1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Odd little masterpiece, Feb. 8 2007
I first saw this film in the late '90s. I had mixed feelings about it then, but some of the images have stuck with me to the point that I recently bought a DVD copy. After repeated viewings I have to say that this is one of the most interesting and original films I have ever seen.
This is a remarkable piece of cinema. Now, do not interpret this as an unqualified endorsement of the film - it isn't. There is much about Gummo that is puerile, self-conscious and pretentious in the extreme. On the other hand, the film is visually stunning (thanks in no small part to the acclaimed cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier) and many of the images and scenes possess unescapable power and beauty. And this is a highly visual film. The dialogue is sparse and appears to be be largely improvised. (I say "appears", because Korine has demonstrated a talent for scripting and a remarkable ear for natural dialogue - see Larry Clark's "Kids"). However, with some glaring exceptions, the dialogue works quite well.
There is no plot or character development in this film. To critize Gummo on that basis is missing the point. Rather, it is a series of vignettes portraying the lives of lower-class inhabitants of a fictional southern town that had been devastated by a tornado. Much has been made of the fact that many of these characters are, to put it politely, marginalized (a midget, an albino, several mentally handicapped people) and Korine has been criticized for exploiting these people for their shock value. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth and the director has actually shown uncommon respect and compassion for his characters. Unlike Hollywood caricatures (a la Forrest Gump), Korine has managed to potray these characters as real people possessing self-awareness and dignity under difficult (or even tragic) circumstances. No small feat, this.
Although far from perfect and NOT for every taste, Gummo is an original. Arguably the film shows such diverse influences as Werner Herzog (Even Dwarves Started Small), Terrence Malick (Badlands) and Richard Linklater (Slacker). However, it is a unique film that deserves a wider audience. Harmony Korine is undeniably talented and to dismiss him as a precocious wunderkind, while true to some extent, is far too facile. While you may disagree with his vision, it is nevertheless a valid one. I for one look forward to seeing his future output, even though he seems to have gone into hiding following the release of his equally impressive "Julien the Donkey Boy".