring: Adam Mediano, Mercedes Maxwell, Drake Burnette, Jeremy St. James, and Mary Farley. Directed by: Larry Clark.

  4. *This review may contain a spoiler, so perhaps you do not want to read it before seeing the film, but I have kept this sufficiently vague, in my view.

    I have to comment on another reviewer who wrote that this film represents Larry Clark's disappointing and lackluster comeback film. I have not known any of Larry Clark's filmography. I do not believe I have seen a single one, so I was a bit surprised Mr. Clark had a comeback to make. Mr. Clark is foreign to me and the actors are also completely unknown, which has the added bonus of keeping production costs low, but seems to degrade the overall quality of the film. Sometimes I even felt as though the actors were searching for lines or emotions, but did not know where to look. Perhaps the director had stepped out for the moment.

    No doubt, I am equally foreign to this film. I considered stopping the film 5 or 10 minutes in because my initial reaction was one of bewilderment (why are these people in this film?) and one of disgust (why are these border patrol agents harassing a young, and why is a teacher, moments later, spanking him in a school room with a paddle fashioned out of wood). By foreign I felt as though I was in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, playing the role of Gregor Samsa. The world I see portrayed in Marfa Girl is totally foreign to me. It is a world with brutal quasi-police forces who prey upon the public. It is a place where all hope is lost and where people turn to spiritual healing for some substitute of courage and intellect. It's a world where the only place to find entertainment is apparently in a semi-abandoned apartment complex/RV park where teenagers are dancing dispassionately to music of a guitar strummer and a kid with an electronic sound board. More fascinating is why anyone would want to visit this southern border town. The young artist known as Marfa Girl (played by model Drake Burnette) mixes with the locals like oil to water when she suggests to one man that he should model nude for her sketches. I nearly laughed, but instead wondered why he didn't slap her coming on to a taken man in an ultra-conservative town in America.

    Admittedly, part of my foreign feeling toward this film lies in my lack of relativity to the main character, whose mother at one point reminds him that although lightly browned, he is "not a wetback." Admittedly, in my K-12 years I didn't fall into bed with older women/moms, I didn't roam aimlessly around my little middle-American town, and I didn't grow up in a place where I was treated as if I belonged to another species on another planet. Young people go through difficult times as adolescents; we get that. Young people do and say stupid things, and we get that as well. It's just that Clark does not quite bring this one home for me. Even at the end, I was still searching for something to cling to, but could not find it. Indeed, the reason for this review might very well be the fact that the film was so forgettable that I had to write down my thoughts lest I forget about it tomorrow.

    You might have wondered from where the film's title is derived. It turns out that the title is taken from the very real town in which the film is set, Marfa, Texas. As if the film had not turned me off the place, a review of Google Maps and Wikipedia resources suggests that it is a place on Earth that I am highly unlikely to ever find myself. No doubt, I am better off for steering clear, and you are better off for skipping this film.

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