Top 5 Harmony Korine Films
Love him or hate him, Harmony Korine is a filmmaker who continually brings new, exciting, and often disturbing images to the big screen. There’s a confrontational element to his artistry and a daring quality about him. He’s not afraid to be profane or offensive, and he’s a rare breed of filmmaker who never really repeats himself. Inspired by the likes of Werner Herzog, whose film Even Dwarves Started Small taught Korine of cinema’s powerful poetic quality, he carries good influences in his arsenal, but always strives to bring moviegoers something unique, whether they like it or not.
In honor of The Beach Bum’s fast approaching release date, we thought we’d share our favorite Harmony Korine films with you filthy rabbits!
5: Mr. Lonely
Korine’s most ambitious endeavor about a commune of celebrity/pop culture look alikes as they gear up for their grand performance is kooky and accessible, marking a shift in his career aesthetic from gritty handheld to smooth sleekness. It may not need to be two hours and could stand to be more focused, but there are more positives than negatives here. The imagery is rich and really sticks with you, as do its many unforgettable moments. The nuns jumping out of planes on BMX bikes with no parachute, this perfect image of absurdity and beauty, being a hallmark. It also features cameos from European filmmaking legends Leos Carax and Werner Herzog (in his second collaboration with Korine).
4: Julien Donkey-Boy
Released in 1999, Julien Donkey-Boy was apart of Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 manifesto, which enforced a set of rules based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, and excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. Based on Korine’s own uncle, who suffers from schizophrenia, the film has all of his idiosyncratic flourishes with a visceral personal edge and a gritty pixelated presentationan. In many films that deal with mental illness, the character’s afflictions are dressed up and polished to the point of sometimes coming off cutesy and insincere, but Korine’s film presents the subject in more realist manner. There’s also an sweet tenderness to the film’s absurdity that feels refreshing. It’s a family drama you won’t see anywhere else.
Kids was the first screenplay Korine ever wrote, and he put it together for director Larry Clark, who asked him to compose a script about skaters and to include in the plot a teenage AIDS experience. Korine had allegedly been waiting his whole life to write this story, and within three weeks, the script for Kids was complete. The film gives us the on-screen debuts of Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny, who would go on to find great success, and its haunting narrative has scarred the minds and eyes of any that come across it. The film is heavy in fatalism and irony, and its story involves an AIDS outbreak in NYC that is permeating due to a teen who only likes sleeping with virgins. As one teen races to find the infected boy to tell him of his disease, he is simultaneously trying to bed down his next virgin target, resulting in an unforgettable conclusion.
2: Spring Breakers
Korine’s coming of age beach crime comedy will have you chanting, “Sprang break forever!” Spring Breakers may be one of Korine’s most relatable and crowd-pleasing films, which involves a group of college girls who are so bored with their town that they yearn to be in Florida for spring break, where they believe all the action and excitement to be. In order to achieve this goal, they’re willing to do anything, which eventually leads to the revelation that the way of life they idolized is not always fun and games. In addition to being a bonkers beach romp, the film is notable for its use of score, which continuously plays throughout the film and blends composer Cliff Martinez’ compositions with Skrillex in interesting ways, James Franco’s hilarious Riff Raff impersonation, and Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez’ sharp 180 break away from their Disney roots.
Before we get to our #1 pick, here's the one Korine film that just fell short:
Harmony Korine’s horror film, Trash Humpers, really finds its way under the skin. Full of creepy imagery, ominous wrinkly masks, and an array of colorful side characters, it feels like a blend of Julien Donkey-Boy and Gummo. Ultimately, it falls off the rails in its third act when Korine appears in a masked cameo to essentially spoon feed the audience the film’s intent — something which isn’t really ever necessary. But in true Korine fashion, there are images in here that will stick with you forever.
And now, let’s bust into our favorite Harmony Korine film…
Gummo is as audacious and divisive a debut as they come, and Korine cultivates a truly unique experience that, at least for us, never gets old. There are so many memorable lines (one of our favorites is, “Nothing new for trash like you!”) and images that you won’t be able to forget (a good or bad thing depending on who you are). Amidst all the disturbing qualities, there’s something very endearing and sometimes sweet coursing underneath. And if you don’t agree with anything we’ve said, we can at least agree that these are images and scenes that you’ve never seen before, so whether you love it or hate it (we’re not sure there’s an in between), you gotta give Korine props for that. The trashy, idiosyncratic mosaic of Korine’s Xenia, Ohio is full of the colorfully profane characters and the kind of icky oddity that always keeps us coming back.
How do you feel about Korine? Do you agree with our list? Are you excited for The Beach Bum? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!