Brad Renfro stars in the Larry Clark film, 'Bully'

DEKKOO DISPATCH 054 – ‘BULLY’

Title – ‘Bully

Director – Larry Clark

Starring – Brad Renfro, Nick Stahl, Bijou Phillips, Michael Pitt

Release Date – 2001

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Oh Larry Clark. What a strange and unusual artist. In the late 90s his name was synonymous with the new wave of transgressive cinema coming out of Sundance from the likes of Gregg Araki and Bruce LaBruce. His subject matter is primarily troubled youth coping with the boring, sad world around them – usually through drugs and sex. On Dekkoo we’ve made one of Clark’s classic films – ‘Bully‘ available for your voyeuristic pleasure.

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Still from ‘Tulsa’

Before I tackle ‘Bully’ today I want to talk a bit more about Larry Clark. The preface of his now legendary first book of photography ‘Tulsa’ reveals a lot about Larry:

i was born in tulsa oklahoma in 1943. when i was sixteen i started shooting amphetamine. i shot with my friends everyday for three years and then left town but i’ve gone back through the years. once the needle goes in it never comes out. L.C.

We’re clearly dealing with an artist who spent a great deal of time living in a world that he know he’ll never actually escape from so he instead decided to explore his own world deeper through photography and expose it to the world. ‘Tulsa’ caused a big stir when it came out in 1971. Many viewers were shocked by the world contained within – a world of junkies, teenage sex, and violence. Obviously people responded to the work (Gus Van Sant & Martin Scorsese have cited ‘Tulsa’ as an influence on their work) and he was able to follow up ‘Tulsa’ with ‘Teenage Lust’ in 1983 – building on his world of drugs and isolation.

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A young Harmony Korine

In 1993 Larry Clark saw a young Harmony Korine skating with his friends in Washington Square Park, took a few photos, and then after finding out he was an aspiring filmmaker asked him to write a script about skaters and include a plotline about AIDS. Harmony was thrilled and eagerly wrote the script ‘Kids’ which then premiered in 1995 at the Cannes Film Festival. Chronicling the life of a group of NYC wayward youth, one of whom was unknowingly infecting girls with HIV generated massive controversy just like ‘Tulsa’. Due to it’s NC-17 rating it didn’t earn much money at the box office, but it certainly cemented the careers of both Harmony (who went on to direct ‘Gummo’ and ‘Mister Lonely’) and Larry Clark. After ‘Kids’ Larry Clark directed three movies in a span of nine months! Those films turned out to become ‘Bully’, ‘Ken Park’ (still unreleased in the U.S. to this day!), and ‘Teenage Caveman’ (a silly movie that’s worth watching if you’re into B-grade schlock).

bully
Nick Stahl and Brad Renfro in ‘Bully’

Bully‘ takes place in Hollywood. Hollywood, Florida that is. There’s definitely no glitz and glam here. Take it from me. I’ve been there. Many times. Don’t go there. Buttt it’s the perfect setting for a Larry Clark movie. It’s full of disaffected youth dying to escape the heat and move to the real Hollywood to make it big. ‘Bully‘ starts out innocently enough with horny teenagers just trying to get laid. But soon we come to realize that we’re witnessing a microcosm of sexual and interpersonal dependency between the main characters of Bobby and Marty. Bobby constantly has Marty in an iron grip of dominance that Marty simply can’t escape from. He might even like it a bit. But eventually the abuse becomes too much and Marty’s girlfriend convinces him that the only way the abuse will end is if they kill Bobby.

Wow – what a crazy-ass movie. I remember watching this in high school and enjoying it, but I definitely did not pick up on how freaking homo this film was. And hot. Bobby is basically Marty’s pimp. He makes him have gay sex over the phone for cash AND forces him on stage to strip at a gay bar. Also there’s a fantastic scene where Bobby literally accuses Marty of being gay, “Don’t lie to me boy I know you like dick”. Messages are mixed in the film as to whether or not they’re actually gay (for other guys. I mean Marty does have an Eminem poster in his bedroom…), but I do think they’re at least gay for each other.

The film is loosely based on a real crime that took place in 1993 – the murder of Bobby Kent by a group of kids hereafter known as The Broward County Seven. Comprising the ‘seven’ are a number of awesome cameos. Most surprising was the fantastic performance by Daniel Franzese (‘Mean Girls’) as a fat drug-taking Mortal Kombat addicted teenager (FATALITY!!). It’s also great to see Michael Pitt (pre-‘Hedwig’) as a complete brain-dead drug addict who can’t make any decisions in life without a tab of acid taking the wheel.

This film is totally bizarre, hot, ridiculous, and disturbing which really adds up to fun-ass time. Watch it tonight!

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Watch it with: Your trouble-making friends.

Mix it with: The traditional bad-ass high school dropout drink: Jack & Coke

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