TRASH HUMPERS Review

Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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TRASH HUMPERS Review
[With the advent of a North American theatrical release from record label Drag City, Aaron Krasnov brings us this review]

Trash Humpers is ostensibly 78 minutes of foliage and refuse fornication, vandalism and nursery rhymes. We follow a group of four deranged individuals as they inflict their brand of art upon a sparsely populated area of Kentucky. Trash Humper art comes in a variety of forms, humping trash being the obvious, though the Humpers also enjoy destroying old electronics equipment, singing, listening to enigmatic poetry, drinking and setting of fireworks. In a conversation with cinemalogue Harmony Korine describes his creations'  mischief as: "want to turn vandalism and destruction and chaos into something that's transcendent and beautiful" . There is some deviance at work as little of the imagery is cheerful, much of it may be seen as disturbing, but the exuberance of the characters as they cackle and stumble through the frame has an inherent joy that is hard to resist.

If you listen to Korine long enough you may start believing that Trash Humpers is something better viewed in disjointed bits and obfuscated pieces. A few clever anecdotes persist when listening to Harmony speak about his film, one involving the ass of a mule, another a toilet and most prominent the notion that Trash Humpers was never meant to be screened.

In a recent interview with /Film Harmony manages to work all three into the same response: Harmony Korine: I guess the best way to answer that is to say maybe this isn't even a movie. I didn't even want this to be viewed--or I didn't even conceive this--in traditional cinematic terms. This is more like an artifact. I don't know--this is going for something else. It's not really meant to be watched like a film. I would be fine if it was projected into a toilet bowl. It makes no difference to me. This is something that is more, like, unearthed, a found object, something that's drenched in blood. Or tossed in your granny's panty drawer. Something that you'd imagine a convict burying in the ass of a mule.

Korine's tongue in cheek rhetoric is aimed at presentation, the forsaken element missing when the film is projected to a paying house. Plans of sending stripped down versions of the project to police precincts and government offices discarded for a more traditional release. Without context the film suffers, a terse title card alluding to the artifact the VHS was conceived as would go a long way.The high concept plays a great deal into how effective the work is, providing definition to what could otherwise be construed as aimless smut. 

Harmony wants us to remember the feeling of finding an unlabeled VHS tape, be it on the street or in a dumpster. That undefined VHS tape that incites pangs of anticipation and wonder, the question of what is on the tape and why was it discarded. The what if... is the catalyst, what if you picked up a tape off the street one day, popped it in your VCR and it contained rough footage of disfigured individuals humping trash. What does the image say about the person who discarded it and what does it say about you for watching it.

The concept is the aesthetic, shot on VHS and edited using two VCRs the visual fidelity recalls a reused VHS tape, mangled and damaged with static tears marring record markers and hardware watermarks. There is a fond recall associated with the aesthetic, a nostalgia that we don't get to experience very often and one that will continue to fade with technological progress. The degraded analog visuals provide a corrupting solace for the characters, an eroded southern landscape for their mischief. 

Trash Humpers is not for everyone, its pure expression can be repetitious and seemingly baseless, the nature of the Humpers and their antics provide only as much entertainment as you allow.   

It should be noted that Harmony Korine and his wife Rachel take part in the genial acts of vandalism, portraying two of the Trash Humpers; the rest of the cast populated by friends and local artists. The film is a celebration of the way Harmony sees his street light illuminated alleys, the characters and concept taken from childhood memories, the playful destruction an act of phatic artistry. 

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Harmony KorineRachel KorineBrian KotzurTravis NicholsonDrama

More about Trash Humpers

brettlv5506May 19, 2010 1:05 PM

"The film is a celebration of the way Harmony sees his street light illuminated alleys," so Korine is kinda like Monet and this is his Water Lillies?