Trash Humpers: “Make it make it don’t fake it”
Watched Trash Humpers last night. Had little to no expectations of how it’d feel. The previews online make it look like it could be a big mess in the badmess way rather than the glorious mess of Harmony Korine’s first two films, Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy, both of which I hugely love. If Mister Lonely felt less prismatic in that way for me in full, it remains unquestionably still engorged with images I will never forget (the black kid riding the pig around? the Uncle Sam spinning basketballs and cackling!), which seems to be Korine’s greatest talent, and one too many forget: putting shit on screen no one else ever would in ways no one else ever would.
Trash Humpers seems to take Korine’s ghetto by way of backyard by way of incidental by way of watch-it-rattle aesthetic to the furthest extent thus far. Made in the light of wanting not to have to play the “make a budget for this movie” game by milking and meeting others’ eyes, Korine turned instead to ghetto-film roots of weird bedrooms, alleyways, parking lots, apartments, the rooms of some invention.
First off, the going rumor that Korine claimed to have edited the film by dubbing between two VCRs is apparently true. Literally scenes transition by showing the crackle and verbiage a VCR displays when switching from Play to Rewind and even some tracking adjustment. The scenes between play mostly like the cream takes of a bunch of huffers wandering around looking for new ways to get off. The central crew here is three people, friends of Korine’s, including his wife, done up in bad old-person make up masks and weird clothes. Korine films and appears various times himself from behind the camera looking like Jim Jones made of plastic. True to the name of the film, they spend a lot of time humping trash. They put their groin on the bin and bang at it in weird silence, as the film has no score, or sometimes while the man behind the camera squawks weird sounds of hack-giggling or sings small lines or screeching Get it Get it, which at first might seem annoying, eekish, but as the film goes on becomes a hobbling refrain.
Much of the film’s power comes from this incidentally inherited sense of black junk and barf muscles, awkward, gaggling, childish in a true way, like “this is what I felt like seeing.” Neither does Korine really stick to any methods of traditional milkmoves in poetic filming. The camera bobbles around like high on glue, like fumbling. Many scenes that might be extended into “long take” shots where you get some kind of aesthetic oomph from seeing the small maneuver extended and therefore somehow beautiful, Korine cuts often to the meat of freak, leaving little bits there and not wallowing, which is surprising considering the traditional challenge many would stick to in these manners of elongating the weird. Even in independence, we’ve seen a kind of lineage of how to do “random” (ha) while avoiding being called “indulgent” (bleh), or coming off off the cuff enough to seem unfit.
Despite the fun-over-forced mode, which even in itself sounds overstated, as really this film just seems something that was made to entertain the creator and his friends, and thereby, those willing, Trash Humpers is stuffed end to end with images that aren’t even necessarily iconic, but of nothing else, at least not being shown even in independent theaters. The Humpers smash flourescent bulbs by tossing them up in asphalt lots while tapdancing. A man fellates the end of a tree branch, cupping flower balls. Fake conjoined twins lean into a weird shrub, showing ass. The humpers hump windowsills of houses, shining through the windows with flashlight. A stack of pancakes covered in dish soap forcefed. Monologues from weird strangers who strangle their guitar. In one shot, some black kids accidentally wander into the filming and Korine leaves the scene itself and goes to them. For a second. We’re at a yardsale of making. We’re at who the fuck didn’t say who the fuck say. So much light overexposed and goofy in the VCR mouth.
The flux of images is often ridiculous, but not necessarily in the context of its own terms: you rarely think “this is going way out of its way to be ridiculous.” Someone looking for shock or ridicule might leave feeling like “this didn’t go far enough.” Though one of the most memorable scenes, in the way of Gummo, shows the the Humpers having hired three women on a bed shaking their asses leading to weird groping and cigars. I think it entered immediately into my top 10 imagistic wuhs. Still, the meat of the film is sporadic, shaky, goofed-off, in a way that overall and even during, to me, felt supremely refreshing, a random feeding of an impulse in creation I’d like to get and feel and see around so much more.
Too often art for art is strained, duh. Even when the creation feels stupendous on its own terms, and in seeing, too much of the practice of burden or travail or even just some kind of necessary framing gets uploaded, whether on the artist’s terms or not. What we miss, even in great magic films that have been fought for, eeked over every inch, sometimes is the power of the incidental, the sporadic, the things that can not be confined and recreated. Someone could try to tell you what the humping is about (it’s about metal), or why the kid with the glasses laughs maniacally (he’s god), or why they suffocate the man inside the plastic (candy dogs live in america), but more better is the move. Energy doesn’t need interpretation. This happens in documentary (sometimes), and certainly in performance art or certain music or so on, but often by the time it has arrived in film, and especially in books, there is some level of reworking, modeling that has gone on. This isn’t to denigrate the fruit of labor, and long attention, or even to demand it in all objects, or even most or frequent objects, but more to get a minute in the mind of the creator.
Some things the creator can not see. Coming out of dicking around or making chaos in the name of fun or terror or what have you are certain kinds of energy untoward the controlled. How does this come up in language? For me, it comes up in the moments when I am remembering the least about myself, maybe when I get frustrated even with the odder ways I’ve taught myself to move in, and just break down and make a mess. In the mess there, sometimes, comes another field, and from that, maybe, a different way of proceeding. Too often it feels like experimentation is thought of in the way of practice and intent, lines and forms and so on, over the originating energy, and the mindset of proceeding. Of course this becomes a “you can’t break the rules on purpose because then you just look like a fuck” kind of doublefigure, and really that I’m babbling about it at all in the context defeats itself in sharing.
However, operationally Trash Humpers is more to me than a great and unprecedented collage of jacked up ideas in fun frenzy. It is a reminder that we can make. What makes who without what want and why for showing what to whom, huh? It is a reminder of the energy I felt gobbling trying to skateboard behind the big weird church with kids meaner than me with porn in their bookbags getting bloody and laughing at the ones who did. Shitty haircuts you didn’t want. Smells you can’t find in the house. Shit your mom says and doesn’t know you hear. That guy outside the BP trying to sell you a drawing. What is in the drawing. How can you find yourself in there. What’s inside his mattress. Not what is the essence of his life, because suck a D. Maybe live in a basement some mornings. Taco Bell more often, get the steak there, fire sauce, say hi. No language. Who says. More yes heehee. Maybe whoops.
Whatever. I had a blast seeing this movie. It was like hanging out when hanging out rules, which seems so much less often these nows. I hope this is the first of 60 movies Harmhead makes in the next 6 months. And you too, if too.