Essential Viewing: Harmony Korine at the Cinematheque
Put yourself in Harm's way and expose yourself to the real bad boy of American independent cinema.
November 6, 2018
Clear your calendar and get ready to camp out at the Cinematheque for Harm: A Harmony Korine Retrospective. Korine made his screen debut (alongside Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson) in Larry Clark’s Kids—a portrait of ’90s New York teens whiling away their lives with healthy doses of drugs, sex and skateboarding. He was 19 and also wrote the script. It’s not be an understatement to say that the release of Kids caused a moral panic in its depiction of teen debauchery, and Korine’s name has been associated with controversy ever since. As a director, he announced himself an unapologetic provocateur, an enfant terrible prepared to poke hard at the less photogenic sections of a society obsessed with image. Sadly, his career—always on the margins—was quickly derailed by substance abuse (that he did eventually kick). Fans are excitedly awaiting his new movie that stars Matthew McConaughey. Meanwhile, we can revel in this welcome retrospective. Though Gummo is now 20 years old, it remains a startlingly modern work of art.
(1997, 89 mins, Jacob Reynolds, Chloe Sevigny)
Korine’s first feature provoked a veritable howl of outrage on its release and it’s not hard to see why— its glue-sniffing, cat-killing teenagers exist somewhere between a world of depravity and a pit of nihilism. Um, yes: this is a challenging watch. But it’s also an audaciously creative directorial debut from Korine. Not many filmmakers fly out of the gate with a genuine masterpiece— a work so original, it sears itself forever on your consciousness. This is a rare opportunity to see it screened in 35mm.
(1999, 100 mins, Ewen Bremner, Chloe Sevigny, Werner Herzog)
Korine’s follow up to Gummo—made under Dogme 95, the strict manifesto created by those great Danes, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg—is an arguably more tender affair than its predecessor. Shot on digital video, transferred to 16mm, then blown up to 35mm, the film boasts a cinematic grain that’s almost its own character, as it follows the life of Julien (Bremner) a violent schizophrenic expecting a child with Pearl (Sevigny), and still living at home with his disciplinarian father (Herzog). Korine based Julien on (and dedicated the movie to) his own uncle.
(2009, 78mins, Harmony Korine, Rachel Korine)
This lo-fi, visually degraded offering stars Korine and his wife, Rachel, as dissolute geriatrics—the elderly endgame of Gummo‘s teens, perhaps. After almost a decade of struggling with substance abuse, Korine made the little-seen and considered rather tame movie, Mr. Lonely (being screened on DVD Nov. 11 and 12) before re-embracing the weird and wild. Although, considering the outburst of unfettered ugly racism we’ve been witnessing down south, these rampaging, downright nasty old folks may feel more familiar beasts this time around.
(2012, 94 mins, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco)
A gloriously lurid dive into every parent’s nightmare—and Korine’s first crossover into the mainstream—Breakers took Disney princesses, Gomez and Hudgens and put their squeaky clean images through the ringer of sex, drugs and gang bangers. A portrait of true teenage hedonism —trippy, dangerous, and always careening gleefully off the rails.