A group of characters dressed up in horrifying old people masks wander around a neighborhood in Nashville committing all sorts of outrages. Among their multifarious ways of spending their time we find breaking in, and the destruction of, abandoned houses, fornicating with trash bins or nights of wine and roses with obese prostitutes. Trash Humpers is not a movie, but an unidentified film object, shot on old VHS tapes and later blown up to 35mm., that defies any type of classification and with which Harmony Korine recovers his fascination with the ugly-ish aesthetics that characterized his first works.Damn Korine or the critic’s crisisThe first time I wrote about this movie that I didn’t want to see again, I described it as “a series of repulsive vignettes on display like photographs in movement about a mythical land turned into a garbage dump of the least pleasant fantasies you could imagine”. And I continued: “Those who are familiar with Korine’s previous filmography […] already know what it’s all about. Those who haven’t had that privilege, go see Trash Humpers and we’ll talk afterwards. Can you imagine some guys with masks that look like they just stepped out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre trying to fuck a Dumpster? Do you want to see a young kid, dressed like the village idiot, destroying a doll’s head with a hammer? Do you want to attend strange ceremonies in the dark, on inhospitable streets or in desolate interiors, where mysterious scatological rituals are being performed? If the answer is yes, Trash Humpers is your movie. If not, go see it anyway, because you’ll discover something very important for understanding the myth of American film. Of course, there’s no Hollywood or glamour here. Or the independent and somewhat poetic cinema of the loser and backwater America, instigated by the remembrance of photographs by Walker Evans and literature by Raymond Carver. And, nonetheless, there is also romanticism in Korine’s images. A black, very black romanticism. A romanticism that at times makes us frown and wonder what the hell we’re watching. But just the same a true romanticism, like a kick in the stomach and getting elbowed in the chest, a visceral rejection of a reality transmuted into a nightmarish delirium. We are in the abyss, and Korine’s America appears to be installed in the heart of this precipice towards the void. A void that is his movie, conceptual art in its purest state, but also a warning: these are the real freaks and the others are just amateurs”.Reviewed now, these words seem empty, rhetorical to me, but also very fair: they express my confusion at a film that went beyond me and that, at the same time, caused a strange fascination in me. I’ve never felt any special inclination for Korine’s cinema, I’ve always felt that his “radicalism” was too easy, a mere provocation, épater le bourgeois. But with Trash Humpers it was different. All that I’d transcribed with the style of a critic-staff member-joker (in other words, someone who doesn’t really know what to say and turns to his arsenal of set phrases to get by) was somewhat artificial (like almost all of what we film critics write) but also contains a lot of truths. Especially, now that I think about it, that comparison between freakism and conceptual art. In Korine’s movie, you don’t know where one stops and the other begins, like in many art galleries and in many contemporary films. Who is freakier, Sharon Lockhardt or Judd Apatow? Trash Humpers debunks both of them, placing them at the limits of the concept of what’s bearable in cinema, what the spectator can tolerate. Illegible banality, gratuitous scatology, unpremeditated abstraction, experimentation with trash culture … In this movie Korine achieves something never seen: I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but its memory still plagues me because it managed to expose both my limitations and those of the present artistic market. We all splash about in the heart of this shit without knowing exactly what to do. And no, I won’t see it again.CARLOS LOSILLA
Bolinas, California, 1973. Paradigm of the enfant terrible since he supplied Larry Clark with the screenplay for Kids (95), his works behind the camera –like Gummo (97) or Julien Donkey-Boy (99)– confirm his fame as a brilliant, fringe artist.
Edition: 2011 Section: Seven Chances Original language: