Depravity's rainbow

Video Issue: Harmony Korine's fringe epic Trash Humpers

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VIDEO What is Trash Humpers? Is it filmmaker Harmony Korine's rage against his experiences making 2007's Mister Lonely? Despite being characteristically bizarre, with tales of celebrity impersonators and flying nuns, Mister Lonely was Korine's most technically polished (i.e., expensive-looking) film to date. By contrast, Trash Humpers, shot on the quick and mega-cheap, literally looks like "an old VHS tape that was in some attick [sic] or buried in some ditch," per the film's charmingly lo-fi press kit.

There's also Trash Humpers' rather, uh, subversive content. Basically, it's 78 minutes of shenanigans, starring a trio of ne'er-do-wells who are either wearing elderly-burn-victim masks or are actually supposed to be elderly burn victims. (Nimbleness during some basketball scenes suggests the former, but who knows?) The creepy crew and their pals cavort through an unidentified Nashville, smashing TVs, slipping razor blades into apples, guzzling booze, spanking hookers, setting off firecrackers, cracking racist and/or homophobic jokes, eating pancakes doused in dish soap, and humping trash cans. Lots of trash cans. Primitive video technology (the film was edited on two VCRs) makes everything look even worse, if that's even possible.

Now, if you or I submitted Trash Humpers, the programmers at the Toronto International Film Festival would chuckle condescendingly and fling it into the nearest (humpable) trash bin. But you have to consider the source: Salon recently dubbed Korine "the most hated man in art-house cinema," which if true is probably the director's most cherished triumph. Indie film fans are familiar with his bio (wrote 1995's Kids, directed 1997's Gummo) and prickly reputation. He's also an extremely intelligent guy. He obviously knows that Trash Humpers is going to baffle, amuse, bore, and outrage audiences; he also knows that you're secretly writing him off as a hipster who makes deliberately crummy art.

So, what is Trash Humpers? I refer you to an interview I did with Korine when Mister Lonely made its way into theaters: "I always wanted to make movies that consisted entirely of moments. I always felt like, in movies, they waste so much time getting to the good part and resolving after the good part. I was just like, why can't you make movies that consist only of good parts? I like to make things the way I want to experience them. I create an image because no one is giving it to me." And no one can take it away. 

TRASH HUMPERS

June 3–5, 7:30 p.m.; June 6, 2 p.m., $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

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