By Admin | May 7, 2010

This review was originally published on March 16, 2010.

If you feel like having the age-old conversation about “what is art,” you need not look any further than “Trash Humpers” for an example of how to strike up that topic. Shot and edited on old-school VHS, I’m not even completely sure you can call this a film inasmuch as it’s an experience. A really weird, filthy, creepy, funny and disturbing experience. Korine has stated he wanted this project to be like a piece of found footage that didn’t entirely make sense and had no context. If that was indeed his plan he has succeeded.

“Trash Humpers” focuses on a group of old people who go around humping trash. There are two old men and an old woman (all of whom are not really old but are in old people makeup or masks) and they spend their nights cruising around looking for trash, trees or bushes that they can hump. And by hump I mean they just get right up next to the garbage can and start grinding away. In their spare time they shoot off firecrackers, spank hookers, encourage little boys to be evil, screech uncontrollably and hang out with other local loonies. Sound like any movie you’ve ever seen? Does this sound like a movie at all?

It’s all very confusing and I have to admit, I’m not sure I even liked “Trash Humpers.” But, I respect it and I respect Korine as an artist. I like the fact that Korine can do whatever he wants in his films and he’s a master of making you feel uncomfortable. I also dig the way Korine wallows in these trashy elements, much like he did with the classic “Gummo.” These people in the lower strata of society and economics are out there and Korine knows this. It’s who he wants to show and it’s his choice as a filmmaker to do so. While most films want to focus on beautiful people framed and lit perfectly, Korine chooses the opposite. Yet, through these ugliness comes a reflection of ourselves and that’s no small feat. Then again, Korine is a well known story teller, a fibber, charlatan and a liar. Is he completely screwing with audiences and disguising his jokes as art? Hmm, maybe, but I don’t think so.

I’ve always felt that the discomfort we feel towards Korine’s movies makes them powerful because they’re so human and our reactions are based solely on knowing people like that are out there and we should be damn glad they aren’t us. A majority of American films come from either coast and rarely are the middle sections represented in a way that isn’t glamorized or played up for the hardships poor people face. Korine, as always, does the opposite. You may like or hate his films but it’s doubtful you feel ambivalent about them. It’s also a testament to his artistry that he demands a conversation about his work and to me, that’s good filmmaking.

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  1. chris deleo says:

    You’re absolutely right… a film like this would never get play in a major festival if not for the name Harmony Korine. But such is life… I’m thankful harmony slipped through the cracks so many years ago with his “screenplay”… it shows that sometimes, there’s room at the top for perversely original material

  2. Nick Man says:

    I just wanted to say I like the article. I like someone who can say what they think without harshness, ambiguous when they admit they don’t fully understand or comprehend a film right off. I like what Don said about Harmony’s films–discomfort–what better word, and good praise for the power film making can have on the emotions and intellect, maybe even the psyche.
    I like the writing, I’ll definitely follow your articles. And Kudos for bringing films like this to light. I haven’t seen it yet, but I like strange unique experiences in films. This really sounds original and I started laughing at just the concept. How cool.

  3. Mark Bell says:

    I’m right there with both of you; I think it’s getting as much play because of who made it more than what it is, but I do think that what it is winds up being truly effective. I mean, this isn’t the first time a filmmaker has tried this raw, random people, almost found footage aesthetic (the work of Giuseppe Andrews comes to mind), but “Trash Humpers” does it better.

  4. Don R. Lewis says:

    Mr. B- good and valid points all around. I kinda agree about the idea that if this WASN’T Harmony Korine, it wouldn’t get the attention it’s getting. But on the flipside, I think it takes a certain kind of person (and yes, artist) to think things like this up.

  5. Mr B Natural says:

    I’m glad to find someone else who saw this film. My issue with it is that if an anonymous filmmaker sent this to a a festival the programmers would laugh at them and reject it. I don’t mind festivals giving preferential treatment to established filmmakers, if only to get more attendance and publicity, but I think they need to draw the line somewhere.

    I agree with your comments about the technical aspects of the film – I found them interesting as well. For me, the non-narrative seems like an excuse to slap a bunch of random footage together and call it art. To me, this is lazy filmmaking. Youtube is full of stuff like this, and none of them will play at a film fest any time soon.

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