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The Auteurs Daily: Cinema Scope 40 & Toronto and NYFF. Trash Humpers

The Auteurs Daily

Trash Humpers

Cinema Scope's new front page - the splash page, you might call it - sports a still from Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers and, inside, in the Spotlight section previewing the fall festival season, we find Dennis Lim's essay on the film.

Before we turn to that piece, though, you'll notice right off that the site's switched to Wordpress, making for easier navigation, if only because the layout's cleaner; the actual idea behind this, though, is to enable the team to eventually post more content from back issues. You'll also find that editor Mark Peranson's marking not only a nice round number - Issue 40 - but also the 10th anniversary of his excellent magazine, launched while the Toronto International Film Festival was on all those years ago - as, of course, it is right now. In 2009, Mark sounds tired and money sounds tight, but:

"Just to be clear for those people who tend to worry: there is currently no catastrophic financial crisis going on at the Cinema Scope headquarters (probably thanks to the fact that there isn't really a headquarters); it's more a crisis of will, and I only am speaking for myself. (And I don't think it's only the exhaustion speaking.) All of us who work on the magazine do it with the hope that we're contributing something to a dialogue. After ten years it still sometimes seems like a monologue."

The issue features interviews with the living and memories of the dead. Adam Nayman talks with Francis Ford Coppola about Tetro, Jim Healy with Jonathan Lethem about Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life. Christoph Huber remembers Gerhard Friedl; Amir Muhammad, Yasmin Ahmad. And at the end of his editorial, Mark notes that he's still in shock after hearing of the murders of Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc.

Besides Jonathan Rosenbaum's regular roundup of "Global Discoveries on DVD," there are Tom Charity on the Bill Douglas Trilogy, Robert Koehler on new nonfiction, Henry K Miller on "British Satire-Sitcom-Cinema" and Quintín on "Mariano Llinás and Other Argentinean Species: Beyond Official Cinema."

Michael Sicinski has two pieces this time around, one on Ben Russell's Let Each One Go Where He May and the other on Philip Hoffman's All Fall Down. Which brings us to that fall festival preview Spotlight. Scott Foundas writes about Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch, a piece we'll return to in another entry - and then, of course, Dennis Lim:

"Trash Humpers is a virtual remake of Gummo," he writes, "or perhaps better to say, a sequel, in which the glue-huffing, cat-killing teenagers of the earlier film have ripened - 'matured' is definitely the wrong word - into feral geriatrics.... But Trash Humpers is at once an uglier film (literally) and a gentler one than Gummo.... Trash Humpers is a proudly cruddy-looking film by an aesthete who understands the power and utility of ugliness. It's full of indelible sunburst moments, strange, sober glimmers of beauty and poetry peeking through the bleakness."

"I loved it, a film purely in the avant gutter," blogs Mike Plante for Filmmaker. "Every frame was put together beautifully, a photography book in motion, with a perfect looking VHS (on EP mode) format." It "becomes life affirming."

"The child-like characters (babies are a recurring motif) could just as well exist in our imagination," writes Howard Feinstein in Screen. "This is true Surrealism, the juxtaposition of disparate entities for an effect stronger than the sum of their parts. Marcel Duchamp would salute Korine."

"[T]hose familiar with Korine's anti-bourgeois oeuvre and know what they're in for... will have a glorious time," predicts Rob Nelson in Variety. "Rather shrewdly, Korine (Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy) has met the inevitable accusation of garbage-peddling head-on, having characterized the film as one that could've been found on a trash heap. (At the artier extreme, Jean-Luc Godard said exactly the same of his apocalyptic Weekend in 1967.)... Across the board, tech credits are appalling - in a good way."

"You can see why Werner Herzog loves this guy," writes Eric Kohn at indieWIRE: "Like the German auteur's best narratives, Trash Humpers not only sympathizes with socially ostracized misanthropes - it adopts their perspective.... The stars of Trash Humpers celebrate their naughtiness because nobody bothers to stop them. The same observation could easily apply to Korine himself."

"Korine has puked up an allergic reaction to the Confederacy," suggests the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris.

"At 78 minutes, it's easily the longest film I've seen at the festival," sighs Scott Tobias, who gives it a "D" at the AV Club.

This is "Harmony Korine at his best," counters the Playlist's Frank Rutledge. "He continues along the mature path that he started with Mister Lonely and in Humpers you will find some of his greatest moments.

"Where, oh where, in the hell does an idea like this come from?" is the first question Michael Tully has for Korine at Hammer to Nail.

Updates, 9/19: Mike D'Angelo at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "Execution isn't a factor - the movie, by design, has no conventional virtues, so there's literally no way to screw it up. You either respond to this kind of thing or you don't; if you do, seeing the film is superfluous."

Lauren Treihaft and Brian Brooks talk with Korine for indieWIRE.

Update, 9/22: Fernando F Croce for Slant: "Some of it has a grimy elation, but in the end the wrinkled masks serve mainly as a metaphor for a spastic enfant terrible in danger of aging without maturing."

Update, 9/24: Michael Lerman offers an "apology/clarification to Mike D'Angelo."

Update, 9/27: "In contrast, the contorted biology of Cronenberg's metanarratives or Lynch's preoccupation with the dualities of American society are intrigues of dark fiction," writes James Maker in 3:AM. "Korine is American Verité to their American Gothic. His dispossessed exist entirely within a recognisable landscape. If Korine is indebted to anybody, it is to the European auteurism of directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder."

Updates, 10/2: "If you're not interested, or if you, like many, insist on taking some kind of personal offense to Korine's films, spare yourself the anguish," advises Leo Goldmith in Reverse Shot. "For those who imagined the comparatively normal, humanistic, even kinda pretty Mister Lonely was some indication of a career 180 for the director, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Trash Humpers finds Korine back in the grim and grimy universe of Gummo, a place of grotesquerie, bestiality, apathy, decay - and snickering, unrepentant jollity."

The "premise [is] so mind-bogglingly stupid that the outcome could only be genius or daft," writes Nick Schager in Slant. "In a final tally, it's the latter by a long shot."

"Yes, Trash Humpers is deliberately shocking," writes Benjamin Strong in the L Magazine, "but to dismiss it as the work of a mere provocateur, one must have a dirty mind overly fixated on all the rampant trash fucking. Because what makes this fictional artifact from an alternate-universe America so unsettling is that it is never quite alternate enough for our own comfort."

"[I]n a series of vignettes, videotaped from an insider's perspective, Korine introduces us to a world of inexplicable horror, and then slowly domesticates it," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "There may not be an traditional narrative intended, but if you make any effort at all to tie together the threads that Korine has laid out, it would be impossible to not see a beginning, middle and end to this 78 minute artbomb, a progression from dangerous grotesquerie to something more personal and almost - almost - sweet and nice."

Vadim Rizov at IFC: "It's oddly painless, but provocative in a too easy way: Ugliness is truth, and truth ugliness."

Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York: "This is hardly festworthy fare; if you do go, you'll feel trapped in a parody of serious viewing."

John Lichman has notes from the NYFF press conference.

Update, 10/3: At GreenCine Daily, Aaron Hillis talks with Harmony Korine.

Update, 10/6: "At a certain point (maybe fifteen minutes into the melee, although it's still growing on me), Trash Humpers runs out of steam," writes Jeremiah Kipp at the House Next Door. "There's only so long you can watch obnoxious mutant tap dancers sneaking around, and even the shock value wears thin."

"Very funny but at times quite haunting, Korine has described Trash Humpers as a kind of horror movie, perhaps of the American Dream being flushed down the toilet," notes James Hansen. "But how then, amidst the nonsensical cackling and hysterical, neverending chants ('Make it, make it! Don't fake it!') and recitations ('Three little devils jumped ovvvverrrr the waaaaallll...') is Trash Humpers so genuine, so heartfelt, and so damned inspired?"

Update, 10/10: Bilge Ebiri talks with Korine for Vulture.

Update, 10/13: IFC's Alison Willmore talks with Korine.

Update, 10/31: Cath Clarke interviews Korine for the Guardian: "Now 36, with grey streaks in his beard, he's a darn sight more sprightly than when he was a few years ago, when he lived in London and shuffled around looking twitchy. The only trace now of his once-distinctive jitters is the non-stop gum-chewing."

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.


Writing about Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch, Scott Foundas says, “When Dumont provokes, it is not to get an easy rise out of the audience, but to bring us closer to some shared understanding.” I have no idea where Harmony Korine wishes to bring us, if he himself even has a clue, or cares. Until he works that out his provocations remain dubious, and not worth the exposure. Certainly, not worth my time.

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