Gummo was the directorial debut of Kids scriptwriter Harmony Korine. The 23-year-old intended the film as a portrait of a financially, culturally, and spiritually depressed Middle America and a love letter to small-town Americana, encrusted with spit (and other unsavoury fluids).
Gummo works less as a linear narrative and more as a series of loosely-connected scenes featuring the bizarre teenage residents of Xenia, Ohio – a town which never quite recovered from the effects of a devastating tornado years earlier.
Among the oddball and grotesque vignettes are glue-sniffing cat poachers, a potty-mouthed toddler dressed as a cowboy, spaghetti hoops eaten in a filthy bathtub with a rasher of bacon sellotaped to a tiled bathroom wall, an overweight girl shaving her eyebrows in the mirror, and an accordion-touting boy with a permanently attached pair of pink rabbit ears pissing off a bridge.
Solomon (Jacob Reynolds) and Tummler (Nick Sutton) kill stray cats in their neighbourhood and sell them to a local grocery store. Each cat death is more gruesome and each is delivered with a lack of emotion. Even Dot (Chloë Sevigny) and Helen (Carisa Glucksman), who love their cat Foot Foot, talk about drowning her babies when they are born without much thought.
But Korine locates innocence in the perverse. The film finds tenderness in an exchange between teenage cat-hunter Solomon and a prostitute with Down syndrome, ecstatic joy in a violent tussle between a burly pair of identical skinhead twins, and nostalgia in a swimming-pool threesome soundtracked by Roy Orbison’s Crying.
Shot in about twenty days with a budget of £1.3 million, Korine’s approach to Gummo is almost documentarian.
Out of forty speaking parts in the film, only five were played by experienced actors. Many of the cast were friends from Korine’s Nashville upbringing. Bryant L Crenshaw, the dwarf, went to high school with him, and the skinhead brothers were old friends.
The New York Times called it “the worst film of the year”.
Ellen M. Smith
Charles Matthew Coatney
Boy on Couch
Bryant L. Crenshaw
James David Glass
Berniece M. Duvall
Kristi Faye Randolph
Girl in Car