Acclaimed screenwriter, award-winning first time director, neophyte artist, pending author, comedic bit part actor… a 23 year old instigator of controversial ideas. Harmony Korine is attempting the almost impossible, to infiltrate his uncommercial, and uncompromising agenda – a pure vision – into the mainstream. For as soon as an artist takes notice of what other people want he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull and amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. As the saying goes: “He chooses you, you cannot choose Him.”
EXT: MERCER STREET. LOWER EAST SIDE – MIDDAY
Outside some shops, a young girl is standing alone. She is dressed like a gypsy princess. She has the body of a 13-year-old, but the face of a beautiful woman. Korine spots her from a distance and immediately begins asking her name, age and where she’s from. Her mother exits the shop holding a violin. She looks nervous that a strange man is talking to her young daughter. The girl’s father follows and recognising Korine begins saying, “I shoot for Screw magazine, I shoot real hardcore. You want to see real New York, I’ll show you real New York. None of that fucking Kids stuff, I’ll show you hookers, the youngest girls, and rent boys. I do real reportage.” His daughter stands next to him, looking unfazed. Korine asks her for her telephone number and she asks him why he wants it, “So I can call you, I’d like you to be in a film,” he explains. She looks at him up and down, and with a completely straight face says, “No, gimme your number.I’ll call you.”
Gummo, Korine’s debut film has been championed by directors Gus Van Sant, Jean Luc Godard and Larry Clark, and has earned the congratulations of Werner Herzog, Lars von Trier and Abel Ferrara. They are all far older than Korine, yet all unconventional directors in their own right. Perhaps what they see in Gummo is a pure and daring singular vision, something that is almost impossible to achieve let alone maintain in the commodified world of popular culture. With so many careerists, crowd pleasers, recyclers, fame for the sake of fame seekers, insurrection, especially in an original and powerful voice, is not only to be celebrated, but practically revered.
Gummo has won both an International Critics’ Prize at The Venice Film Festival and, more recently,the Grand Jury prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival, yet it also has its detractors and has been denounced in some parts of the US media as “boring, redundant and sick,” as well as “the worst film of the year.” “When it comes to boy wonders exploring the cutting edge of independent cinema, ” wrote Janet Maslin in the New York Times, “the buck stops cold right here.” Two dimensional media analysis paints Korine as a genius wunderkind on the one hand and a cause-celebre opportunist on the other. Perhaps he is both, but more likely he is neither. Real original voices are rarely understood and nearly always marginalised by those who control the status quo. The laws of our media landscape are there to either mock or scapegoat those who attempt to do new things. Korine’s a three dimensional rebel, the real thing, that’s why the mainstream media in America have done their best to try and discourage him.
The portrait of an artist as a slightly younger man shows “Harmful” Korine, the teenage skateboarder, and the Mohican-sporting photographer meeting in Central Park. Korine told Clark about a short script he had written. It was the story of a boy who is taken by his estranged father on his thirteenth birthday to a prostitute for his first sexual experience. It wasn’t until almost a year later that Clark, remembering Korine’s script talked him through a brief outline for a film. Three weeks later, the 19-year-old Korine finished the first draft of Kids. With the help of executive producer Gus Van Sant, the film began shooting in the summer of 1994. Although he is an avid cinemaphile, Korine never studied film or scriptwriting, yet Kids showed a natural ear for dialogue and cinematic structure. Korine teamed up with Cary Woods, the producer of Kids and subsequently Scream and Cop Land to make Gummo. Woods’ protective style suited Korine’s creative independence and although Gummo was eventually made with Fine Line, a mini-major for approximately one million dollars it was virtually uninfluenced by corporate strategy. In fact given the increasingly commercial climate in the US film industry it’s incredible that Gummo was even funded.
EXT: A SIDEWALK IN FRONT OF A MUSIC SHOP – AFTERNOON
“You’ve dropped your pocket.” Korine walks past a couple shopping and taps the man on the shoulder repeating the line, “You’ve dropped your pocket.” The man looks down at the ground, confused, searching for nothing he has lost. “Watch this, he’ll be there for half an hour. We’ll get to the end of the street and he’ll still be there.” We walk further, into the distance and I turn around as we reach the end of the street. The man and wife are now both on their hands and knees, arguing with each other, and looking for the nothing they’ve lost. “You see, it works every time,” says Korine.
Welcome to the world of Gummo; a film where you are never quite sure what is going to happen next; a cinema of unpredictability, where conventional structure and plot are discarded in favour of a non-linear approach to storytelling. Welcome to Xenia, a tornado-devastated town in Ohio. Where Kids exposed us to a compelling portrayal of 24 hours in the life of a group of New York teenagers; their attitudes to underage sex, drugs, street fashion, and AIDS; Gummo transports us to small town, run down, rural America, where handicapped sex, breast cancer, teenage transvestitism, paedophilia, and racism are subtexts. Korine takes no moral stance, leaving it up to us to work out whether we should laugh or cry, feel embarrassed or afraid at this mirage of truth, closeness, and access. This is what more cinema should be about, not a fast food, pop cult-fiction package, where we all consensually laugh and cry in syncopated rhythm. It’s imagery that keeps popping back into your mind weeks after you’ve seen it, and a film whose unresolved dilemmas are left scratching away under the surface of the skin: a Down’s Syndrome girl shaves her eyebrows because she thinks it makes her look more beautiful; a midget arm wrestles a big bear of a man and wins; a deaf couple argue through intense hand gesticulation; teenage boys kill cats so they can buy glue to get high; an albino waitress in a car park describes what she finds attractive about men; three extremely young white trash sisters get touched up by a middle aged man. It’s a vortex of original ideas; part poetry, part nonsense, part youth culture rhetoric, and in Korine’s own words a “complete genre-fuck.” There’s no cyncicism here, no irony or postmodern mask. Korine’s observed sense of realism almost verges on social anthropology. Shot mainly in Nashville, Tennessee, Korine’s home town, Gummo features only four actors; Chloe Sevigny (Kids), Linda Manz (Days Of Heaven), Max Perlich (Beautiful Girls, Drugstore Cowboy), and Jacob Reynolds (The Road To Wellville) in an ensemble cast of over 40 speaking parts. The lives of the local people, old schoolfriends and acquaintances are seen through the hypnotic and beautifully inventive cinematography of Jean Yves Escoffier who has also worked with Leos Carax on such classic films as Les Amants Du Pont Neuf and Trois Hommes Et Un Coffin, as well as Martin Scorsese’s short film 100 Years Of American Cinema.
INT: KORINE’S APARTMENT – LATE AFTERNOON
Korine puts on a video cassette to to show me a scene from Gummo cut by the censors.
INT: APARTMENT IN XENIA, OHIO – AFTERNOON
The sound of a Bach cello concerto. A small child begins by removing pictures from the living room wall. Behind the framed prints, spiders, cockroaches and woodlice crawl. He squashes them with the edge of the picture frame and gets off his stool to return to the couch where a couple are inhaling aerosol fumes. The TV is on, but the sound is switched off. The house is a mess. The young child climbs into his mother’s lap and in a framing reminiscent of the Madonna child, she holds his head and offers him the aerosol. He cups its flute with both hands as if it were a baby bottle and takes a deep, inhalatory breath.
Korine’s unprecious yet precise mixed media approach to collaging Gummo sees Polaroids, home movie footage (shot by many of the kids) as well as sampled TV clips cut up Escoffier’s fluid filming. There is a rhythm and layering that isn’t far removed from the looping and sampling process of drum ‘n’ bass. Korine brings to cinema a contemporary vernacular and street – suss; a new beauty, a new way of seeing and thinking, and in the process a big fuck you to everyone else. As well as Gummo, Korine’s debut novel A Crackup At The Race Riots will be published in America in April. He is also represented as an artist by two prestigious galleries; The Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York where he recently exhibited a collection of fake suicide notes, and the Patrick Painter Gallery in Los Angeles (which also reps Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Larry Clark, and Douglas Gordon) where he exhibited video installation pieces (The installations sold to the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art). This month Korine tears up the big screen in a hilarious, but very brief part as a convict in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. Korine looks like a schoolboy; a blur of unkempt and undone K-Mart shoes, hip-hop stances and heavy metal T-shirts, but he’s really 53 years old. He’s just got one of those rare anti-aging diseases that makes him look permanently 18. He was an authorative documentarian in the ’60s and now he is busy reinventing himself as a renaissance man, thinly disguised as a cheeky adolescent filmmaker with the concentration span of an art star on coke. The urban mythology of Korine: He pretends to be drunk on the David Letterman Show, his on-off relationship with long term partner and prominent actress Chloe Sevigny is peppered with alleged supermodel affairs; he has been banned from a New York hotel bar after starting a fight, and has slagged off big films like Boogie Nights. Although it seems to have calmed down a lot in recent months, his reputation as both auteur and raconteur precedes him. In a medium where everything is autobiographical and everything is fictional at the same time, Korine’s fiction is ultimately a branch of his truth, and being one stage removed, it’s hard for me not to see him as the main character in the movie adaptation of the story of his life.
KORINE’S TOP TEN FILMS:
Pixote – Hector Babenco
Badlands and Days of Heavan – Terrence Malick
Fat City – John Huston
Stroszek – Werner Herzog
The Killing of A Chinese Bookie and A Women Under the Influence – John Cassavetes
McCabe and Mrs Miller – Robert Altman
Out of The Blue – Dennis Hopper
Hail Mary – Jean-Luc Goddard
EXT: SOHO. BUSY STREET CORNER BY A BAR – EARLY EVENING
Leonardo DiCaprio and Korine are walking together. They approach a group of bikers who are busy drinking outside a bar. Korine accidentally knocks into the biggest biker as he walks past. He is enormous, his hair hangs in a ponytail, his fists bandaged in leather, fingerless gloves. He partially spills his drink and begins screaming at Korine, “Come here you little punk, you fucker.” DiCaprio stands behind Korine, taunting the biker with a highly animated gorilla impression. DiCaprio’s arms are swinging from side to side as Korine walks towards the biker and instinctively pulls a switchblade from his back pocket, the street lights reflecting off the steel blade. The biker backs off, and Korine, avoiding a prolonged stand-off, starts walking down the road. With the sound of the cursing biker fading in the distance, Korine turns to DiCaprio, they put their arms around each other, and laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.
Dazed & Confused: Did you ever have an attention deficit disorder when you were younger?
Harmony Korine: I’m sure I had it. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t take me to the type of people that would know what that was … I should have been on Ritalin. I was a total Ritalin kid. But I guess my parents weren’t into that. You know, instead, I would like, light my yard on fire.
Dazed: You lit the yard on fire?
Korine: Yeah, I remember my parents went to see The Outsiders at the shopping mall 100 miles away from our house and I stayed home and lit the yard on fire. The fire trucks came and there I was trying to put it out with a wet towel. The firetrucks were there for hours but my parents were at the shopping mall. When thay came back, the yard was all burnt and there was still smoke. So knowing my father’s penchant for violence, I took a chair and I pulled my pants down, exposing my ass and I said, ‘I lit the yard on fire; you can beat me,’ and he didn’t say anything. He went outside and got a yellow bat and he smashed me, without saying anything. That’s what I remember most, that he wasn’t saying anything. He wasn’t even out of breath. It was amazing.
Dazed: Most kids would just try to run away from what was going to happen. But you just decided to face the music.
Korine: I guess I never thought about it like that.
Dazed: Are you interested in making documentaries?
Korine: I feel documentary always falls short. I think cinema verite is a fallacy, that the documentary is manipulated, there’s no such thing as truth in film. The idea that Godard said about 24 frames of truth, was always for me the ultimate lie. It’s just 24 frames of lies. But the best cinema to me works on a kind of theoretical level where it’s 24 frames of sort of truth. For me, being a writer and an artist and a viewer, the only thing I’m interested in is realism. If it’s not presented to me in a way that’s real, with real consequences, real characters, I have no desire to see it, because then it’s fake. It’s a cartoon, and I just don’t care about that stuff. But at the same time, in this ultimate search for truth, for realism, I know it’s impossible to attain, so what do you do? It’s like Gummo, people say, ‘Oh! My God, it’s got no script.’ And there’s a total script. But that’s what it is, a trick. Everything is presented as if it’s real, I’m manipulating everything.
Dazed: I liked the philosophising. There were simple one-liners of the ‘I’m going to kill myself and will anyone care when I’m gone’ variety. The ‘life is great, without it we’d be dead,’ rhetoric.
Korine: ‘Life is great, without it we’d be dead,’ was an old Vaudeville joke.
Dazed: Or ‘America would be nothing without wood!’ I assume what you’re doing is just punching people with ideas, images, sequences, and then, hopefully they will extract their own truth from it.
Korine: I am also interested in the whole kind of beauty of nonsense and in fully trying to make all the connections a lot of times come up short and I’m saying things that aren’t really the intention.
Dazed: What would you say to someone who said ‘well it’s not realism, it’s just as stylized as MTV’?
Korine: I wouldn’t understand that. I never feel the need to defend my work at all. I sometimes will, but it’s either gotten or it’s forgotten and that’s fine.
Dazed: I remember talking to you when you were very worried that the film might not get a rating. And that was the time that you were probably at your lowest point after the film had been made. What happened?
Korine: I’m a 100 percent commercial filmmaker. I have nothing to do with independent directors, alternative cinema. I make Harmony movies. It’s a cinema of obsession and passion. But at the same time, I can’t differentiate between notions of underground. Underground film, underground music, alternative culture, to me it doesn’t exist. To me the future is either good or bad and it’s kind of making sense of both those things. Like the film – I involve scenes and situations that are the scenes that I love. It’s only scenes and images that I wanted to see, with no real explanation. Nothing coming before it. So getting back to the question, I was basically free to make this movie this way, which is a miracle. Because what’s on screen is a pure vision. The way things are structured is that people leave me alone. I have nothing to do with anyone. I have no idea about how other people make their movies. I don’t make very much money. I don’t concern myself with others. I don’t fraternise with the enemy. I just work, and I love and I fight and I just do my own thing. So I am making this film and I finish editing and it has to go before the ratings board. The only stipulation in my contract with the studio Fine Line is that I had to turn in a R rated film. Basically, in America, few studios will distribute NC-17. NC-17, in the States, is a kind of word for X. Basically, that’s because 75 percent of the theaters in America won’t accept the film. 95 per cent of the video chains where you make half your money won’t accept it, like Blockbuster. You can’t advertise on MTV. You can’t advertise in 90 percent of magazines or newspapers. So right there you’re limited to percent of the funds.
Dazed: So there was this point where you were being told it was going to be given an NC-17.
Korine: We gave it to the NPA, who are these people who have these really vague guidelines. There is nothing really to follow. It’s more like ‘how do you feel…’
Dazed: What did they find particularly outrageous or shocking about Gummo?
Korine: They would say ‘You’re lingering on these boys huffing glue out of their sacks. You’re lingering on it for too long.’ So we’d cut it, but it wouldn’t be enough. And then basically after the seventh time and I was going to cut no more and I’d cut a few more minutes out of the film…
Dazed: You probably could have cut those sequences shorter… Instead of lingering on the kids taking drugs the image would have been less exploratory and far more punchy and perhaps even more destructive an image.
Korine: That was the whole point. They were saying that if it were more MTV. If I cut it, if it was really rapid… If I stripped the film of any type of content, if I made it totally void of any kind of meaning, if I made what Trainspotting was, if I made it heightened and I made it cartoonish, and something that was much more over the top and much more satirical that you could laugh off then you would realise that it was a movie, it would be OK.
Dazed: So you must have wanted to punch their heads in…
Korine: I went nuts.
Dazed: Did you go in front of the board; did they summon you or did you ask for the meeting?
Korine: After the seventh time, you’re allowed to – it’s kind of like going to court – you’re allowed to call the jury. And then you’re allowed to make a speech and there’s supposed to be a certain number of representatives from the ratings board and I swear to you every single person was over 65 years old; they looked like Bush. There’s only one woman; they’re all men. I made my speech. I said, “If you look at the film, you’re seeing almost no nudity; there’s no violence except violence toward animals.” I went into this whole speech that I hated myself for having to explain to these fuckers but I knew I had to do it, and then it took them forty-five seconds to vote me down. Forty-five seconds to say NC-17. They didn’t care. So the next day I called. I told them what they were doing was illegal, I’m calling all the newspapers, I am going to expose you…
Korine: Someone on the board. And I meant it. It was someone who was a liason between the ratings board and the studio who I felt was lying to me. I told him without hesitation that I’ll take the next fight over and I’ll stab him in the fucking throat. I said, ‘I’ll cut your fucking head off ’cause I didn’t grow up as a rich kid playing that whole game. I’m not a part of that and the work means so much more and if I can’t show it, it’s not only a betrayal to me, it’s a betrayal to all those people in the film because these are people that gave themselves to the film.’ The next morning I got a call from my agent and he’s freaked out that I threatened someone’s life but the rating was reversed.
Dazed: That’s amazing. Absolutely amazing. Do you think it took them 45 seconds to reverse it?
Korine: I wish we could have timed it.
Dazed: Do you think all films should be R rated or can you see some reasons for a ratings system?
Korine: I think it’s fine… I think ratings systems are fine. Some Disney films should be PG.
Dazed: Did you ever apply to film school; were you ever interested in learning the art of cinematography or studying the art of filmmaking on that level?
Korine: I feel strongly about that because I’m not making movies for the same reasons that most people make films. I grew up in the cinema. Buster Keaton changed my life, I realized that there was something so pure, there was a kind of tragic beauty that I had never seen before, and it was so movng and so big, what could be more amazing than what I was seeing…? So for me there was almost something holy about the cinema. My life is always 50 percent watching movies and 50 percent living life. Living life is always more interesting than films. I find life is more exciting, because it’s limitless. Films can only imitate life. They can only go to a certain point and then life begins. Watching films, I started to realise that they are all starting to seem the same. That they all have the same kind of humor, the same kind of actors, the same kind of characteristics, why is that? And I started to realise that everybody is going to these film schools and these are all people, who, 15 years ago would have gone to doctor’s school and now they want to make movies. None of them have any kind of stories to tell. All of their films are about this kind of process, about this generic kind of storytelling. More than anything, the great films are about life. There was once a day when cinema had glory. When John Ford was making movies, and Fassbinder was making movies, and Cassavetes, when there was glory cause films once had the essence of life to them. And then something happened. I felt that film school was this place that was only teaching people to be technicians. And to think the same, have the same sense of humor and the same stories, and I realised that all you ever need to be a filmmaker is to watch films. I understood this at a young age.
Dazed: Would you have made Gummo if you only had $20,000 and only one camera or would you have waited until you got $1 million?
Korine: Yeah, I would have waited.
Dazed: And what if it never came?
Korine: I would have walked away.
Dazed: You wouldn’t have made the film?
Korine: No …
Dazed: Isn’t that bullshit? If you’re that passionate about it, if it meant that much to you to tell that story and not be a technician…
Korine: I might have made another fim. The thing is this, it’s like the reason I never did music videos and all these other things that came along, is because I only wanted to make Gummo. I only wanted it to be this way. It either had to be perfectly this vision or it fell short.
Dazed: Gummo does not obviously reference any other film, and if it does, it’s very hidden. And what’s interesting is that right now, everyone is being ironic; everyone is using parody or heavily quoting their influences. All the young and maybe middle generation filmmakers seem more interested in the past than the future.
Korine: I only was interested in inventing a new film like the way I wanted to watch movies with images coming from all the right places. A ‘mistakist’ art form.
Dazed: Explain that term to me.
Korine: What I mean by mistakist, and I think it’s important to give a kind of aeshetic or form a name just because it’s easier for people to reference. What I mean by mistakist is almost like anti-Hitchcock. When Hitchcock would make a film, before he made it, it was finished. When I make a film, the script is the script and that’s the bare bones and it’s dead. All the accidents, all the life that come to it, that’s the film.
Dazed: There are moments you could never direct. They are undirectable, like the chair smashing scene.
Korine: Jean Escoffier,the cinematographer, and I talked before we shot about what films we might reference and we both decided to reference nothing. We decided to let the situation dictate the way it’s filmed. And so what we did is, I set up chaos. Everything around me was chaos.
Dazed: You mean behind the scenes there was chaos?
Korine: Both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, a lot of the time mixed. And I was setting up situations where a chaotic event would happen and I knew it would happen. And I would give everybody a camera. I would give my little sister a camera. I would give Escoffier a camera. I would give someone a video camera, or a Super-8 camera and everyone would be filming.
Dazed: So there’s a large element of collaboration with the subjects of the film, the actors, the non – actors. They were collaborating in a way that they were helping you make the film. This is what negates any sense of exploitation for me.
Korine: It’s all about life, that is what’s interesting to me.
Dazed: In a sense you are working from the inside out?
Korine: Because art for too long has been from a distance… It’s been coming from the wrong directions. It’s about artists trying to solve problems and then go inside.
Dazed: Like math problems…
Korine: Exactly. That’s what it’s become. Postmodern art to me is like math problems.
Dazed: So your book, the film, the scripts you have written, are a random collection of your obsessions and thoughts. What’s the spirit of what you’re trying to say through all of it?
Korine: I would never answer you as far as what I am trying to say. Because for one I don’t even really know, and for another, I do the work and I would never take on the responsibility of answering. The one connection would be what Charles Eames talked about ‘a unified aesthetic.’ I could design a chair; I could do a tap dance, or I could write an opera, or hang glide…
Dazed: You don’t feel precious about any particular medium…
Korine: …Or I could go in my bathroom and hang myself and die but it would all be part of the same person and the ideas. There would be this unified thought. This unified aesthetic.
Dazed: There was a thing that you mentioned last night, you said that ‘There are people that want to hurt me. They really want to hurt me and I won’t let them,’ and that was a reaction to the people that want to maintain the status quo.
Korine: You mean the people complaining about my nihilism? Like the guy in Vogue magazine who was screaming that I was a nihilist and I was the reason that the world was bad.
Dazed: People need scapegoats for the reason that things are the way they are. You are a 23-year-old director working to bring new images, new ideas into the mass arena where they don’t already exist. In a sense you are a flag carrier. These people want to maintain the status quo, that power. Are you worried about that or does that excite you?
Korine: What excites me is that these people are old and I want to destroy these dinosaurs. I feel that they are ruining the air that we breathe, killing the films that I watch and the way that I live. I want to get them out of the way. In another ten or fifteen years, the people that understand and appreciate Gummo or my work will be in positions of power, but for right now the bourgeois fuckers they must die. Vive La France.
Dazed: That’s exactly what I was hoping you were going to say.
Korine: But it is. It’s time for youth culture to take over, I know it sounds silly, but it’s true and I am not even saying that I have this great belief in the youth, because I don’t. I have a great belief in certain individuals. Certain talented individuals. I don’t have a great belief in a group of people, but at the same time many of them aren’t getting the attention that they deserve and maybe it’s time for them to step up.
Dazed: Tell me about the final days of filming.
Korine: We shot the entire film in twenty days. There’s a scene in the movie where the girls are in a swimming pool, in the rain. I had this picture, this image and we could never get it to coincide with the rain and at the same time I wanted it raining at the finale. Everyday it was supposed to rain, it wouldn’t rain. And these were the really important shots and I kept putting it back and putting it back. And people kept saying, ‘You’re nuts, there’s no way we’ll ever finish this movie.’ I knew not to worry. I always have. So on the final day, we had a storm. That day, out of 20 days of sunshine, we had a storm. We shot the swimming pool scene and we shot the finale with the rabbit. We shot the entire arm-wrestling scene and we shot my scene, last of all, with the black dwarf.
Dazed: All in one day?
Korine: All in one day.
Dazed: Were you drunk when you shot the scene with you and the dwarf?
Korine: I never work when intoxicated or under the influence, but I knew for the scene I wanted something special, so I got very drunk. I did that scene and I was totally out of it and it was two in the morning and that was the end of the film. It was dead quiet and everyone was shaking because here I am trying to make love to a black dwarf and I’m being rejected. And the dwarf was in his tight white underwear and I’m whispering in his ear that I’ll give him $100 if he takes off his underwear and he won’t do it for me. So I stand up, it’s two in the morning, and I stand up and I scream: ‘We made a movie. We finished the film. We made an original movie.’ I am screaming and I’m totally out of my mind. And everyone starts clapping and is happy but I don’t really know what’s going on. My younger sister who’s 19, who worked on the film, runs up to give me a hug and I threw her through the door. Then I take a painting that’s lying in the house and I start running and smashing the windows through the house. And Chloe and a few people start crying. Everyone starts flipping out and my sister’s bleeding and I’m just smashing up the windows. Then this huge grip, this bald guy that looks like Mr. Clean takes me by the neck and just throws me in a car. He drove me back to my apartment and then we all kind of had a party afterward. I tried to walk home and somebody gave me a cigar on the street and I took some scissors and I started cutting my pubic hair, with my pants down, and I just fainted into a plastic bucket.
Dazed: Let’s talk about all these other directors. There’s this whole list that’s generously prefixed before you in articles. Godard, Cassavetes, Fellini… etc. Which of these are really your favorites and which are just critics sticking them in to make themselves sound important?
Korine: The idea of being a pragmatist or being a worker doesn’t appeal to me. It’s only about great artists. For me, it’s certain directors, or maybe certain films that have influenced me. Of course, the most interesting career is Fassbinder’s career because he was working at such a rate, such an intense level… One year he made nine feature films. He was famous for saying that his films were like a house: Some were wood floors, some were walls, some were the chimney. At the end of his life the whole idea was that he could he live in this house of his work and I love that idea. The two things I remember about films: It’s characters and certain scenes. I never remember plots; I never remember the whole thing – I only remember specifics – and Fassbinder was so great because there are certain scenes that he would show you that no one else would give you.
Dazed: How did you come across Alan Clarke, because he’s quite obscure in America?
Korine: If someone said to me who is the greatest director or my favorite, I would say Alan Clarke without hesitation. His stories, without ever being derivative, and without ever having a simple ABC narrative are totally organic, precious and amazing. It was nothing but him. In a strange way I don’t even like talking about him in the press or to people because he is the last filmmaker or artist that is really sacred. But especially in America no one knows who he is, even in England there is very little attention.
Dazed: How did it feel to win the Critics’ Award in Venice?
Korine: It’s good that people liked the movie. There is someone that likes it and someone that hates it and I just got to keep truckin’ baby.
Dazed: You are getting your ass licked by the whole of young, avant-garde New York. It must be quite strange. Do you feel how temporal all of that is?
Korine: Because my ass is all slippery? To be honest with you, I’m working so I don’t deal with it, but I guess now, that the film is over and I am doing all this promotional stuff… I just deal with it. I was a little bit more prepared for it because of Kids. When Kids came out I had just turned 19 and all that stuff happened and that was traumatic. I was almost having nervous breakdowns. I was going from living in my grandmother’s house with no money to…
Dazed: …Being around supermodels and film stars…
Korine: Right, which to me was really unfulfilling.
Dazed: Is that the kind of world you feel quite comfortable in now?
Korine: Obvioulsy not. The only time I have anything to do with them is when I am approached by them. I have the same friends I’ve always had. And it doesn’t really matter to me. You know, I have nothing to do with any of them, except when they bother me.
Dazed: Do you think you would work again with Chloe in a film?
Korine: In the future the more she works with other directors, the less interested in her I become.
Dazed: Do you really mean that?
Korine: I totally mean that, and that’s not to say that she shouldn’t be working wih other directors. If she likes the script, she should do what she wants to do. I mean that for almost anyone.
Dazed: Do you think she’s one of the best actresses of her generation?
Korine: Definitely. I don’t even think she has any competition. Because I don’t think she’s scared of taking on characters. I don’t think of Chloe as a leading woman. I think of her more as a character actor, which is the only kind of actor I would ever be interested in.
Dazed: The final question is that everyone must think that you are absolutely loaded, that you must be a very wealthy young man.
Korine: It’s a lie!! It’s a fucking lie!
Other Harmony Projects:
A Crack-up At the Race Riots
This, “novel in pieces,” as the Doubleday publisher’s catalogue describes it, is in part epigrammatic half remembered scenes, mini-stories, questions, invented letters from Tupac Shakur to his mother, and a series of suicide notes written in different characters. As you’ve most likely guessed it’s not a novel in the conventional sense, then again nothing with Korine ever is, it’s more a cut and paste collage of his personal scrapbook of ideas. It’s hilarious, likely to be offensive, definitely contentious, about as nonsensical as it is essential. In short, the book represents an unusual treatise to the contents of Korine’s hyperactive mind.
Artworks and Shows
Many filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant or Chris Doyle, have exhibitions of their photography. Conversely, many exhibited photographers, such as Larry Clark and Robert Frank, have gone on to become filmmakers, but few, if any have toyed with the idea of exhibiting video installations in galleries. If film is somehow the heir apparent of photography and video its scatological next in line, then Korine’s installation exhibition at the Patrick Painter Gallery in LA really sets a generation gap scene. Three seperate one hour projected videos, a loop of a Down’s Syndrome girl in a swimming pool singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and video collages. Interestingly enough, the exhibition opened before the release of Gummo in LA, making it Hollywood’s first taste if Korine’s visual aesthetic.
Potentially Korine’s best script to date is Ken Park, a feature he wrote directly after Kids, it’s a narrative based story, set in a small town community that follows the exploits of a group of teenagers, their relationships with each other and thier parents. It begins with a suicide and ends with an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a tragic comedy, a neo – realist drama. It’s Kids with grown-ups, teenage sex with parental consent and parental violence thrown in. Take that one to the censors. Rumor has it that Korine sold Ken Park to Larry Clark and cinematographer Ed Lockman for a series of original photographs and $2,000, but because Clark and Lockman have allegedly fallen out, no one knows if it will even be made.
Korine’s penchant for cut and paste and satire and his idiosyncratic deconstruction of media culture can also be seen in his hand – made fanzines. These A5, black and white, photcopied ‘zines (sold for $20 each through the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York) show Korine’s prankster nature, and insurrectionist agenda come to the fore. It’s part surreal humor, rumors and invented pop gossip. Pocahontas Monthly, a collaboration with Mark Gonzales, is page after page of made up Hollywood stories such as ‘Kevin Bacon Sucked Dick In The Summer Of ’76′, hand scrawled over one side. Humer, Korine’s own self-penned ‘zine is slightly more sophisticated; passages stolen from old film encyclopedia reviews and biographies, question and answer sessions ripped from magazines, the names replaced by well-known personalities.