by Dr Nick
Time to re-visit one of my favourite films ever. Gummo offers something new at each viewing and it just gets better and better. At once moving, funny, sad and completely off-the-wall, it's a film like no other. One of the most original, exciting directorial debuts of the 90s, Gummo has to be seen to be believed.Gummo is set in the small town of Xenia, Ohio, a town once hit by a tornado. Not having a narrative in the conventional sense of the word, the film is mostly composed of short free-standing segments; various local people just living their strange but fascinating lives. Tummler and Salomon are two of the few recurring characters. Making a living out of killing stray cats and selling them to the local Chinese restaurant, these two teenagers spend the rest of their time riding their bikes, sniffing glue and visiting prostitutes. The characters they meet along the way includes Jarod, who when he doesn't kill cats or takes care of his comatose grandmother, likes to be photographed in women's clothes. Despite all the random weirdness in the film, none of the characters stand out. Instead, everything seems perfectly ordinary in this setting. There's Bunny-Boy, a young boy wondering the streets, wearing not much more than shorts and big, pink bunny ears. There's a tennis player with ADD, an albino girl who loves Patrick Swayze and a brother pimping his own sister, who also has Down's Syndrome. There's life-support machines being turned off, deaf people arguing and two skinhead brothers beating the hell out of each other while discussing dinner and shoes.
"A true originalÖa modern masterpiece"
It's hard to describe Gummo; it just has to be seen to be believed. Director Harmony Korine has a natural talent for making the surreal seem completely realistic, and always showing great respect for his characters no matter how ridiculous their situations might seem to the uninitiated. In the hands of someone else, it could all easily have been offensive, but instead the film is full of warmth and is actually quite moving. Like many people out there, you might think that Korine himself is a spoilt pretentious twat, who has watched too many Fassbinder films, and for this reason you might refuse to watch the film. But, give it a shot. Chances are you might hate it, but some of you will see in it what I saw - the freshest, boldest piece of independent cinema to come out in a long time (and now seven years later it feels as fresh as ever). And hey, you've got to admire a director, who chooses to make a cameo appearance in his debut film as a drunken gay man trying to seduce a midget.
Shot with a mixture of formats as varied as the characters in the film, Gummo successfully mixes still photos, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm and video footage to create a visual experience out of the ordinary. The soundtrack is equally varied, with everything from Roy Orbison to death metal thrown in.
Korineís script is full of hilarious dialogue, with classic lines like "I hate the fucking cops. They're just mad cause we get more pussy then they do", spoken by a five-year old, as well as great one-liners such as "Life is great, without it you would be dead". Gummo is as original as they come, a modern masterpiece. Sure, compared to most films, Gummo is a mess, but it's a fascinating, compelling mess and it makes as much sense as the audience is willing to make out of it. What I personally think makes Gummo so special, is the little touches that require multiple viewings to spot. Finding these things is part of the beauty of the film, so I'll only reveal my personal favourite, the strips of bacon taped to the wall when Salomon is having his dinner in the bathtub.
So, what's Gummo all about? I choose to see it as an attack on contemporary independent film, a powerful display of the true potential of cinema. It's a vicious attack on all our senses, and completely shatters all the rules that films are "meant" to follow. We need more films like this.If you're still not convinced, at least watch it just to see Chloe Sevigny jumping on a bed topless, as well as pulling black tape of her younger sister's nipples in an attempt to make them bigger.
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originally posted: 04/17/04 06:57:04