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The Dinner Fight

Director Larry Clark says he has finally landed a U.S. distribution deal for his new film, Ken Park, co-directed with Ed Lachman. It’s been a long haul to get the movie shown here, as is the case with most of Clark‘s films (Kids, Bully), mainly because of sexually explicit material and controversial subject matter. The film will be unrated, as are most of Clark’s films.

But the real controversy over Ken Park began November 9 in London, where distribution was pulled after Clark decked his U.K. distributor, Hamish McAlpine of Metro Tartan. Clark ended up in jail for four hours and McAlpine in the hospital with a broken nose. The fight occurred just a few days before Ken Park was to debut at the London Film Festival.

Clark, along with Lachman and other cast members of the movie, were dining with Metro Tartan associates at an upscalea London restaurant. Just what led to the fight is in dispute.

According to Clark, a heated argument over the 911 terrorism began when McAlpine announced, ”I would never live in America, and I think September 11 was the best thing that ever happened to America. I thought the attack would make Americans understand why the rest of the world hates them.“ Clark, a New Yorker who witnessed the attack from his loft window, says he wondered how anyone could say such a thing. A political debate ensued. Clark insists McAlpine made such provocative remarks as, ”It‘s fucking Israel, and America supports and backs Israel. The Arabs want peace, and if Israel would go back to the borders before the 1967 war, there would be peace.“ After a few more rounds of this, Clark says he finally asked, ”What about the innocent little children and babies who get blown up?“ Clark says McAlpine replied: ”They fucking deserve to die.“ This is where Clark says he lost it.

McAlpine says nothing of the sort took place. He says Clark was agitated from the moment he arrived at the dinner and they began talking about what it was like to co-direct the movie. ”We were then talking about politics, discussing how to the end the violence in the Middle East. I was saying the whole problem every time is that one side does one act, and the other side counters.

“At no stage did I condone either side. And at no stage ever was 911 discussed.” At one point, he adds, Clark said the Arabs were “’sand niggers.‘ I said that it was disgusting to talk like that. Within half a minute, he stood up from the table.”

McAlpine says Clark threw him to the ground and punched his face repeatedly. “But I didn’t strike a blow against Clark. I didn‘t want to sink down to his level.”

Clark dismisses this version: “This is such bullshit, such a fucking lie.” He insists it was about 911: “When someone gets up in my face with bullshit like this, I’m not gonna roll over and lick my nuts.”

Whatever the cause of the fight, it adds yet another colorful chapter to Clark‘s career as an artistfilmmaker. A few years back, he had a row with Stephen Chin, the producer of Clark’s movie Another Day in Paradise. In his photo bookautobiography called Teenage Lust, Clark reveals provocative moments of his rage, which end in jail time. But Clark is anxious to put this all behind him, as is Metro Tartan. “This film is the film I‘m most proud of,” Clark says. “It’s the film that I feel breaks boundaries for filmmaking of today. In Ken Park, I do things they always say you can‘t do. And I do it.”

There’s something kind of romantic about it all, a swashbuckling director. These are the stories that come with any great artist. Jackson Pollock taking a whiz in Peggy Guggenheim‘s fireplace, Charles Bukowski’s barroom brawls, Anne Sexton‘s drunken campus lectures, Johnny Rotten’s aborted concerts. The red flags are there. Larry Clark is an artist to be reckoned with, which seems to be the only known truth that comes out of this story. But this time Clark‘s added a few stars and stripes to that flag.

Nikki Finke contributed to this story.


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