In Paris, a young American who works as a Michael Jackson lookalike meets Marilyn Monroe, who invites him to her commune in Scotland, where she lives with Charlie Chaplin and her daughter, Shirley Temple.
Constructing this film through random scenes, director Harmony Korine abruptly jettisoned any sort of narrative plot, so here we go: Solomon and Tummler are two bored teenage boys who live in Xenia, Ohio. A few years ago, a tornado swept through it, destroying more than half the town and killing the same amount, including Solomon's father. The film, from there, chronicles the anti-social adventures these two boys have. These include sniffing glue, killing cats, having sex, riding dirtbikes, listening to black metal, and meeting a cavalcade of quirky, bizarre, and scary people. These include a man who pimps his mentally ill wife to our anti-heroes, three sisters who play with their cat and practice becoming strippers, a black midget fending off the sexual advances of a troubled man (played by the director Harmony Korine), a 12-year-old gay transvestite who is also a cat killer, Solomon's mother who seems to be the only glimpse of sanity, two foul-mouthed six-year olds, and most ...Written by
Some crew member's feet are visible kicking a wire at the bottom of the screen during the "chair wrestling" scene in the kitchen. See more »
Xenia, Ohio. Xenia, Ohio. A few years ago, a tornado hit this place. It killed the people, left and right. Dogs died. Cats died. Houses were split open, and you could see necklaces hanging from branches of trees. People's legs and neck bones were sticking out. Oliver found a leg on his roof. A lot of people's fathers died, and were killed by the great tornado. I saw a girl fly through the sky, and I looked up her skirt. Her skull was smashed. And some kids died. My ...
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1994 is oftentimes considered to be one of the best years for cinema, by both casual viewers, cinephiles, and hardcore film history buffs alike. We received films that would please all audiences; Zemeckis' "Forrest Gump", Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction", Kieslowski's "Three Colours: Red", Burton's "Ed Wood", Tarr's "Satantango", the list goes on. As such, it's easy to pass over a film that came out that year which, in reality, was quite influential, more so than some of the previously mentioned movies. That film was Clark's "Kids" (IMDb has it listed as 1995, but it premiered at film festivals in '94). While it was met with mixed reviews at the time (and mixed reviews now), it was seen as one of the first films that really had this bold statement about American youth, and that was that so many of them were these sex-addicted, hopeless stoners with meaningless lives.
While Larry Clark directed this, Harmony Korine, 19 at the time, wrote the script and had a major influence on the film. Van Sant (whose film "Elephant", as I stated previously, makes him a more than capable director) cited that Korine would be "the face of postermodern American directors", and Werner Herzog ("Aguirre: The Wrath of God") also gave similar praises.
The partial writer for one film, however, doesn't get such praises. A mere three years later, Korine released what is known now to be one of the most unsettling, disturbing, and downright unusual films in the form of Gummo. Surprisingly enough, the critical reaction for Gummo has been worse than that of "Kids". A possible explanation for this is that "Kids" is simply more viewer-friendly. Any 30+ year old film buff with a decent taste could probably watch "Kids" and at least get a bit of perspective, while maybe questioning the youth of the nation.
Gummo doesn't have any questions to ask though. It's more of a work of art that is absolutely disgusting to look at, yet fascinating in every way. So, for a comparison, it would be like if Van Gogh crashed two cars together at exactly 39.4 miles per hour, with them perpendicular to one another, with no wind in the air. It might seem pointless at first, but you may need to look a bit closer to truly analyze the themes of Gummo.
The opening scenes describe how a tornado has destroyed the town of Xenia, Ohio, and we then begin viewing the residents of the town trying to find meaning in their pointless, hopeless, and overall miserable lives.
Korine stated once that about 75% of Gummo was scripted. Upon rewatching the film, I can hardly determine where the realism starts and where the fiction ends. I've often times commended directors for having a sort of "surrealism realism" as Von Trier did so magically with his masterpiece "Dogville", and Korine takes it to a whole new level. The documentary feel adds to the film spectacularly because it forces the viewer to confront reality: that, somewhere in the world, there are people who behave as the characters in Gummo do.
Even the name of Gummo is symbolic in a few ways. The name "Gummo" is named after the oldest of the Marx brothers, who were notable for their anarchist comedy, which Gummo is to some extent. However, the oldest Marx Brother never appeared on camera; he was always more indirectly involved with cinema. Korine, here, is stating that Gummo is something new; something cinema has literally never seen before, even if it has seen its "relatives" ("Kids" possibly?)
There are a number of assumptions that reviewers make when discussing the film; I'm not suggesting any of these are right or wrong, but they do exist. Some suggest that the town is made up of Satanists, which is how they are able to live in a near trance-like state throughout the film and simply accept the horrors of their lives. These conclusions are most likely also drawn from the images of self harm used in the film, as well as heavy metal taking up a good portion of Gummo's soundtrack. Other say that the film is a more real-life portrait of a post- apocalyptic scenario, stripping man down to his bare bones and showing what he really is.
Curiously, only a single character in Gummo is shown to have any pathos attached to him whatsoever. This character is Tummler, who is seen to feel overwhelming depression in the film as it leaks over into the audience at times. It's not even sadness about poverty, or loneliness, but rather a state of hatred for anything and everything, the feeling of wanting to be dead, or at the very least have something to give life meaning.
Gummo hits the audience over the head repeatedly with its horrors of this small town wasteland. Teens addicted to sniffing glue, teens buying down-syndrome prostitutes, teens making a competition over who can kill the most cats to sell to a local restaurant, etc. Although his approach is heavy-handed, it has an artistic purpose: some people live like this, and Korine is letting us see within his mind for an hour and a half. There are parts which are nearly impossible to watch, but the film has this unusually captivating "feel" to it, which is enhanced by the incredible cinematography.
It's not easy to watch, it's not fun to watch, and it is also incoherent at times. The comparison could be made that watching Gummo is like reading about the Holocaust; neither are fun to watch, and the imagery is nauseating at times, yet many people are fascinated by it, not in a sadistic sense of the word, but merely fascinated by the fact that it happened. I'm amazed that a film like Gummo was made, yet I'm satisfied with its existence.
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