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A Surprisingly Unique Movie
cjshan10 January 1999
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.
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Punk filmmaking at its scummiest, who's to say this is not genuine gutter art?
chaos-rampant13 October 2010
Harmony Korine did this when he was 24 years old and everything else aside I like it a lot that a young person gets to tell us what it can be to be young. Irrespective of whether or not a young man has yet found something important to say at 24, I don't like it that professional directors' careers start well into their thirties. There's a big age gap there that is only talked about in hindsight, after the fact. Perspectives and values change as we grow older, whether or not a young man will mature to the point of recognizing the follies and dreams of his youth or he'll embrace the anger and grow up to be GG Allin, and whether or not settling down to a regular life is a personal betrayal of a former self, I think something like Gummo needs to be made and more of it.

This is punk filmmaking at its scummiest, the vibe of antisocial angst despair and anger is pure necro punk rock like GG Allin throwing feces at his audience and smashing beer cans open on his head, it's about being violent and eccentric right now as a means of killing time and making something out of tearing down something else. Yet it's also oddly poetic for the same reason. It's not poetic because a kid will eat spaghetti and chocolate in the bathtub or because a kid with bunny ears rides his bike around a post-apocalyptic landscape of trailerpark white trash, but more because it assumes important things can be said through all this. When Korine speaks of life and death, whether or not life is worth living, when he attakcs society as complacent and apathetic, the results feel immature to me: this is reaction from a vantage point of being too young to start caring, an act of vandalism from the safe point of having your own thing wrecked. But it's good to have these things captured on film then thrown away for anyone who might wanna find them.

I read a bit about Trash Humpers and it seems Harmony Korine doesn't feel there's anything to grow out of. Watching him in his Letterman interviews gives me a clue to all this: the guy is awkward but he's cute awkward, the kind of awkward women want to hold in their arms. I know a skater guy like this, he's 30 years old but looks 25, has his face pierced and hair colored blue or magenta for as long as I've known him, and is endearingly weird. He's never had a shortage of girlfriends. He reminds me of Gummo where despair and malaise plays like a sort of lifestyle. Real awkward people, people who really can't get anywhere in life, don't make movies. I'd like to see their Gummos, this is a bit too cute.
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I wanted to hate it, but I ended up loving it.
SanTropez_Couch16 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
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 an obvious craft, intelligence, and eye for stunning visual beauty. This film, 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 I asked myself about ten minutes into this film. Does the movie reveal great truths about us or the world in which we live? Maybe, though I'm not quite 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.

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Uniquely compelling film that is not for people with closed-minds
Dan_Shearing18 September 2001
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.
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Life, Death and Alienation in Xenia, OH
tiimbitz478629 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In the first minute of the film, a cat is picked up by the neck and is drowned in a garbage can of water, a scene which sets the tone for much of what is to come in director Harmony Korine's debut feature. The reviews about Gummo tend to center on the sideshow that is the grotesque nature of the film's imagery. There can be no doubt that Korine has set out to shock and horrify his audience, but if you can get past the almost violent nature of the repulsive imagery, there is a lot of meat left on Gummo's bones. Gummo may not be a masterpiece and it's certainly not for everyone, but at its core it's an effective and poignant meditation on life, death, and various forms of alienation which cause some to live as though they aren't really alive in the first place.

Gummo is a series of dark sketches which focus mainly on the young inhabitants of Xenia, OH, a town that we are told has been devastated by a tornado some years earlier. The inhabitants of the town are not going to win any beauty contests. The boys of the town are personified mainly in Tummler (Nick Sutton), skinny and hickish in his features and Tummler's best friend, the shockingly bizarre looking (almost grotesque) Solomon (Jacob Reynolds). The women of the town are represented mainly by three sisters. There is Dot (Chloe Sevigny), a woman who might be beautiful if it weren't for her disastrously frayed and freakishly blonde hair and eyebrows and her two sisters, one a shorter, uglier and more inbred looking blonde and the other a young brunette child.

The boys listlessly drift through their days, killing cats in order to sell them. When they do have money in their hands they fund various forms of debauchery from huffing glue to paying to have sex with retarded women. In one of the scene's more poignant moments, Tummler and Solomon break into the house of a rival cat-killer and discover his grandma in a bed, kept alive by a respirator. Solomon asks Tummler if she will ever wake up, and we get the sense that Solomon is really asking if they will ever wake up. If they will ever wake up and live different lives, where they didn't list through life high on glue, where they were loved and "normal." Tummler's answer is a quick, dismissive "hell no" and he pulls the plug on the old woman as the two walk out.

The females on the other hand obsess mainly about the same things you would expect young women to obsess about, boys, their looks, and finding their lost cat. Yet they too are reminded how little the world thinks of them when an old man cons the women into getting in his car and then improperly touches one of the sisters. As he drives off, he repeatedly says to the women "nothing new for trash like you." Unlike Tummler and Solomon, the sisters are possessed by a human spirit that is keenly alive. However, in the end they wind up as isolated and alienated from society and normalcy as the boys.

And that is really the core of Gummo—an exploration at the ways we become alienated from life during our formative years. One by one the film displays dysfunctional family systems, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, degrading sexual behavior, violence, illness and ugliness. Each scene further isolates the characters that inhabit the world of Gummo. Each scene sucks a little bit of life out of its already lifeless characters. In the end, we are left with the film's most haunting and memorable scene-- Solomon, bathing in impossibly dirty bath water while his mom serves him grotesque looking servings of spaghetti and strawberry milk. This is oddly perhaps the most inhuman scene of the movie (which is saying a lot considering as already mentioned there are some other pretty disturbing scenes) and serves as a perfect metaphor for the alienation from humanity that Gummo's inhabitants feel. They don't' just feel it, they bathe in it, it surrounds them, it is their reality.
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Misunderstood Genius
chris-m-c7 May 2004
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.
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howie7323 March 2005
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.
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Pure unadulterated genius served with unreserved love.
Smith56822 February 2000
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...
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Incredible, Shocking, Beautiful, Moving
VK-Fail1 August 2001
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 residents.

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.
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She's Been Dead a Long Time
tedg10 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

`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.
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Disturbing but strangely warm
worshipnounours17 August 2006
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.
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Give the swine what they bellow for
eddie-1771 June 2005
Warning: 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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Pretty convincing
pentagore23 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I must say I was pretty shocked when I first saw this film. I grew up in various small towns in Oklahoma and have encountered people very similar to those portrayed in the movie. It was like going back in time and seeing all those twisted characters all over again. So yes, there are indeed people just like this, if not worse. I had to convince myself several times that I was NOT watching a documentary! I found that the use of raw black metal music added to the grim feel of the movie, particularly when the two kids are whipping the dead cat hanging from the tree. Hey, if you've never seen bored Southern youth, then don't think this stuff doesn't happen. I only wish it didn't.

Overall, I guess you'd have to actually be a witness to those surroundings to actually get it, or to know people like that. I am unsure of what statement the movie is trying to make because the absurdity of the characters' lifestyles really overshadows whatever point Harvey was trying make here. Much like 'Salo: 120 Days of Sodom', I would only recommend this to film buffs.
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The absolute WORST movie EVER
sickink227 May 2002
SPOILER: Don't let anyone tell you you're close-minded if you hated this movie. This movie was, beyond an inkling of a flicker of a shadow of a doubt, egregiously awful. There are always going to be wannabe artsy types out there who claim to see things other people don't; they "get" movies like Gummo, or at least they pretend to, so they can act as if they're in on something the rest of the world just isn't smart enough to understand. The truth is, though, that there is absolutely nothing to get. This movie is not innovative, nor intriguing, nor even interesting in the least. There's no underlying meaning to it at all (writer/director Harmony Korine admitted as much in an interview). It's just a loosely continuous assembly of vignettes depicting random scenes of filth, squalor, and depravity.

The movie is not a social commentary, as some have argued. It offers no insight into the lives of the people it exploits. The entire backstory-the tornado-serves only as an excuse for the rest of the thing, as if it mattered. It goes like this: first, we get to watch a shirtless boy in a bunny hood spit and urinate off an overpass; next, we meet two teenagers who ride their bikes around the desolate and dilapidated town, looking for cats they can kill and sell to a local restaurant owner; then, we're introduced to three bleach-blonde sisters who don't seem to have any parents and who busy themselves with such activities as ripping electrical tape off their bare nipples. These are the only recurring characters to speak of. Nothing they do is even remotely interesting or entertaining, though. And every other character is memorable only for the few minutes it takes the viewer to rid himself of the feeling of disgust, only to be disgusted again and again by characters he should be feeling sympathy for.

And that's really why this movie is so awful. Don't get me wrong, it'd be awful no matter what, but it wouldn't be entirely without merit if we could actually feel anything other than disdain for the characters. But these are not real people, everything is actually scripted, and none of it is believable at all.

The shock value is negligible; it's not really shocking, but even if it were, there are better movies to watch if that's what you're after. It's not innovative, either-it's actually almost a blatant rip-off of some other, more noteworthy films. It's quite obvious that the only purpose here was to be pretentious. Of course, it probably wasn't meant to be so obvious.
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Original, but in a familiar sort of way
John N.20 June 1999

I spent a small part of my childhood not too far away from Xenia, Ohio and a large part of it in the South. I can't say I ever found myself in such a screwed up place as this one, but I know one thing -- if I did I would certainly want to go back and document it! Then I'd be perfectly happy if another tornado came by and leveled the whole place.

Watching this movie was like looking at those years through some really distorted mirror and finding recognizeable nuances of personality in it. And I can't say much of that was appealing. Neither was this movie, which is not to say the characters weren't compelling, because some of them certainly were. Give me an impenetrable glass bubble and a camera and I'll take my place in this grotesque circus. I like to watch, but I don't want to get dirty. Everyone in this movie was dirty...

That spaghetti scene and "I want a moustache dammit!" were worth the price of admission. I do have one suggestion, however -- it either should have been more contemporary or more distant. At first it wasn't clear if the action was taking place shortly after the tornado or long after it. But when the albino woman mentioned Pamela Anderson, that nailed down a time period for me. It would have been more effective as a period piece (sometime in the 70s) where the audience looks back on a really messed up town; or it could have been filled with more contemporary references which places a really messed up town not too far away from where you and I live.
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It's so strange - life, not Gummo.
sondracarr8 November 2003
I have trouble with the comments of users who find no emotional attachment to sad characters. Those who state that all the characters in this film wouldn't be missed if a tornado did wipe them out - isn't this the ultimate prejudice? Isn't it telling that these people have no sympathy for characters that are children who've been given no other options? Could it be that the pervasiveness of this attitude is exactly why there seems to be no cure for the plight of poverty?

Could it possibly be that THIS is the point of this film?

So few want to get inside the real problems to understand what's going on. It is impossible to understand anything fully from the outside looking in. I think films (and books, and music, and lectures, etc.) like this are needed to counteract the fantasies that we regularly accept as reality. Is this reality for most people? No, probably not, but it is for some and all stories need telling. In a world-view where wrestling chairs and killing pets are considered acceptable and worthwhile activities, would we really expect to feel a sense of plot or unfolding or striving? The point, it seems to me, is that for people trapped in these situations, there is no point, no goals, no worthwhile transformations. They can't even begin to see these things. All that's left by this tragedy of human existence is meaningless, chaotic, confusing experiences that seem to make no sense, and ill-conceived rushes to relieve the frustration and anxiety in whatever means seem readily available. Do you understand why people cut themselves to feel better? Or starve themselves? Or abuse people? I don't. But for our culture's sake, I hope some people care enough to try to find out.

Tragedy, for anyone who has ever personally experienced it, leaves one without faith, hope, or any possibility of transcendence. Without these higher-level world-views, we revert to self-protective mere survival. When this strikes a larger community, it has disastrous effects. This film shows just how fragile our safety net of community, progress, and culture really are - how easily they can be unraveled.

I know it's hard for us to see this. How can these characters not see that there is a better way available? Don't they watch TV or movies? Don't they see what we see? But this is precisely the point we have to understand. They really don't. People who live in ghettos don't get degrees because they don't even know that they can. They believe that these areas are for others, not them. We'll never understand class problems if we don't try to see them from all perspectives.

I, too, felt horrified to find myself on the "inside" of this lifestyle - something I hope never to do in a non-filmic experience. This is the genius to which people are referring - the director and actors' ability to draw those of us for whom these are alien experiences directly and completely into this hopeless, pointless world. We actually feel the dread, frustration, meaninglessness that people caught in these circumstances experience.

This is why I read, go to movies, listen to music and experience all art - to experience life from the many different perspectives available. If you only want to be entertained - there really are only a few stories to tell and there are many "artists" out there willing to serve you the same McArt to "satisfy" your needs, but for those of us who would like to know more about something other than ourselves and our ethnocentric, narcissistic experiences, movies like Gummo will always be admired. And there's nothing wrong with entertainment. I like it too. But don't judge films like this based on that standard. It isn't fair. You don't say "I don't like Mozart because it doesn't have a beat I can dance to." Or maybe you do. And so, you should be able to understand how some people have no way to access another transcendent point of view.

I also have to make a comment about the "meaninglessness" of the bunny suit boy. I didn't understand the symbolism either - and according the director's comments, there doesn't seem to be any - at least not in any direct, conscious way. And this is probably difficult for any non-artist to understand, but sometimes instinct doesn't take on any direct symbolic reference but is still important. Artist's trust their instincts and don't always have to have everything make sense in a literal sense. In fact, it is generally agreed that works of art that are too directly symbolic, or too literal lose much of the magic that makes art special in the first place. I'm not condoning ambiguity for the sake of ambiguity, but the bunny suit seemed so absurdist to me that it set the tone for the absurdity that followed. In a strange way, it seemed hopeful. This effect isn't lessened by the director's inability to explain why it was important. The fact is, it was important on some instinctive level or it wouldn't have been cut in.

Listen to any of your favorite music and try to find a "plot" or a "meaning" for each and every line and note. Unless you listen exclusively to bad country and western I think you'll get this point. A lot of people think other forms of art have more responsibility to be crystal clear, but I doubt most of us prefer these same attributes in our music. If you understand half of what you sing along to, you are among the few. I think the problem is that most of us expect something different from film, art, novels because we've been fed so much crap that (similar to my kids when they come back from a week at a friend or family member's house where fast food is the daily fare) we cannot taste the goodness of real meals. Think about it.
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definitely worth seeing
moviekid842 September 2003
Harmony Korine, although a spoiled rich kid pretending to be a struggling indie filmmaker, is really clever, and deserves credit for his work. Love him or hate him, this movie is spectacular. Although the simple plot line of "White trash living in Ohio" might not seem that enthralling, the way the movie is shot, mixing documentary style (albeit acted) clips with an actual plotline, is excellent. The first time I saw this, I didn't know if it really happened or not, that's how well Harmony pulls it off. And the actors, for having never had parts in anything before (except for a few of them) do an amazing job as well. If you're put off by 'realistic' movies, or are easily disturbed, then yes, this movie will probably upset you. But even if it doesn't appeal to you, it's still a unique and original movie on it's own.

Before you start bashing the movie, ask yourself, "what do I expect from a movie based on destitute, racist, drug addicted people living in a small, small town?"
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What a Horrible Film
xaos294 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I did sit through the entire showing, and I did hope it would get better. Sadly, the film languished until the sweet release of the final credits.

There is nothing to make the viewer care about the characters. There is nothing to create sympathy in the viewer regarding the troubled world of Xenia, at least as it is portrayed in the film.

The only character who appears "wholesome" in the film is really a pervert; he molests a young woman in front of her sisters, but even then I didn't care. By this stage of the film, I ought to have some emotional investment, but I honestly felt apathy toward the scene... it ought to have roused anger or indignation, but I found myself sighing and looking at my watch. When the viewer cannot establish any emotional connection to any of the characters, this is indicative of poor story structure and poor film making.

Is this art? No; art follows a structure. When the director throws conventional plot structure and character development out the window, what the director has made is a poor Youtube video. This experience is similar to watching a child destroy a toy while his mother remarks "see how creative he is".
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Beautiful and Haunting
mgirls2 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those films that people either love or hate. Personally, it's one of my favorites. It's lack of a strong plot makes it a stronger film, simply because it feels like an actual look into people's lives. There is not a plot arch in each normal day.

I also thought that the once-mentioned characters were some of the strongest I've ever seen, such as the Junkyard Cowboys, the young girl who was abused by her father, and the young man who was talking to the dwarf. Although a lot of people disliked these short scenes, I thought it made the movie even more realistic, as you rarely know everything about a person.

Solomon's opening narrative scene was absolutely beautiful, as was the title scene of bunny boy, who's possibly the most haunting character in the movie, standing for happiness and innocence. his final scene was one of the most powerful moments in film, the very picture of happiness and innocence holding up the mangled cat body and looking at the camera in dissatisfaction, as if he's the only one who understands that it's wrong.

Even the very last scene with the disabled girl singing "yes Jesus loves me" wholeheartedly is a shining example of how sometimes only the disabled are able to keep childlike innocence in such crazy times.
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Freak Show
LordAndrew8 January 2006
Apparently there is something fundamentally interesting about strange looking people doing weird things. What other explanation is there for the success of Jerry Springer's show. Gummo is essentially the Jerry Springer show out of the studio.

It appeals in much the same way as a lot of horror films do. Gummo would almost fit right in with classic films such as Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Hills Have Eyes, except for one minor detail: there is absolutely no plot. Despite this fact it was still mildly entertaining. There is a bath time scene which is borderline brilliant.

I'm always sort on interested in what qualifies something as art. Gummo has some characteristics of an art picture, it's dense and doesn't have much interest in telling any sort of traditional story. What it lacks is any real direction, it really doesn't seem to be saying anything deeper then, "Hey, check out these freaks."
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A tragically beautiful film about nihilism in poverty-stricken, small town America.
Aidan McCreesh5 June 2014
Gummo is by far one of my favorite movies ever. Not following standard cinematic techniques and ideas, gummo is more of an experimental/art house film. It follows a small, hurricane stricken community in Xenia, Ohio and the daily struggles with their depressing and nihilistic Life. Nihilism, Religion, Poverty,Drug-use, and mental health are among the numerous issues and subjects explored by Harmony over the course of this film. The film is made up of a number of clips, centred around the people who live in the town. On the surface, this film is pure trash, but the more you delve into the disgusting and filthy masterpiece that is, Gummo, the more tragically beautiful the movie becomes. After watching gummo for the first time, I felt that I needed to have a shower. The movie leaves you feeling disgusting and sickened. And let me warn you, watching gummo is kind of like consuming a Harmony Korine "drug". By this, I mean that you cannot stop thinking about the movie for about 12 hours. Gummo is something that everyone should experience. An art-house cult classic. "Life is great. Without it, you'd be dead."
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An excellent masterpiece from Korine
Catrician11 April 2013
1994 is oftentimes considered to be one of the best years for cinema, by both casual viewers, cinephiles, and hardcore film history buffs alike. We received films that would please all audiences; Zemeckis' "Forrest Gump", Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction", Kieslowski's "Three Colours: Red", Burton's "Ed Wood", Tarr's "Satantango", the list goes on. As such, it's easy to pass over a film that came out that year which, in reality, was quite influential, more so than some of the previously mentioned movies. That film was Clark's "Kids" (IMDb has it listed as 1995, but it premiered at film festivals in '94). While it was met with mixed reviews at the time (and mixed reviews now), it was seen as one of the first films that really had this bold statement about American youth, and that was that so many of them were these sex-addicted, hopeless stoners with meaningless lives.

While Larry Clark directed this, Harmony Korine, 19 at the time, wrote the script and had a major influence on the film. Van Sant (whose film "Elephant", as I stated previously, makes him a more than capable director) cited that Korine would be "the face of postermodern American directors", and Werner Herzog ("Aguirre: The Wrath of God") also gave similar praises.

The partial writer for one film, however, doesn't get such praises. A mere three years later, Korine released what is known now to be one of the most unsettling, disturbing, and downright unusual films in the form of Gummo. Surprisingly enough, the critical reaction for Gummo has been worse than that of "Kids". A possible explanation for this is that "Kids" is simply more viewer-friendly. Any 30+ year old film buff with a decent taste could probably watch "Kids" and at least get a bit of perspective, while maybe questioning the youth of the nation.

Gummo doesn't have any questions to ask though. It's more of a work of art that is absolutely disgusting to look at, yet fascinating in every way. So, for a comparison, it would be like if Van Gogh crashed two cars together at exactly 39.4 miles per hour, with them perpendicular to one another, with no wind in the air. It might seem pointless at first, but you may need to look a bit closer to truly analyze the themes of Gummo.

The opening scenes describe how a tornado has destroyed the town of Xenia, Ohio, and we then begin viewing the residents of the town trying to find meaning in their pointless, hopeless, and overall miserable lives.

Korine stated once that about 75% of Gummo was scripted. Upon rewatching the film, I can hardly determine where the realism starts and where the fiction ends. I've often times commended directors for having a sort of "surrealism realism" as Von Trier did so magically with his masterpiece "Dogville", and Korine takes it to a whole new level. The documentary feel adds to the film spectacularly because it forces the viewer to confront reality: that, somewhere in the world, there are people who behave as the characters in Gummo do.

Even the name of Gummo is symbolic in a few ways. The name "Gummo" is named after the oldest of the Marx brothers, who were notable for their anarchist comedy, which Gummo is to some extent. However, the oldest Marx Brother never appeared on camera; he was always more indirectly involved with cinema. Korine, here, is stating that Gummo is something new; something cinema has literally never seen before, even if it has seen its "relatives" ("Kids" possibly?)

There are a number of assumptions that reviewers make when discussing the film; I'm not suggesting any of these are right or wrong, but they do exist. Some suggest that the town is made up of Satanists, which is how they are able to live in a near trance-like state throughout the film and simply accept the horrors of their lives. These conclusions are most likely also drawn from the images of self harm used in the film, as well as heavy metal taking up a good portion of Gummo's soundtrack. Other say that the film is a more real-life portrait of a post- apocalyptic scenario, stripping man down to his bare bones and showing what he really is.

Curiously, only a single character in Gummo is shown to have any pathos attached to him whatsoever. This character is Tummler, who is seen to feel overwhelming depression in the film as it leaks over into the audience at times. It's not even sadness about poverty, or loneliness, but rather a state of hatred for anything and everything, the feeling of wanting to be dead, or at the very least have something to give life meaning.

Gummo hits the audience over the head repeatedly with its horrors of this small town wasteland. Teens addicted to sniffing glue, teens buying down-syndrome prostitutes, teens making a competition over who can kill the most cats to sell to a local restaurant, etc. Although his approach is heavy-handed, it has an artistic purpose: some people live like this, and Korine is letting us see within his mind for an hour and a half. There are parts which are nearly impossible to watch, but the film has this unusually captivating "feel" to it, which is enhanced by the incredible cinematography.

It's not easy to watch, it's not fun to watch, and it is also incoherent at times. The comparison could be made that watching Gummo is like reading about the Holocaust; neither are fun to watch, and the imagery is nauseating at times, yet many people are fascinated by it, not in a sadistic sense of the word, but merely fascinated by the fact that it happened. I'm amazed that a film like Gummo was made, yet I'm satisfied with its existence.
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An American parable and an excellent study of America's underbelly
t_atzmueller20 February 2013
For many people who know the United States only through cinema, tabloid celebrity-news and TV, the US is the land of the rich and the beautiful. For those people, the likes of Tom Cruise, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, in other words, actors with big, polished grins and empty eyes are the faces of America. And Hollywood is its capital city.

Well, "Gummo" isn't about that America; "Gummo" is the America of the poor, uneducated and the degenerated descendents of the dregs from around the world. These aren't the (supposedly) proud and noble people who came to America on board the Mayflower, but rather those that travelled in the ships hull; those who eventually ended up in some dreary trailer camp and hamlet somewhere in the Midwest, simply because they weren't wanted anywhere else.

"The prophet has no honor in his own country", goes an old saying, which would explain the harsh criticism that director Harmony Korine has received, especially by American critics and reviewers. Too close to home and too harsh a reality, but undeniably a reality that Korine is more than familiar with. Korine descends from a similar environment and I dare say that it took courage to explore such an uncomfortable background.

The closest I can compare "Gummo" to is Werner Herzog's "Stroszek"; not only are the filming techniques very similar (whether Korine is a Herzog-fan I do not know, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least), blending together professionals, amateur- and non-actors seamlessly, but both films have a similar nihilist air, telling stories that are free of redemption, yet captivate the viewer's attention like a travelling freak-show or the birth of a two-headed cow.

One of the main reasons that I was watching "Gummo" in the first place, before even realizing what kind of film it was, was the presence of actor Jacob Reynolds. I had seen Reynolds in "The Road to Wellville", were he has a small but impressive scene as Dr. Kellogg's (Anthony Hopkins) adopted son. Apart from being an excellent actor, Reynolds is ugly. His ugliness, the over-sized head, bird-like features and asymmetric features, glues itself to the eye of the beholder; one could watch him for hours, giving new meaning to the term "so ugly that he's back to beautiful again". A shame that the young actor hasn't been starring in more films and bigger roles, but, like I already said, the industry relies more on pretty and lifeless actors.

Well, this definitely isn't a "pretty picture" – if you want "pretty" or "artificial", I recommend films with above mentioned ladies and gentlemen – and it most likely will not make you feel better if you happened to have a bad day. But it's authentic, and that's not exactly common these days. A movie one either loves or loves to hate.
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Great Movie If You Keep An Open Mind
kokirininja319 January 2011
I recently watched this because I have been trying to get into movies past Hollywood. He said it was pretty good. It turns out he knows his stuff. Gummo is about a small town in Ohio after it has been devastated by a tornado. The movie follows many unique and eccentric characters such as the bunny boy and the nihilistic and bored Tummler. Each character brings its own story to the table, which helps shape the desolation and loneliness of the small Ohio residence they live in. The thing I found the most unique about this movie besides the excellent soundtrack featuring stoner metal gods Sleep and black metal king Varg Vikernes of Burzum fame is the excellent camera work and story. The story really doesn't have a conceited, concrete plot and is told from many different twisted angles, which is really a refreshing idea. The camera work is also beautiful and well done. Not that i'm a photography or directing genius, but the director worked with many different kinds of film to bring out the grime and trash of the movie. It might take a few watches to fully appreciate this movie. If you're looking for a story that has a unique story and feel to it that will really make you think and wonder filled with eccentric and inspiring characters, this is the movie for you.
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Not Pretty
keprathoth-889-3162645 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first time I saw this movie, I was disgusted to the point where I had to take a shower afterwards. I do enjoy what I call "disturbing cinema", i.e. Pink Flamingos, Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, etc..., but this was the most brutal film I've ever seen. It stuck with me for a long time. After almost a year, I decided to watch this again, and actually watched it 5 times in a week. It lost it's initial shock value, but is still quite disturbing. I realized that Harmony Korine is a genius. He doesn't stick to the same boring structure that has been present in film since the beginning, which is actually the same boring structure that has been present in theatre since the beginning. He's an innovator who is not afraid to take risks. This is a film that requires several viewings in order to be properly appreciated, and you must be a bit of a masochist in order to watch it for the first time, but it is so worth it. Love it or hate it, it ain't going away...
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