Marfa Girl is another languid, pre-pubescent shag-fest from director Larry Clark. And by "pre-pubescent" I am referring as much to the film's maturity as its protagonists. Intended as a lyrical ode to the strange plains of Marfa, Texas, an obscure railway town turned Donald-Judd-founded artistic community, Clark's latest does little more than rouse your curiosity for the place before abandoning you with the same sense of displacement and dissatisfaction he instils in its inhabitants.

The film interweaves three main character strands; that of skateboarder Adam, whose sixteenth birthday provides the only frame of temporality in the film; that of a hypersexualised, libertarian artist, played by model Drake Burnette; and that of sadistic Border Patrol Officer Tom, who proves a fatal misogynist and racist. Yup, kind of like a mish-mash of every other Clark movie, only set in the middle of the desert.

On the plus side, Marfa Girl does provide a talking point on changing distribution channels in independent cinema. After Marfa Girl debuted at Rome Film Festival last November, it was released solely via larryclark.com for $5.99 (please don't mistake that for a plug), Clark skipping a conventional theatrical and home entertainment release to go straight to the web. This move fits in with a wider trend in the Independent sector, which is experiencing seismic shifts in popular methods of funding as well as distribution.

Take for example Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader's new micro budget movie, Canyons, which was partially funded via Kickstarter back in 2012, despite the fact that using an online crowd funding site with no refund facility on a film starring Lindsay Lohan is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Also last year, Harmony Korine released a short film on the topic of a fourth dimension, via VICE and Grolsch on YouTube. The list goes on, you get the picture. So why are these old-school indie auteurs changing their game?

In an interview with Dazed Digital back in November, Clark shared his reasoning, "I decided to put out my new film only on larryclark.com because the art theatres are disappearing, I can never get a rating, and everyone I know under the age of 35 watches all of their media on their computer, so, why not just go straight to the people and cut out all of the Hollywood distributors and crooks. This is the future and the future is now."

Clark's right, art theatres are struggling, largely due to developments (or rather, setbacks) in online video piracy, of which the economic and artistic implications are huge. We complain that cinemas charge too much, so we don't go, so they charge more - it's a viscous cycle. The films that are truly profiting and keeping cinemas alive are those visual and visceral big budget movies, like Skyfall and Life of Pi, that audiences will always prefer to pay to see on the big screen over a dodgy free download. As such, it's no wonder that cinemas such as Picture House are getting bought out by the likes of Cineworld.

With online film piracy at an all-time high, filmmakers and film distributors, like musicians and record labels combating illegal downloads, have had to locate profitable alternative means of getting their films to audiences online, be it through subscription services, advertising deals or low cost pay-per-view. Hence the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Blink Box, and of course what Clark has done with Marfa Girl via his website, the goal to make it cheap and easy for you to watch films online at a much better quality and less risk to your software than via illegal means.

Although positive, this still poses an inevitable threat to theatres, as well as, I would argue, an impact on the personal, experiential side of viewing a film. Having already paid to stream Marfa Girl online, I was invited to a one off screening at a bar called The Book Club in Shoreditch, where the film was projected on the big screen. Admittedly, this isn't quite your traditional movie theatre, but it gave me the opportunity to make certain comparisons between streaming Marfa Girl at home alone in 15" and watching it in a more theatrical environment.

Anyone who's seen a Larry Clarke film (like KIDS or Ken Park) knows that the director has a penchant for the kind of "gratuitous" sex that will leave you demanding to see the age of consent forms, and Marfa Girl is no exception. A film with the amount of "real sex" as Marfa Girl is arguably more suited to a laptop watch not because there are things you can do at home that you can't do in the cinema (depending on the theatre and your attitude towards public indecency laws), but because the sex scenes are often (and trust me- they're often) a little creepy. Oh, and interspersed with rape scenes. Needless to say, all of this makes for pretty awkward communal viewing.

On the other hand, a public viewing of Marfa Girl does allow for a greater appreciation of its moments of light (or should I say, dark) relief. A kind of absurdist black comedy, intentionally or otherwise, the "edgiest" parts of Marfa Girl prove laughable, like when Adam's teacher spanks him with a paddle 16 times on his 16th birthday, or when Burnette's debauched artist visits a Mexican healer woman to be cleansed. Watching a deeply cynical and fetishistic film amongst the company of others adds an element of ridiculousness and definitely takes the edge off.

Another redeemable feature of Marfa Girl is the strength of the cinematography. Clark has always had a photographic eye, and Marfa Girl does, to some level, translate the composed degeneracy of his early photo essay "Tulsa" onto the big screen. The camera-work achieves an immersive naturalism, despite lingering and cutting unpredictably- a trick that worked to keep an otherwise narrativeless film engaging (kind of). From this angle, literally, (excuse the pun) I was pleased to watch it blown up, feeling that the power of Clark's camera was lost on a 15" screen.

If filmmakers are willing to compromise quality in this way, choosing to release independent art-house films on the small screen via the internet, I think it's also important to consider online user behaviour. Ok, what I think I'm trying to admit is that, when I watched Marfa Girl at home, I kept abandoning the film to fuck around on Facebook. I find that frankly, Clark works best when confined to a narrative provided by someone else (KIDS was based on Harmony Korine's script, Bully was based on Jim Schutze's book). Without this structure, his films become indolent digressive musings, including Marfa Girl.

Potentially interesting debates like, "can a boy be a slut?" or "how can a Mexican guy work as a border patrol in Texas catching 'his own people'?" were broached, but lazily. Character monologues were deflatingly unconvincing, which might be the point, who knows? Marfa Girl proceeds in this empty and arbitrary manner until its climax, culminating in a burst of violence that, although has been brewing, still strikes as implausible. 18 years on from Kids, Clark’s brand of shallow eroticism and brutal violence no longer delivers transgressive cool, but rather suggests "controversy for the sake of controversy". Let's just say that, over a cinema or my own home, I was pleased to watch it amongst friends at a bar, 'cause afterwards I needed a drink.