Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers *
Directed by:
Harmony Korine.
Written By: Harmony Korine.
Starring: Paul Booker, Dave Cloud, Chris Crofton, Charles Ezell, Chris Gantry, Kevin Guthrie, Harmony Korine, Rachel Korine, Brian Kotzue, Brian Kotzur, Travis Nicholson, Page Spain.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I couldn’t help but think of that cliché when watching Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers - a film that has many passionate defenders, but is a film that I could never really get into. It isn’t really a film at all - but rather feels more like performance art or one of those video installations you see in museums. And yet while I somewhat admire the fact that Korine made precisely the film he wanted to make - I cannot really say that it is an experience I ever want to go through again. This crudely made film is pretty much insufferable - which may have been Korine’s goal, but I still have to wonder why anyone would want to watch the film.

Trash Humpers is a deliberately crude film shot on VHS by Korine in his hometown of Nashville. The choice of VHS is made to make the film look even cruddier than it otherwise would - it has the same skips and tracking marks that an old VHS tape would have - making this seem an something found in the trash and put in an old VCR. It stars a bunch of old people - not really old people but young people in really, like Korine himself and his wife Rachel, in really bad old age makeup and masks. As the title suggests, these old people spend their days going into literally humping bags of trash - as well as posts, fences and anything else around. They also fellate tree branches and other objects. All of this is captured on tape by one of them - as the rest of them stand around and chant meaningless, repetitious catch phrases. Sometimes, in addition to these pseudo old people, there are some real old people who come in some time, and talk to the trash humpers. I assume these are real people, essentially playing a version of themselves, which does bring up some troubling questions about whether or not Korine is exploiting them or not.

I have read multiple interpretations of the film - that it is a quasi-sequel to his first film Gummo, which was a similar film but about teenagers not old people, that it represents Korine’s maturation, as his character and that of his wife’s actually grow out of their antics by the end of the film, and leave their friends behind - perhaps like Korine has had to do with his own films.

All of those things may be true about Trash Humpers - that may well have been Korine’s intentions when making the film. After his first two films - Gummo and julien-donkey boy - Korine suffered a nervous breakdown and took time off from filmmaking. This is his second film after Mister Lonely - another failure of a film about a group of celebrity impersonators who get together and live on an island together.

Korine is a real filmmaker, and a real artist. To me, julien-donkey boy, with its weird performances and style remains his best film. He is a unique filmmaker, with a strange vision of the world around him. And yet, his films to me remain pretentious exercises in abstract art. That is not a real problem if the film was successful, but Trash Humpers is repetitive to the point where the whole exercise becomes rather pointless. It takes a real artist to make a film like Trash Humpers. I just wish Korine would concentrate on something worthier of his talents.

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