Friday, April 1, 2011

HARMONY KORINE'S RECENT WORK ('Living Proof' through 'Umshini Wam')

I know Harmony Korine is an acquired taste, but as far as I'm concerned hes a really good director. This may sound like bullshit to some of you guys, but the older i get the more serious i take his stuff (...some of it). Sure, no matter what he does I'm always going to smirk and laugh at certain elements of his work, but he has definitely matured as a director over the years. And his recent work clearly shows that. This "revelation" hit me after watching 'Mister Lonely' for the first time a few years ago. Some of the dialogue in that movie may seem kinda corny, but coming from a director like haromey korine, it was a little unexpected and it seemed kinda genuine:
I don't know if you know what it is like to want to be someone else, to not want to look like you look, to hate your own face and to go completely unnoticed. I have always wanted to be someone else. I have never felt comfortable the way I am. All I want is to be better than myself, to become less ordinary and to find some purpose in this world. It is easier to see things in others, to see things you admire and then try and become that. To own a different face, to dance a different dance, and sing a different song. It is out there waiting for us, inviting us to change. It is time to become who we are not. To change our face and become who we want to be. I think the world is a better place that way.
Maybe its me, but before 'Mister Lonely' I woulda never expected that to come outta one of his movies. If any other director had written that, you'd probably roll your eyes, but from a guy like Korine, you kinda appreciate dialogue like that. Then, a few weeks ago i saw his latest short film; 'Umshini Wam'. It stars the eccentric "rap" group; Die Antwoord as wheelchair-bound gangstas trying to get some new rims for their wheelchairs (i think that's what its about). A lot of that movie is obviously satirical, but its also shot really well and nice to look at.
I think 'Gummo' will probably always be considered Harmony Korine's defining film, followed by the screenplay for 'Kids'. But in the last few years, i really think he's found a new "colorful" style. He still only seems to be concerned with documenting the "strange & weird", and getting in to the dirty crevices that other directors wont go, but his recent stuff has a much nicer feel and look to it. Ever since cat power's 'living proof' music video, he seems to be fascinated with both; bold/striking colors as well as extensive slow motion shots (like some scenes in 'Mister Lonely' and the 'Living Proof' video). The look of his earlier stuff like; 'Gummo' and 'Julien Donkey-Boy' gave off a very depressing and drab feeling. That doesn't mean those movies are bad ('Gummo' is one of my favorite movies as a matter of fact), but there was a lotta emphasis on darker, dreary colors. And lets not forget his first 2 movies were grainy-looking as well (especially 'julien donkey-boy', which was a dogma95 film). But in recent years, no matter how strange, weird, creepy or dark his newer movies may be, i still don't get the same feeling as i did before, because they are nicer to look at.

From ('95-'99):

To ('06-present):

See what i mean? Some of you may not see a difference, but i sure do. Nowadays there seems to be an emphasis on the color; red, yellow and pink (i realize there was the bunny kid in 'Gummo', but there's always an exception). No matter how many funny and silly parts there are in his first two movies, theres also some seriously dark shit in them too (a guy pimping out his retarded sister, incest, schizophrenia, etc). And the darker/somber/grainy look of those movies make those things seem even more depressing and disturbing. Today, Korine still has plenty of serious stuff in his movies (suicide, murder, depression, etc), but at least his new found love for colors and pretty landscapes (highlighted in 'Mister Lonely') make it easier to stomach that stuff.
An exception within Korine's recent work was his latest feature; 'Trash Humpers'. A movie about a gang of mentally deranged friends who wear old people masks that go around teaching kids to put razorblades in apples, kidnapping a baby, getting drunk, banging BBW prostitutes and ...humping trash. I (somewhat) enjoyed this movie, but Korine seemed to go back to his "old" style of directing with this one. The look, the atmosphere, everything. It almost seems like a loose sequel to 'Gummo'. 'Trash Humpers' gave me the most uneasy feeling out of anything Korine has done (mostly due to the ending). Also, as a little side observation, some of the imagery from 'Trash Humpers' reminded me of Diane Arbus's photography, which can be quite dark and creepy too. And i have to add, i don't think anyone has compared 'Trash Humpers' to Diane Arbus's work, so I'm just gonna claim that i did it first. Anyway, check out these images below of both; 'Trash Humpers' and some of Arbus's photos.

But still, outside of 'Trash Humpers', I think Harmony Korine continues to move in a new direction. I'm sure this blog will be proven even further with Korine's next film which is set to star Marlon Wayans (as far as i know that movie is still on). I understand if some of you were turned off by 'Gummo' or 'Julien Donkey-Boy', but if you gave up on Korine after those two movies, maybe its time give him another chance and check out his more recent work.
as a matter of fact, here's two of his new shorts right here:

Umshini Wam from Kawika T on Vimeo.


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