Often misunderstood as the enfant terrible of the indie film world, Harmony Korine, the gifted screenwriter of Kids and filmmaker of Gummo and julien donkey-boy, has returned with Mister Lonely, out now on DVD from Genius Products and IFC. Mister Lonely will no doubt fuel the admiration – and derision – aimed at Korine, whose latest film concerns a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who joins a commune of celebrity impersonators as well as a troupe of nuns who discover if they pray hard enough, they may jump out of an airplane and land on the ground safely.
Korine spoke with Home Media Magazine about his latest film, its DVD extras, and the long gestation period between this film and his last one.
Billy Gil: In the interviews included on the Mister Lonely DVD, you talk about two images that helped directly inspire the film: a Michael Jackson impersonator wandering a city, and nuns jumping out of airplanes and landing safely. Where did those images come from?
Harmony Korine: I hadn’t made a movie in a long time. I spent time in the jungle in South America. I had heard about this bar in the jungle where people would drink beer with this sloth. So I went there this one night and started hanging out with these Indians and people there. I just started imagining, dreaming of nuns jumping out of airplanes on bicycles, like doing tricks in the clouds. I also had this idea of impersonators. I started thinking of what it would be like to have them all living together in this communal setting. I spent some time in a commune as a child. It started out as two separate ideas… and even though these ideas didn’t connect in any narrative way, I thought they spoke the same ideas. There was a poetic punctuation or something, like the two stories danced with each other.
Gil: It was quite a bit of time between movies for you. When did you first gather the ideas that would come to be Mister Lonely, and how long did it then take you to write and make the film?
Korine: Around the time of julien donkey-boy, I kind of was pretty much lost. I wanted to stop making films. I was pretty much living like a tramp. My reality had become insane. I thought the most admirable thing would just be to disappear.
I did different odd jobs. I would mow lawns. I did these different things. I went and traveled around America and just spent some time around jungles and things. I really didn’t even think about making movies. I felt like I had done that and the rest of my life would just be something else, something away from that, but then, you know, it was a strange thing that had happened. Enough time had passed. It wasn’t anything miraculous, but I had just accumulated enough ideas and images and could feel again. I’ve always felt you can’t make movies without some form of love. When I felt like I had love for movies again, I thought I could do it again.
Gil: The deleted scenes each stood alone well. Why did you choose not to include those scenes?
Korine: A lot of them I liked, some of them are just as good as anything in the actual movie, but literally it’s one of those things that happens in all my films, I shoot a lot and make things up as we go and it’s impossible to put everything in there just because of length and pacing and stuff. Some of those scenes that are deleted, the one that still haunts me is the three stooges with the hula hoops. It was one of those things I should have found a place for but just couldn’t. There was that scene with the boy in the bus that was really funny.
Gil: Your films are given mixed reviews, and this was no exception. Why do you think some critics and viewers have such trouble with your work?
Korine: That’s just the kind of films I make. I don’t think I would even be able to make a film that had kind of a unified reaction or some kind of consensus reaction. I just thought that, especially in my earlier films, it was just provocation. I just wanted to throw a bomb at things. Sometimes it’s fun just to watch things explode, just to blow shit up and document the explosion. At the same time, I feel very strongly about a certain kind of film. It’s not that I don’t like commercial films, I would just rather not make movies than have to change that.
Gil: Mister Lonely is warmer than your other films, even though it’s still dark and sad. Why?
Korine: I think just because movies are like moods. You make a film, at least I make films, and they reflect your mental state at the time of making them, or a whim or a tangent. I wasn’t interested in making the same kind of film. I think there are lines that connect through the films, but in the end I hadn’t made a movie in a long time and… I wanted to make something that was slightly more hopeful or bigger in some way.
Gil: Are there any plans to revisit any of your previous films or projects on DVD or Blu-ray?
Korine: I would definitely be into it, if someone proposed something that was really interesting. It’s been 10 years since Gummo. But I don’t even own any of my own films. I don’t sit around and think about it too much. The victory is in the making them and that they exist in some capacity. I just try to keep moving. But at the same time sure, it would be great to do something special.