Gummo
1997
Dir: Harmony Korine
As we continue our journey through indepedent cinema from the US, we stop off in Zenia, Ohio, for a strange and surreal look at its mostly white trash inhabitants.

And we discover a few more ingredients that go into making a real American 'indepedent film'.

Firstly, all the films in this season offer a view of the U.S. that is sharp, accurate, and sometimes cutting. But this view is always one that exists outside the mainstream America portrayed in Hollywood films. These films dig beneath the surface of the country and discover truths that are sometimes shocking.

'Gummo' certainly does that. It explores a side of society that is shocking, bewildering, and yet mesmerising. It gives us the same guilty pleasure that we might get from watching the Jerry Springer show. And yet, whilst Jerry Springer invites our disgust, Harmony Korine wallows in this world in a way that almost invites us in.

Secondly, an independent film has far more freedom than 'mainstream' films to explore different narrative structures. 'Gummo' shows no discernable connection between its different vignettes.

Thirdly, an independent film allows itself the risk of failing. Of course, Hollywood films fail, and fail regularly, but strangely that is usually despite playing it safe, and taking every possible measure and every ounce of highly-paid talent not to fail. Independent films are a more selfish vision that present themselves with a certain nonchalance about our reactions.

The reactions to 'Gummo' are as mixed as for any film ever made:

'To say that this is a pointless film about inbred mutants would be incorrect. It's not actually about the inbred mutants, since that would involve a plot, dialogue, things like that. In actual fact, the mutants are just passing through this garbage.'

'Harmony Karine is an asshole. Has he ever been to Ohio? I guess he figures any place other than New York or LA is just one big melting pot of hillbillies... I bet this guy loves the smell of his own farts.'

' Honestly, when I see positive reviews of this movie, I feel inexpressibly sad. The fact that intelligent human beings can actually enjoy this mess is a much more horrifying comment on society than the film itself.

In my lifetime I have seen my fair share of awful movies. But I have never seen a movie this pointless. I have never seen a movie this repulsive. I have never seen a movie this BAD. And, god willing, I never will again.'

'This is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. I have watched it 6 times and it's still interesting. '

'I don't know what Harmony Korine is going to do next, but he never has to worry that he hasn't yet made a great film.'

This was Harmony Korine's first film as director, following his debut as writer of 'Kids'.

Please note that this film also follows the early trend we have set for rabbit characters - 'Harvey', 'Donnie Darko' and now 'Gummo'. Any suggestions for future 'rabbit-themed' films?

Paul Spurrier