A film by Harmony Korine
Wednesday, April 15
21:00 — Mindpirates Vereinsheim
Xenia Ohio. A few years ago a tornado hit this place. It killed people left and right…
Houses were split open and you could see necklaces hanging from branches of trees…
I saw a girl fly through the sky and I looked up her skirt.” – GUMMO, opening lines
“I have very little interest in working with actors. Non-actors can give you what an actor can never give you: pieces of themselves.” – Harmony Korine
“Perhaps our most truly poetic screening this season.” – Mindpirates Film Nights
Xenia is a place of grimy poverty and numbing boredom, of drunken parties and summer rainshowers, of casual cruelty and surreal beauty.
Life goes on as it has for years and years. In real life, this town was devastated by a tornado 20 years ago. According to Korine’s version of things, it never recovered.
When Korine, aged 23, directed GUMMO, people thought they’d be in for another KIDS, which he had written for Larry Clark, set in the backwoods.
But GUMMO is a different beast altogether – shot in some of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods, GUMMO was made in Cassavetes-like seeming improvisation based off a script, using non-actors almost exclusively – some of GUMMO’s characters are based on people Korine knew in his youth, and others are purely the products of his imagination.
GUMMO follows no particular narrative trajectory, showing a series of vignettes – among them, two paint-sniffing adolescent boys, two teenage girls exploring beauty and sexuality, and other citizens who, out of boredom, do horrible and depraved things.
This seems like a flashback to white trash punk miserabilist fIlms, then, but Korine manages to unearth something unique, strange, laugh-out-loud funny, simplistic, creepy, stupid and beautiful in his characters that is hard to describe; scenes are allowed to unfold in front of the camera, and Korine’s characters are never romanticized nor patronized.
The mix of formats creates a strange sense of pre-cellphone-camera nostalgia – being a huge fan of French cinema, he employs Carax-cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier, who agreed to work for a fraction of his normal price.
This is not another KIDS – GUMMO takes small-town American life to a both hyperrealist and surreal level, and comparisons to both Herzog and Fellini are completely adequate.
“Venomous in story; genius in character; victorious in structure; teasingly gentle in epilogue; slapstick in theme; rebellious in nature; honest at heart; inspirational in its creation and with contempt at the tip of its tongue, [Gummo] is a portrait of small-town Middle American life that is both bracingly realistic and hauntingly dreamlike.” – Gus Van Sant
“When I saw a piece of fried bacon fixed to the bathroom wall in GUMMO, it knocked me off my chair. [Korine’s] a very clear voice of a generation of filmmakers that is taking a new position.” – Werner Herzog
“Korine is capable of creating a revolution in the language of cinema.” – Bernardo Bertolucci
“Korine’s refusal to condemn or condescend to his characters saves the film from freak show voyeurism. Twisting from cinéma vérité to improvisation to pre-scripted lines, often within the same scene, he’s audaciously upfront about his stratagems – his command of rhythm and pace is also quite brilliant. – TIME OUT