“When I saw a piece of fried bacon fixed to the bathroom wall in Gummo, it knocked me off my chair.”–Werner Herzog
DIRECTED BY: Harmony Korine
FEATURING: Chloë Sevigny, Jacob Reynolds, non-professionals chosen for their freakish looks
PLOT: A tornado devastated the town of Xenia, Ohio in the 1970s. Twenty years later, a teenager (Tummler) and a younger tagalong (Solomon) hunt feral cats, selling them to the local grocer for money they use to buy sniffing glue and trysts with a fat, mentally disabled prostitute. Meanwhile, other white-trash characters roam the landscape unsupervised, including two trashy teen girls who seem to be raising their kid sister and a shirtless mute boy who wears pink bunny ears.
- Harmony Korine (who is male) had previously written script for Kids (1995). He was given $1.5 million and free reign by Fine Line Features (the now-defunct “independent” branch of New Line Pictures) to create exactly the picture he wanted to.
- A devastating tornado really did hit Xenia, OH in 1974.
- Gummo was the fifth Marx brother, who left the group before they began their successful film career.
- Although critical reaction was largely negative (scoring a disappointing 29% on Rotten Tomatoes tomatomer at press time), several established directors—Werner Herzog, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard, Gus Van Sant, and Erol Morris—expressed admiration and support for the picture.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: No one forgets the scene of Solomon eating spaghetti and chocolate in the grimy bathtub with oily green water (with, as Werner Herzog marveled, bacon taped to the walls). The most illustrative image, however, may be when “Bunny Boy” (the shirtless waif wearing pink bunny ears) thrusts a dead cat at the camera. This vision brings to mind the act of this director presenting this work to his audience.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Gummo looks a lot like what might result if someone took home movies from that embarrassing, welfare-addicted branch of the family no one likes to talk about and mixed them in a blender with the final project short films from the NYU Film School graduating class of ’97.
Brief clip from Gummo
COMMENTS: Gummo is an exasperating film that compels the viewer mainly through the odd Continue reading 20. GUMMO (1997)