Friday, March 15, 2013

Gummo (1997) Review

Gummo poster
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Max Perlich, Chloe Sevigny
Genre: Black Comedy

Harmony Korine's directorial debut, having previously only done the screenplay for Kids, and perhaps his most well known film. Certainly an interesting one. 

Gummo definitely doesn't follow a traditional narrative or plot. It instead features a series of sort of vignettes with people in a backwoods town. You'll see hillbillies wrestling chairs, kids killing cats, and that sort of stuff. 

To comment on Gummo's story would be to comment on something that doesn't exist. What Gummo does, through its imagery and glimpses into these random people's lives, is create a universe rather than a story. For 89 minutes Xenia, Ohio becomes your residence. These odd people become your neighbors. The things that happen become the things you see out of your own window. That's what Gummo achieves, it creates a world. Whether it's an immersive world or not doesn't really matter because the film still forces you to observe these people. Whether you feel at home or afraid, either way the film still achieved something by putting you there. It's the stories of these regular (though very odd) people's lives, and, as we know, regular, ordinary people usually don't have much of a back-story to them; they just exist. And so their existence we observe. 

There's not much else to say about Gummo. It's been reviewed to death by both admirers and its dislikers. It's a film better experienced than read about. Aside from doing a great job in creating a Universe, a film world which many of are not familiar with it also has a pretty awesome soundtrack. You have songs from Buddy Holly, Madonna, Electric Hellfire Club, Roy Orbison, and they're all used to great effect. Each song, I think, really does well to capture the emotion of a scene. 
Bunny Boy in Gummo

I won't spoil anything (it's kind of hard to spoil anything in a film like this which is just a compilation of scenes mostly unrelated) but there is one scene in this film that I just absolutely love. And no, it's not the infamous bathtub scene. It's towards the very end of the film. It's the scene that just cuts to Bunny Boy making out with the two blonde sisters at the same time in the pool while it's raining out with Roy Orbison's "Crying" playing over it. It may not seem like much, and it is indeed a very short scene (only a few seconds) but it really makes me feel fantastic every time I see it. I can't do a very good job of why I like this scene so much...I think what it does is capture bliss on camera. It takes these two sisters and pairs them with a character who had no interaction with them throughout the entire film. The film just intentionally skipped any bonding or development between the sisters and Bunny Boy and, without explanation, throws them together. It's actually quite intense. One of my all time favorite scenes. 
Chloe Sevigny in Gummo

It's a good film. An interesting one. An impressive one. And no doubt to many an extremely weird one (when the most normal character in a film is a gay black midget, you know you got something strange). You either hate Harmony's work or you love it. I lean towards the latter. 
3.5/5 stars

Purchase Gummo on Amazon: DVD - VHS

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