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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Highlight of 1990's US Cinema., 6 Oct. 2002
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Gummo [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is one of the major films of the 1990's, as suggested by its presence in a recent poll in Sight & Sound; some of it is very hard to watch- recalling films like Eloge de l'Amour, Festen and Happy Together. There is also a link to the imagery of Larry Clark (Teenage Lust), which is expected since Korine wrote Kids- their collaboration, this and Bully feature young topless males frequently.
Korine's debut from 1997 is as beguiling as 2000's Julien Donkey Boy- there is little like this in contemporary cinema. The story?- a tornado has occurred and left few adults- thus children run free like wild dogs in a midwestern town. It feels like a fragmented portrait, recalling Godard's Masculin-Feminin. The film generally centres of two young males (Reynolds & Sutton) who travel on BMX's through the smalltown despatching cats with guns. Sometimes the characters come together, more frequently not.
There are many iconic shots here- the opening sequence of Bunny Boy on the bridge, though he is best towards the end where, one shoe on, he pulls a Christ pose on a skateboard on stunning video. Or the wonderful scene where he is with two girls in the swimming pool as it rains and Roy Orbison's Crying plays (as good as the scene's in Lynch's Blue Velvet & Mulholland Drive that use the music of the big O). There are some quite odd homoerotic scenes- the best being the skinhead Jehovah's witness brothers fighting in a kitchen or Korine's performance as a ****ed up type with a black midget on a settee (between the world of Freaks & the failure that was Storytelling). Great to see the use of Slayer- giving it the feel of 80's classic River's Edge (can someone reissue that , please?). The Like a Prayer sequence is great also...The highlight for me is the wonderful Chloe Sevigny, one of the greatest actresses around- and the costumes she designs are brilliant also.
Gummo is an acquired taste, but persist and you will realise it is a great work of art and a highlight of 1990's US cinema.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal Realism, 11 April 2007
By 
D. Hale - See all my reviews
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Gummo can't really be described.

The simple thing to claim would be that it is the rural version of Kids, which Korine wrote, and many of that film's preoccupations are here: bored, bleak youth, an ear for dialogue, shock... but it is so much more than that.

The plot stated above doesn't have much impact on the actual film and what happens is more about the aimless, bleak lives of Xenia's inhabitants- the very poorest and most ignored of white trash. The two boys who kill cats to sniff glue are not a central focus, the story comes from all angles and from all positions and there isn't really a protagonist or a narrator, rather a series of short scenes and vingettes that mean little on their own but go together to create a clear depiction of how these people live.

If nothing else Gummo is a set of really beautiful and striking images. A bleached, albino Chloe Sevigny licking her lips seductively and sweeping her hair back in slow motion over Everyday by Buddy Holly; a boy eating spagetti and chocolate in the bath whilst his mother washes his hair with filthy water, or Harmony Korine, the director, as a drunken kid pleading and flirting with a black dwarf.

Along with this are images of complete decay, nihilism and violence that combine to form something unsettling and disturbing. This is because of Korine's use of contrasting elements to create what he calls 'surreal realism' where the natural and odd mix together. As a result we see kids smoking pantella cigars and viciously flogging a dead cat over industrial, retching black metal or discussing Marlene Dietrich as Like A Prayer by Madonna fills the room.

Korine's refusal to fulfil expectations and make something with definite narrative or plot allows things to evolve with fluidity. Furthermore, the characters are all well-developed and Korine completely refuses to condone or condemn them, so we watch without prejudice. And despite their poor surroundings many of the characters, such as Sevigny's character Dot, are shown to be charming and witty.

In an interview Korine claimed he wanted to make a film out of everything he loved, one of both the ghetto and the cultured, whether that was Linda Manz or Burzum and other black metal bands or British TV director Alan Clarke- whose style of long, flowing Steadicam shots he borrows liberally from- he didn't care. He managed to create something of beauty- respect must also be paid to Jean Yves Escoffier whose cinematography is incredible here- where the mood is far more important and valuable than meaning.

When the film was released in 1997 it was met with a mixture of derision and high acclaim, the latter usually from other auteurs like Herzog and Godard.

Janet Maslin's famous 'The Worst Film Of the Year' review destroyed its chances in America whilst it thrived at festivals and in Europe. The majority of this cruel opinion comes from Korine's use of people who actually have Down's Syndrome or are retarded or dwarves, or whatever. Critics reasoned that this was exploitation and another part of Korine's attack on morals and purile desire to shock. He countered that to genuinely have someone in a film with an affliction was much less offensive than hiring an actor like Dustin Hoffman or Tom Hanks to sentimentally portray it. The scenes with the retarded girl talking or featuring Bryant the dwarf are touching and aren't cruel or vicious and do not single them out: after all this is a film whose entire cast is composed of outsiders, another two do not make a difference. Ultimately, the people in Gummo really don't care about political correctness; it doesn't matter to them.

The critics' reaction was one of knee-jerk decency where they felt to condemn the film because it showed something they were not used to or something that claimed was unnatural or uneccesary. This is nonsense as he is simply showing real life and people like the cast of Gummo- almost all unproffesional- exist and they can't be denied. Because of its clarity and its unrelenting strangness, all shown in a foreign vernacular, Gummo had to be derided as the work of a talentless enfant terrible- the most misapplied of media terms, they called Tarantino one after the dreadful Pulp Fiction and he was thirty.

What Korine creates is something completely different in the language of cinema, although not without precedent if we consider the Marx Brothers, Terrence Malick, Fassbinder, Alan Clarke and most importantly, Herzog, another great cinematic outsider. Gummo is utterly different and is not afraid to do things that might alienate the viewer, freely mixing grainy 8mm with glossy 35, quality sound with sound that crackles and distorts.

In reality it is the safer alternative to a very sanitised film industry where the independent films of Warhol or Cassavetes have been replaced with dull, noxious industry-produced marketing versions like Donnie Darko or those Wes Anderson films.

Gummo is a film very personal to Korine where he records his own life in Tennessee- the setting for Xenia- that manages to really alter the viewer's attitudes or show them what true filmaking is. He created a punk cinema: nihilistic, valueless and uncompromising. But the reaction to the film is not unsurprising, after all, no one liked Cassavetes until about ten years after he died, and nobody likes Alan Clarke now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is this too much reality for you, folks?, 2 Dec. 2007
By 
Well, what can I say, director Korine seem to want to challenge the audience to find the justification for his debut film. Following by his screenplay, Kids, which he wrote at 19, further carves out his relevance in today's cinema as one weird director. This movie without a story or seemingly without a script can form many reactions. Korine follows various characters in a backwoods town at Xenia, Ohio which was once nearly devastated by a tornado. The lives followed here include mostly adolescents and centers on two boys, Tummler (Nick Sutton) and Solomon (Jacob Reynolds). Solomon's father was killed during the Xenia tornadoes...and the film follows these boys on various destructive and self-destructive exploits that defy any cinematic validity. This is not film in most ways, it is real life. This "real life" includes glue sniffing, riding dirt bikes, sex and watching such challenging scenes as a man pimping his mentally ill wife who spends her days bedridden and dolled up like a 2-dollar hooker. At the same time we also meet two sisters, Dot (ChloŽ Sevigny) and Helen (Carisa Glucksman), who want to become stripper's .Then there is also a boy (Jacob Sewell) who wanders around town wearing pink bunny ears.

Korine constructed his movie as a series of vignettes depicting these characters and various others engaged in disruptive behavior. The episodes range from funny and beautiful to gratuitous and senseless. I found the cinematography of "Gummo" stark, depressing but oddly hypnotic. It's really the way that the director filmed it (scratchy montage, digital low-quality shootings), and the conversations between the two boys that make the movie compelling and fascinating to watch. . I found the performances, including that of Chloe Sevigny to be honest, authentic and sad.

The movie is filmed like the lives of all the people in the village. There's no real development, people don't really do much to improve their situation, and it's a secluded world they live in. The weird southern-style music and the many unexplained characters like the pink-bunny boy make it a surreal experience. The most memorable scene: was Solomon bath scene.....tell me just how disgusting can a bath be and on top of that while eating dinner?!?

It would be nice to think that, if they do exist, at least we shouldn't have to look at them... This movie is, indeed, a more gritty and honest version of "Slacker". They make a good double feature. Of course, after seeing "Gummo", you will see the cast of "Slackers" Many viewers have despised this film and it's good that people are offended. Maybe it just means that the movie accomplished its goal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality DVD - Seriously strange film!, 6 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Gummo UK FORMAT (DVD)
This DVD is a European Import which is why the cover and menus are in French. But the film still plays in English. Just select 'langues', change the audio to 'Version originale', and remove the subtitles by selecting Sous-titres -> Sans. Then select 'lecture' (playback) and voila, the DVD will play in English without subtitles.

The picture and sound quality are very good, but the film runs at 85 mins, I thought the original film was 89 minutes, so this may be a cut-down version.

Now for the content. I have to say, this is probably one of the strangest films I have ever seen. There is no plot at all, just a series of scenes, some of which are connected. The film is supposed to depict "the aftermath of a tornado-stricken Ohio town" with "deserted landscapes" but I was not always convinced by this. Scenes with a busy highway and packed shopping-mall car-park reveal life going on as normal, just outside the filthy houses and gardens where most of the film takes place. The depressing characters and their odd (sometimes revolting) behaviour is more likely the product of an underclass, the result of years of economic deprivation. They spend their days drinking, fighting, killing cats, talking about killing cats and just acting generally weird. In fact the weirder the premise of the scene, the more successful it is.

The weaker scenes are those where the scripted dialogue is too much for the unprofessional actors and the scene comes off as amateurish. These are the exception though. Mostly, the scenes feel real, and although the majority of the film is scripted the dialogue often feels improvised, which is a success of sorts.

The film is often funny too. A typical scene involves a bunch of drunks in a kitchen all arm-wrestling each other and finishes with a guy wrestling a chair. Another scene shows a young teenager eating his spaghetti and milk dinner in a bath of filthy water while having his hair washed by his mother. The scene is amusing, disgusting and quite touching at the same time. In fact the film as a whole treads a fine line between humour and disgust and does it well. Some scenes however can get a little tedious, such as one where a girl shaves her eyebrows off.

Intermingled with this strangeness are random, meaningless shots of stuff I can't even begin to explain. I guess the fascination of this film comes from never knowing what is coming next. Even the weaker scenes usually give way to something oddly watchable. I was disappointed when the film finished so it must have something going for it. A hypnotic quality, like an accident you can't tear your eyes away from. For that reason I give it a generous 3 and a half stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Ugly, 15 Mar. 2013
GUMMO is one of my favorite films of all time. If you get the chance, you should check it out. It's a difficult movie to understand, but once you get past all the grotesque, nasty, weird behavior,it's a really provocative film. There is a scene with the main two kids riding there bikes to Sleep's Dragonaut this has to be my favorite bit of filmmaking i could watch that one scene over and over. It is a very challenging film,but check it out once you can.You will not forget it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Watch this film, 9 May 2014
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This review is from: Gummo UK FORMAT (DVD)
Watch this film you won't regret it! Just go in with an open mind, ps not for cat lovers! Peace
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gummo uk format, 15 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Gummo UK FORMAT (DVD)
If your looking for this film in uk format , this is the one to go for, have been looking for a copy of this film ever since I rented it on a whim in VHS format approx 15 years ago. Was a bit anxious when the film arrived and the wrapping was French but just choose English for the language option and its fine . Obviously the film remains the same as the one I saw 15 yrs ago , but somehow has lost some of the shock that I felt on watching the first time. Is that a reflection of the times we live in ? It probably is........
Ok its a bit pricey but I haven't seen it anywhere else in UK format so, buy , enjoy, accept, have faith that we can reflect the inevitability that this is our future. Good Luck, and where can you buy those rabbit ears?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magic, 22 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Gummo UK FORMAT (DVD)
Want something different watch this
Go in not knowing anything about it

Love it or hate it film

Dive in to the mind of young harmony korine
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5.0 out of 5 stars the last time i saw this film, was on ..., 23 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Gummo UK FORMAT (DVD)
the last time i saw this film, was on channel 5, way back in 2002, and HMV told me that i could not get it on DVD. and bbfc, told me that icould not get it on DVD.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unique, 2 Mar. 2004
By 
M. Mayer (uk) - See all my reviews
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this is a superb film. the sort to watch again straight away after finishing. it's constantly fascinating- new emotions will wash over your body ever minute, and there is a whole gammit of emotions covered here (not all positive by a long shot). some will hate this- no traditional story, it is very experimental/unconventional. but it is very entertaining not some boring up its own behind arty film. essential!
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