MARCH/APRIL 2010

Harmony Korine

[FILMMAKER, ENTERTAINER]

“CHILD ACROBATS, PEOPLE WHO CAN SET THEMSELVES ON FIRE—THAT’S ALWAYS WHAT KEPT ME GOING. GOLDFISH SWALLOWERS, PYGMIES—TO ME, THAT’S THE GREATEST THING IN LIFE.”
How to prepare for a curb dance:
Steal hundreds of parking curbs
Put them in your backyard
Have a weekend barbecue
Get on your tap shoes

After writing the screenplay for Kids at nineteen, Harmony Korine appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and talked about his father’s friendship with the legendary tap dancing duo the Nicholas Brothers. Later, he told Roger Ebert that he had lost touch with his father but had recently spotted him on Canal Street selling turtles. After directing Gummo, a dirty collage of a film about backwater life, he told interviewers that he hoped the film would play in shopping malls, that his next project was an adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses starring Snoop Dogg (as Leopold Bloom), and that, during the shooting of the film, he had found “a piece of a guy’s shoulder in a pillowcase.”

These anecdotes, whether true or whoppingly fat lies, are a part Harmony Korine’s unified vision. In both his life and work, Korine ignores coherent narrative, sense, and the line between fiction and truth, all in the pursuit of a purer form of entertainment, an experience untethered to culture or trends. His work is distinctly American in its subject matter, but has almost no relation to American cinema. Two recent films, Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely, contain some of the most elegant, lush images in memory, and yet Korine’s bleak vision of reality aches persistently at their core. This vision comes to a head in his new un-film, Trash Humpers, a disturbing and raw “home movie” about a gang of criminally insane elderly people who do terrible things to their neighbors (and hump trash). The primary actors were Korine and his wife, Rachel, who slept under bridges for character development. The entire film was edited with a couple of VCRs.

Throughout his life, Korine has created art in a variety of mediums—drawings and photographs for art galleries, fanzines with the poet Mark Gonzales, music videos, a fractured experimental novel, cameo roles for mainstream films, and Pass the Bitch Chicken, a collaborative book with the artist Christopher Wool. Much of Korine’s work can be linked to his early “Mistakist” Manifesto, which describes art as an experiment with accident, rather than an expression of self. Like Werner Herzog, a close collaborator and friend, Korine is less interested in clinging to meaning than he is in searching for it, wild and naked, in the worst part of town.

I interviewed Korine on the phone, while he was at home in Tennessee, near the neighborhood where Trash Humpers was filmed. If he was lying about anything, he lied joyously—in search of some pure entertainment.

—Ross Simonini

*

THE BELIEVER: You’ve said that your artistic goal is nonsense. I have a certain idea of what that word means, but I’m wondering what your definition of it is.

HARMONY KORINE: Things that don’t always add up, jokes with no punch lines, or things where there are pages missing in all the right places. Or maybe it’s not nonsense so much as an imperfection, things that have an emotional sense, rather than any kind of laid-out logic or standard set of rules. Things that are awkward. I just never really cared about perfect sense. I like perfect nonsense.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Ross Simonini is the interviews editor for the Believer.

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