Film Muse: Gummo

I can't quite remember when I first saw Gummo. All I know is that when I saw it I wasn't ready for it - and that in itself was a godsend. You can't be ready for it. Gummo (1997) directed by Harmony Korine changed me. It changed the way I saw and interpreted film. After being exposed, I was no longer a drone to traditional box office narratives (did that sound pretentious? oops). 

There's something in the way that Korine catches this catastrophic post tornado town. The dirt, the innocence, the simpleness, the corruptness. Maybe it's the DV video tape style that Korine is known to use. Voyeurism. Like you're watching someone else's home videos without their permission. It's invasive. You can't look away.  

* If you are reading this sentence and you have not seen Gummo, DO NOT READ THIS POST. I don't want to taint your eyes/mind by spoiling it. *

Once you get a taste of Gummo, it will make you want to throw up. 
In a good way, of course.

( Fact: Chloë Sevigny designed/made those bunny ears)

Gummo is about a classic USA town. No, not the Americana bullshit you think of. The real American heartland.  As much as you don't want to believe that this exists in real life, it does. The story focuses on the residents of a poor tornado stricken town and what they do in their spare time. Killing cats, huffing Reddi-wip, fighting, playing tennis on Ritalin, and pimping out their sister- to name a few activities. 

(Chloë Sevigny rocking Cherie Currie hair?)

This movie is fucking brash. When I first discovered it, I learned that it wasn't entirely fictional. Korine and his crew went into this dilapidated town and actually filmed the locals. Anything you see on the DV cam is probably real unscripted banter between town locals. The racism, the shameless talk of killing things - EVERYTHING is real. So disturbing, but so interesting. It didn't take me long to learn that filmmaking is about evoking emotion, especially the emotions and thoughts you try to keep out of your head. Korine blasts them in your face via metal music and you can't escape it. 

(^one of my favorite characters/scenes)

 There is something so pure about this film that it hurts. You wonder if the characters remember the tornado, if they have flashbacks, if they feel emotion over it. Even though some of the characters are so destructive, you can't help but see something deeper in their eyes. Experience, I'll say. Pain? Like they know so much more than you or I, even though you wouldn't expect it. I haven't figured it out completely.

("You're going to be a millionaire")

I think one of my favorite scenes was in the basement, the mother wearing her deceased husband's tap shoes, trying to make her kid smile. The camera work, how comically invasive it was. You see how much love she has for her kid, how she tries to amuse him, how she tries to amuse herself. She doesn't seem to feel bad about anything really, yet somehow you can just feel how importantly beautiful this scene is. 

Once you get into the world of Korine everything becomes beautiful with intent. I noticed a lot of people dismissing him for Spring Breakers (which I have so much respect for). Korine is one of those psychotic people who see more than you do. He will do crazy shit and doesn't try to justify it or even address it. Is that making sense? I wouldn't say he "comments" on things, at least not in the traditional explicit way that everyone likes. He just films what is. A reflection of OUR society, of OUR morals, of OUR appropriation, and OUR desensitization. I think that's a great way to go about it, by showing it instead of explicitly explaining it (either verbally himself, or by using dumbed down images/dialogue). I'm a fan of his style, clearly.

Sorry if this post didn't make the most sense. I sort of like it this way though, to be honest. Korine changed me (Gummo, Trash Humpers, Julien Donkey-Boy, Spring Breakers). The fact that I can't even fully comprehend the images and messages that he has planted in my brain means that he must be doing something right. Gummo is beautifully disgusting. I hope you liked it as much as I did.

-Lauren Rose
Curbside Fashion

P.S. This is one of my favorite short segments of the town locals. I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT. The  MUSIC. 


  1. I totally get what you mean about it being beautifully disgusting. I love Gummo because it really provoked me but i must admit it is the grossest and most disturbing movie I have ever seen but i really admire Korine for making a movie like Gummo that shows this side of America. Great post xx

    1. Thanks for your comment Stella!
      I agree with what you said about this side of America. It's one of those voids that can suck you up if you don't get out. People don't even want to know about it. It's sick.
      -Lauren Rose

  2. Great post! Have you seen Kids? That was the first Korine movie I saw and I definitely wasn't ready for it. If you haven't seen Kids I for sure recommend it.


    1. Yes! He did the script writing, is that right? Larry Clark has some really good films out there. Definitely an interesting group of creators.
      -Lauren Rose

  3. I was so bummed they took the movie off of youtube. I'm hoping I can get it on DVD or something because it's honestly on my top faves list. Just last night I saw a video of Jacob Reynolds (Soloman) and what he's doing today and it just hit me how normal he was. His acting in the movie didn't seem like acting at all, the film is just so raw that you forget it's a movie. It was just a massive form of confusion and disturbance but it was also really wonderful and real.

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  5. Bacon belongs on bathroom walls. "Gummo" is just one of those films you have to show someone else and say: "this is what I saw, tell me what you saw." What was your take on "Kids"? Also, have you seen "Waking Life," "The Dreamers," "Slacker," or "Submarine?" I'm from Texas so Linklater's films have a special place in my heart.♡ ꈍ .̮ ꈍ Haha I feel as though I've made countless punctuation errors. (Sorry, winter break=depletion in active neurons.)

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