Sat., Aug. 7
3701 Chestnut St.
They don’t just hump trash. They pound away at trash bins, at fences, at trees. They mock-fellate anything phallic, like pieces of wood and what looks like a leaf at one point. Of course, you can’t tell for sure. The images of Trash Humpers, the fourth film directed by Harmony Korine (Gummo, Kids), are intentionally difficult to parse. Shot on VHS with an ‘80s camcorder and edited with two VCRs, it summons the hazy look, faded colors and bizarre video fuckups of a bygone analog era. Why? So that it feels like a found object, a video discovered in a pile somewhere, recorded by deviants and never meant to be watched by anyone, let alone mass audiences.
The subjects are a quartet of unnamed grotesques, played by Korine, his wife and two others in rubber masks that make them look like melting geriatrics. They are, as one of them puts it in a rare moment of clarity, “free.” And they spend the film’s 78 minutes of freedom wandering the Nashville suburbs, a place of post-apocalyptic trash and poverty, vandalizing, warbling inscrutable folk songs and, of course, humping trash. The character played by Korine does most of the filming, usually while trying to top “the world’s most annoying sound” from Dumb and Dumber. They could be close cousins to the cannibal family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (particularly in the keyed-up sequel) and possibly as dangerous. Corpses turn up with some regularity, possibly felled between shots. Perhaps these Jackass -y clowns aren’t so harmless after all.
Korine himself has said the plotless Trash Humpers isn’t a movie, as though a movie has to have a narrative to be called a movie. It is entirely conceptual—an avant-garde film that exists less to try viewers’ patience (though it does) than to simply exist. And yet as this morass of self-filmed pranks and destruction nears its end, it begins to take on a shape. Korine’s character even delivers a monologue that puts the antics we’re watching into some context. And our perspective on the Trash Humpers evolves, going from fascination to fear to, in the final moments, something approaching pathos. Korine has nailed the indifferent filming and editing of so-called “outsider art,” but he’s also found odd beauty and poetry in it, too. Sometimes it’s an unexpected moment of introspection; other times it’s simply a sudden image distortion and the words “TRACKING” flashing on the screen.