Can Harmony Korine be a blood relation to Michael Alig?
This thought plagued me as i sat down to experience his newest
motion picture, Trash Humpers. Reportedly promoting it as a VHS found in a ditch, Harmony's film is made to look and feel rough, homemade; both a dirty, hidden object and something tastelessly flamboyant. At times it veers darkly into snuff film territory, but Korine keeps intent and psychology disconnected from experience.
At the inception, my experience was wholly external. I felt devoid of emotion, not sure how to feel, and disinterested. I numbly watched strange people,with wrinkle face make up (or are they
masks?), humping garbage, singing ditties, gurgling guttural sound effects coming from some ugly yet common place of the esophagus.
These are what I came to understand as the film's 'basics'. Pattern and meaning resulting from repetition. Only then was I sucked in. Korine connects it all gracefully; keeping a tight editorial grip. An interplay is formed, a Bakhtinian schema of shared meaning and reliances among the humpers, the various abused or abusive outsiders they encounter, and between all of them and Harmony Korine. Scenes are incomplete, but patterns form and interruptions are contexualized. The record signal goes out, the "Play " button suddenly gets pressed and stopped. Countering my first impressions of the film as loose looks in and out of random happenings, I'm struck by the hypnotic power of repetition: visually via masks and the humping motions, aurally via the tourettic chants, grunts, and twangy devil ditty. At last something is produced; at least a distinct after-effect.
There are also deviations in between...initially I thought they would transform what I had seen: leading to an elusive plot, that secret that would indicate what was going
on, what we were watching, who they were. These deviations only ended
up being devious. Wicked little outbursts, peppered with Rabelaisian humor, but
also danger and blood. Was it make up again? Masks? Were we witnessing crimes or did our
very presence, our act of looking too hard create the desire to detect?
It was only upon repetition, that plastic quality, that the basic elements gained power and trajectory. Narrative remains as purposely fuzzied as the analog image. Plot,
whatever that may or may not be here, remains tertiary to the building
blocks of pattern and rhythm.
Occupying a space somewhere between an ironic nightlife art event
(Alig), a prank crime scene (Alig) and a set up to real life homicide (Alig), Trash Humpers has
stayed with me in a wholly outside experiential manner -- like a worn
out vinyl that plays on repeat but skips in different places all the
time. I remain totally gleefully separate from the humpers, and all
that remains is the way the film diverts from and returns to its own simple elements:
the devil songs, the gurgling sounds,some yelps, twang, and the
anthemic slogans (make it, fake it, dont break it...suck it suck it dont
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