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