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I will admit that the reason I rented this movie was because of the numerous
reviews that I read about how unbelievably bad and pointless this film was.
It only took me a few minutes to realize why so many critics hated it, which
was the very reason I liked this film.
Gummo is a classic case of style over substance. If you're looking for plot development, you'd better go rent Good Will Hunting or something like that. But if you want to see a movie that is cutting-edge and well ahead of its time, then rent this one. I praise the director for simply doing something different.
What impressed me the most about this film was the framing of one memorable image after another. I think Director Korine was trying to leave people with impressions and feelings. Whether you like this film or not, its impossible to forget. Plus, this film has what I think is one of the greatest lines in recent movie history. A little girl, holding a picture of Burt Reynolds with the mouth ripped out, chants incessantly, "I want a moustache, dammit!"
This movie is worth the three bucks to rent it if nothing more than to see the scene where a fat redneck takes out his aggression on a kitchen chair while his friends cheer him on. It's more frightening than anything in the Scream series.
Well, I'd heard a lot about this film before I bought it, but nothing I was
told really prepared me for how different this film is from anything else
I've seen. On first viewing, Gummo appears to be a collection of random
events, but after watching it a few more times, it it becomes more obvious
how each scene and character link together (although there are still a few
that I am unsure of!!). The nearest analogy I can think of is of a music
album. Each scene is like a song that can be enjoyed on its own, but when
the album is listened to as a whole it becomes much more than just a
collection of songs, all linked in their own way. Plus, like a great album,
the more times you listen\watch, the more you get out of it.
People will criticise this film for having no plot and to start with I agreed, but if you work hard to understand the film then you will get much more reward and enjoyment then from most Hollywood blockbuster's. The beauty of Gummo really is that there are so many questions that you can and will watch it again and again and get something different every time. This film is reasonably short, but it is probably the only film I have seen where every scene has worked. I am a very difficult viewer to please, but every scene in this film kept me enthralled and I did not want to fast forward once, even in the times I have watched it since (about 15 times!!)
A magnificent film, and a great directorial debut from a name to watch in the future - Harmony Korine.
This film is a unique moment. People who knock it for lack of "plot", or
characters have missed the point. For a start the characters are an
incredibly rich mixture of people and personalities, who are far more
interesting than most Hollywood blank, 2D, characters. While there may not
be a plot, it doesn't need one because the different stories it tells weave
together perfectly and you get a great picture of the town and its
The film is shot brilliantly as well, Korine using so many different techniques so effectively. The editing is the same, bringing all the different parts together superbly In short, one of the best films ever. Ever. OK.
I described "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" as part of the
urine in a bucket movement of art. That's not quite fair -- Greenaway had
obvious craft, intelligence, and eye for stunning visual beauty. This
however, is urine, with or without the bucket. Its makers would no doubt
hide behind that mask of "realism," and that's fine. But does anyone who
sees this movie come away with anything other than awfulness? That's what
asked myself about ten minutes into this film. Does the movie reveal
truths about us or the world in which we live? Maybe, though I'm not
sure. If this movie has any value to the average moviegoer, that's it.
I'm sure that aspiring directors interested in cinema verite would gobble this up, as would the self-important proponents of the Dogme 95 movement. (Apparently, Korine's next film, which I have but haven't yet watched -- "Julien Donkey-Boy" -- is the first American film to use the Dogme 95 rules.)
I was ready to hate it. In fact, I wanted to hate it. I wanted to reject this as the bowel movement of some no-talent film graduate. But I couldn't, and I can't.
It's something like "Kids" (a film Korine wrote), or some other Larry Clark concoction. It's a hard-to-take movie that would probably anger most, intrigue some, and bore the rest. (I was angered only a few times, during the scenes of animal cruelty -- nothing gets me writhing in my seat quicker.)
The main idea or "story" here is just a stream-of-consciousness tracking of a number of white trash kids. The main character, Solomon, and the kid who plays him, Jacob Reynolds, is very interesting. It's a shame he hasn't been in anything since 1999, according to IMDb. The narrator, who to his/her credit (I never did figure out who it was) is only talking for a small amount of time, is extremely annoying. He/she is full of that fake out-of-breath gaspiness that sounds absolutely forced. It's the only part of the movie I really didn't like. (Well, I guess I could have done without the pretentious slow-mo.) There is no character or voice-over -- even that of the sometimes narrator -- to inform us about these characters. By the end of the movie, I knew some characters, briefly glimpsed others, and didn't quite know how they all fit together. This is a good thing.
Maybe I'm becoming desensitized to grossness (or maybe this movie exists in only grossness, making individual bits of it hard to identify from one another), but an early scene in the movie, where a mother and (I think) daughter are trying to make their chest seem bigger with tape is sort of sweet.
There is a lot of offensive, amoral stuff here: a girl describes, in a voice over, being molested/raped by her own father; the two main character boys sell dead cats to a grocer; Solomon, who looks about 13, and his older friend pay a man to sleep with an overweight, dimwitted girl in her dollhouse-like bedroom. There's also a sort of murder. ("Sort of" because...well, you'll see what I mean when you watch the movie.)
I wanted to keep watching. I wasn't repulsed by the movie, which early on seems to wallow in its own filthiness. Some people maybe waited for something profound to occur, to "legitimize" the film, a la "Breaking the Waves." Well, I'll tell you now that there isn't. And there doesn't need to be. This movie is like the enemy of another I liked, "Joe the King" about poor children. That film was like "The 400 Blows" times ten -- it had hope for something better. This movie has no hope -- it sees nothing wrong with itself.
There's a criticism people like Charles Taylor throw around about filmmakers like Korine, that their characters are inspected like bugs caught in a glass jar, heartlessly. The only scene in this film that felt that way to me was one where two skinhead brothers are fighting with each other in a kitchen. Aside from that, the movie, I thought, was very inviting. It's just up to you to accept the invitation.
However, Korine walked a fine line here. Obviously, attempting humor is always a good thing, but when you're dealing with characters and subject matter such as this it would be so very easy to mock your characters, and no doubt some people misinterpreted Korine's few honest jokes as just that. (Like one hilarious moment, with Solomon in a grungy bathtub filled with black water, where he's served supper on a platter by his mother. He takes a drink of milk and instantly pats his mouth to make sure he remains presentable.) Linda Manz, that wonderfully elliptical philosopher from "Days of Heaven" plays Solomon's mother, the eccentric tap dancing kind.
There's a scene (and that's all the movie is -- a serious of scenes) when two boys shoot another boy with toy guns that seems to represent the darkest side of America. The shot boy, wearing pink bunny ears on his head, lays on the ground, frail, looking like a strange version of Jesus. It just really got to me. Another scene where a boy and a black dwarf (or midget, I don't know the difference -- something about proportionality) are sitting on a couch, and the black guy says he's gay, and then the other boy comes on to him. It sounds like a really bad SNL sketch, but it's somehow touching.
A lot of these characters I just wanted to give a hug. However hard it is to believe, this film is, in the end, bursting at the seams with love. The rather obvious and wrong-headed claim is that all this movie does is try to shock and disgust. That's not true. It shows a vision of reality, as Korine sees it, and asks its audience to accept it. Very simple.
If I had to guess, I'd say about 75 % of mainstream moviegoers, including the most sophisticated film buffs, would strongly dislike this movie. And judging by the IMDb rating and general consensus by most of the reviewers here, I think I'm pretty close to being right. The hate and writing-off that movies like this get, ultimately, perplexes me. I mean, I figure that if a 17 year-old, relatively basic moviegoer like me can wrestle with a movie to see its faults and its triumphs, then anyone else should be able to do the same. (I loved reading one review of "Julien" where the reviewer told the readers what Korine's fans liked about his movies, as if they're a group of non-thinking drones.)
I don't know who my top filmmakers are right now (I'm so under-viewed with movies in general that it's sad), but Korine, with this film, has a special place.
Set in Xenia, Ohio, Gummo feels like a deliberate riposte to Hollywood by its creator, Harmony Korine, whose penchant for subversion was already evident in his screen writing debut for Larry Clark's Kids (1995). Eschewing linear narrative, Korine explores, through the use of vignettes and bizarre episodes, the cat-killing escapades of its two protagonists and weaves this quest around a set of unrelated but bizarre events taking place in Xenia. There is no sense of a story, only a mood, and that mood fluctuates wildly from revulsion to surprise. By giving voice to those marginalized from society, Korine paints a startling portrait of landlocked America, one at odds with the Hollywood cliché of its inhabitants. There are many unforgettable scenes and yet it's not an enjoyable film, but it challenges, provokes and pushes the margins - and that in itself is worthy.
Gummo is a film of substance, a rare thing in this time of Estee Lauder actresses and pec enhanced tree trunks stumbling around the kindergarten dialogue. Reality TV before it became anachronistic. A film that demands a second viewing to truly understand the director's vision is a rare thing; my initial impression was of a mockery of Red Necked America, but now after several viewings I understand it as a celebration of the sidelined aspect of American culture. Unafraid to pull its punches, unafraid to deal with the shocking, the jarring, the discomforting; it is a film that is mostly about killing cats and sniffing glue. Possibly a freak show, but one done in the style of the old freak shows - the freaks call the shots and they revel in their opportunities. A piece best enjoyed at 5 am on a Sunday morning after burning the midnight oil, when your nerves are raw and you need something with bite to cut through the fog. Nobody has created such vivid set pieces and each time you review the film there is a new mullet to admire, a chair to be beaten, a Down's Syndrome prostitute to mull over. Prepare to be shocked and provoked whilst being entertained; when the film finishes you are compelled to take stock of what you have seen and in my eyes that is what films are for. A hearty thumbs up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
`Man with the Movie Camera' meets `La Notte' meets `Harvey' through `Donnie Darko' -- and is as effective as any of them. And as tuned to video as other masters are to film. I was really impressed, and that's saying a lot.
Other comments can concern themselves with the modern elements of this matterwise, the angst of presenting an environment permeated with angst. What interests me is that actual filmmaking technique. It strikes me as very effective, from the nearly subliminal bell (copied from PT Andersen) to the varying video techniques to the snappy incongruously happy editing. Video qualities went beyond their basic quality of denoting documentary. (Compare this to `Drop Dead Gorgeous.'.) The video quality here establishes a rhythm you don't get with flat film.
Did they know that cats are a longstanding symbol of artistic creativity? Did they know that Xenia (Athena) is the goddess of wisdom? That Greeks considered tornadoes the penis of God? That the offspring are demented kids intent on destroying their own worlds?
This is strong work, lyrically hopeless. I'll check out `Kids.' I think this guy is worth following.
Extremely disturbing film, kind of like a documentary without any narrative. Takes place in the town of Xenia, Ohio in the aftermath of a tornado. The characters are all extremely bizarre, which makes the viewer wonder how realistic things are. The settings, including messy houses and barren streets, are profoundly depressing. Still, there is a sensitivity behind the darkness that lends the film a strangely warm feeling. As well, one feels for the "main characters" (though these characters don't inhabit the film in a traditional sense) despite their misguided acts. Worth seeing for open-minded, patient audiences who don't mind abstract plots and off-topic segues.
GUMMO is the tightest, most consistent, and honest portrayal of youth's quest for love in a society that has forsaken them ever made. Forget the comedy, forget the outstanding photography, forget the heart stopping art direction. This movie is about the little people forgotten between the cracks who seek acceptance amid overwhelming obstacles of hatred, crime, poverty, disease, and twists of fate that leave them alone and groping for comfort. Almost every character is screaming out for love in one way or another, however dysfunctional their lives may be. All of these issues are real - even if exaggerated in the film - and there are thousands of kids out there who in their own beautiful way are trying to live their lives despite the cruelty of a world that will just crap on them. The next time you watch this film, look for the tenderness between the mayhem...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you've never lived in a small midwestern town (predominately white,
predominately poor) then I suppose that the immediate power of this
film would be lost on you, though it's really not that hard to
translate the myriad of sick and twisted characters in Gummo to
whatever community you live in. I have been a poor white person my
entire life and although I've never come across a retarded girl being
pimped out by her brother or a pair of kids killing cats to sell to a
Chinese joint for meat, I have cut through the back yards and sat
beneath the windows of the buildings where these kinds of things may
very well have happened. They most likely didn't, of course. But they
just might have...
Gummo is a look at things that just might be. What Might Be going on down the street. What horrible secrets Might your neighbors Be hiding? We all play this game; we think of the worst things that people might do, and we hope, in a sick way, that they might actually be doing them.
"Old Man Johnson, with the hook for the hand? You know he got that hook reaching into the woman's bathroom in the school, some girl took a knife and just cut it off." "The guy across the street, and I heard this from Judy who is friends with his ex-wife, she says that he used to dress up like a clown and give out candy, but one day he was caught with this little kid, doing stuff. What you mean, what kind of stuff. Dirty stuff, you know." Sometimes these displays are ridiculous and funny, sometimes they're disgusting, and sometimes they're truly horrible, but they are always enthralling. Gummo is a series of these displays.
No, there isn't a cohesive plot and I know that more than a few simple film goers will be genuinely confused and possibly even angered by this point (I might suggest that these people go watch some Buñuel, or at least try not to have such a narrow conception of film). Gummo really acts more like a portrait than a traditional film, playing on the viewer's emotions through characters instead of plot.
There are no social or political implications to Gummo, which may lead to the mistaken but commonly-held belief that this is somehow an exploitation film. This is not a story of a town in need of a savior that will not come or even of problems that need to be solved. The lack of narrative ensures a lack of message: this is a neither a criticism nor a sympathetic portrait. It's a raw feed, without morals, and it's shot and acted so realistically that it might seem as if Korine were shoot a faux-documentary. The characters are just exaggerations of people that you may have come across, characters that you've already created--the ADD boy who plays tennis and has the world's coolest mullet, the young girls who put electric tape on their nipples to make them perkier, the creepy little glue-sniffing boys who murder housecats and pay to sleep with a retarded girl. These aren't real people and Korine doesn't want you to think that they are. They are merely what we've always thought our neighbors capable of and we've always, in a sick way, almost wanted to believe. Why else would urban legends stick around so long? Why else is most disgusting gossip usually the most interesting? Gummo gives us all what we want, unflinchingly, and doesn't ask to be thanked.
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