Gummo (1997), or I Never Saw The Cameras Growing Up When They Were Taping My Childhood, But Here It Is

28 04 2009

Big thanks to Kevan for recommending this movie to me! What would I do without people who recommend stuff to me? I’d probably just watch nothing but Throw Momma From The Train or B.A.P.S all day, and nobody wants that.

Sometimes a movie will come along to challenge people, and people are up for the challenge of being confronted in such a way. It happens all the time, and most of the time you can prepare yourself beforehand to ground the experience and keep your head on a swivel. Every now and then, though, a movie comes along that just totally assaults me, bowls me over. I can’t do a damn thing about it, and I am left speechless by what has transpired on the screen. Gummo is a movie that is so hyper-realistic it borders on the truly insane, and although it can be seen as mercilessly harsh and condemning of the lifestyle the film’s characters portray, it cannot be said for one second that it isn’t believable.

Gummo takes place in Xenia, Ohio, where life is horrible, short, and full of rednecks. It is a series of fictional vignettes about down-on-their-luck people trying to eke out an existence, however frightening and disgusting it is. We follow Solomon and Tummler, two teens who kill feral cats and try to sell the meat to the butcher. We find ourselves privy to snippets of conversations, telling bits of information that reveal more than a lifetime of friendship would. We look at the lives of people we never think twice about; the local skinheads, the boys selling candy for “cancer patients”, the high-school dropouts who can barely raise themselves out of their alcohol-induced comas to make any sense out of themselves. It’s alarming, sad, very genuine in most cases, and it makes me want to question my Southern heritage at times.

Directed by Harmony Korine, this film is hard to comment on. It plays by its own set of rules, and they don’t necessarily coincide with the typical rules of film-making. This is an experimental film that doesn’t even have a plot, per se, much less main characters, but its haunting imagery is enough for me to deem it extremely important.

The people in Xenia are all a little deranged, in some form or fashion, and it makes for an interesting commentary on society’s tendency to discard people, and the South’s unseemly habit for breeding discardable people. With the exception of one person, who I call Bunny Guy (he walks around Xenia with a set of bunny ears on his head), there is not an ounce of sanity, happiness, or even the semblance of normalcy. The strangest part for me is the fact that Ohio is hardly the South, so I can only imagine the horrible things going on in my home state of Texas. Yikes!

I found it to be an extraordinarily special and personal affair. Like listening to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor record, it’s something perhaps best enjoyed in private. It means so many things to so many different people, you might as well just watch it alone instead of arguing with your friends all night. For something as utterly bizarre as this, I suggest dimming the lights and watching it at midnight. You might have nightmares, but you’ll rarely have a more interesting time watching a film.

If you like experimentation in your art, this is dynamic innovation at its highest caliber. If your taste is more pedestrian (I don’t mean that in a sneering, high-and-mighty way; this is an INCREDIBLY STRANGE MOVIE), you might want to stay away. I really appreciate the level of detail (keep an eye out for a piece of bacon taped to the wall in one house) and the actors’ seeming comfort in front of the camera despite their almost complete inexperience. It is a beautiful piece of artistic expression that should be watched and re-watched, and I guarantee that with an open mind anyone can come through this movie unharmed, even through some of its admittedly scarring moments. It’s not graceful, elegant, or stylish, and that is fine by me. I give Gummo 9 taped strips of bacon out of 10.

Keep an ever-vigilant eye out for my review of Jack Lemmon’s The Apartment later tonight! Stay up late with me!




3 responses

29 04 2009

This film is quite harsh, and I didn’t like it much. However, I should watch it again…now that I’m better prepared for it 😛 I might like it now, for its surreal tone 🙂

2 05 2009

It’s definitely a jarring blow to the aesthetic sensibility, that’s for sure. But I think there’s a lot of merit to it that is easily overlooked the first time watching it. It isn’t something to watch on a light and breezy Sunday afternoon, certainly, but I think if you watched it again, you might like it quite a bit more. Thanks for commenting! I like your site, too; I just can’t read it! Sorry!

2 05 2009

Yeah, I know 😛 I should make an English version, probably 😛 I like your blog, too. And, well, I went to a nearby video store, and they didn’t have “Gummo” there 😦 I’ll keep looking, your post made me remember it… I really want to see it again! :S

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