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  Gummo 101 Uses For A Dead Cat
Year: 1997
Director: Harmony Korine
Stars: Jacob Sewell, Jacob Reynolds, Darby Dougherty, Chloë Sevigny, Carisa Glucksman, Linda Manz, Nick Sutton, Jason Guzak, Casey Guzak, Wendall Carr, James Lawhorn, James Glass, Ellen M. Smith, Bryant L. Crenshaw, Max Perlich, Harmony Korine
Genre: Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The place is Xenia Ohio, where a tornado wrecked the town and the citizens never really recovered, such was the devastation. During the disaster houses were demolished, people picked up by the gusts and suffered broken bones, and the amount of property damage was extensive. Thus the populace live in squalor, with evidence of the catastrophe everywhere you look, and they pass the time by getting up to mischief as if the event bled them of their ambition and left them content to wallow in the filth they see around them...

After penning Kids, writer and director Harmony Korine's eccentric passage through the filmmaking world continued here with his first feature, a mostly scripted affair that looked improvised thanks to it being hard to believe that someone would sit down and write this as a plot. There wasn't a story as such, more recurring characters we would return to over the course of the running time, although each time we did catch up with them they didn't seem to have progressed any and everything looked pretty much the same for them as they idled about the town, which in the main was a dump, though we did see streets which showed little evidence of the supposed devastation.

So it's not as if this version of Xenia, which is a real location, was a Third World shanty town for as far as we could judge the people we saw had a roof over their heads no matter what the opening narration had told us, narration which whispers and murmurs information about the people we watch, though how reliable that was is open to question. The sheer pointlessness of the lives depicted was a point in itself, as if Korine was wallowing in the trashiness of it all, and daring you to walk out, or even better, not be able to tear your gaze away from the screen. Naturally, with a movie such as this, reactions were going to be mixed at best.

Therefore for some viewers Gummo was one of the most disturbing films they had ever seen, the thought that there were people out there who lived this way not something they wished to think about and now it was in their faces it was safe to say they did not like what they saw. On the other hand, there were others who proclaimed this as some kind of pioneering masterpiece, a perfect summation of the times and something startlingly new and original, a challenge yes, but also fascinating: you know, the pretentious regard. On the other other hand (yes, that's three hands), a larger group watched this and were of the opinion not only was it boring, but it was one of the worst films they had ever seen.

So there were a number of opinions you could hold about this, all of them valid to a degree, but the fact remained Korine had conjured up something numbly compelling. Yet you always felt at a distance from whoever you were seeing, whether that was intentional was unclear, but most would find it hard to relate to a couple of young teens who killed cats for the local restaurant, or the boy dresed in pink bunny ears who seems to embody the empty spirit of the piece yet never does anything engaging, or the sisters (one of whom was Chloë Sevigny, the most recognisable face here) who live a carefree existence of nothing in particular - ripping tape off their nipples is about as exciting as it gets for them. Some accused Gummo of simply employing freakshow tactics, and there was undoubtedly truth in that, a sense that you could indulge in the lifestyle of the lowest strata of society without having to get your hands dirty. For a film which had set out all it had to say in the first ten minutes, only the weirder parts kept you watching, chair wrestling and all.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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