HARMONY KORINE is 37 years old. The most controversial enfant terrible of the '90s is officially pushing 40.
While this point of departure would not normally be of particular critical relevance, Korine's career as a celebrity filmmaker—in both its successes and failures—has, from the very beginning, been impossibly tangled with perceptions of youth (ahem, Kids). And as if to prove that he's still got it in him, a 37-year-old Harmony Korine has produced a feature-length film entitled Trash Humpers. And yes, the title is literal.
Buried beneath all of the insufferably sophomoric humor and the painful exploitation of his subjects, there was always a stunning beacon of hope embedded in Korine's early films—images both beautiful and horrible, which some 12 years after first experiencing them still maintain ghostly poignancy. The tone and intelligence at the root of Korine's work was difficult to dismiss, and yet even viewing his work as an idiot teenager, I was always waiting for guy to just grow the fuck up already. I thought he might have gotten over his frustrating juvenilia with 2007's Mr. Lonely—a sort of Herzog-lite affair that, though perhaps not as tonally strong as his early work, was at least grown up enough to offer a gleam of hope.
Trash Humpers, on the other hand, spends about half of its 78 minutes capturing people in unsettling old-person masks thrusting their genitals against inanimate objects. Mostly garbage cans. It's a movie shot on VHS tape and edited using a pair of VCRs, which more than anything gives the distinct impression of the sort of thing you could imagine a 17-year-old suburban kid might make after watching Gummo for the first time in 1997. And while Korine has arguably maintained his ability to create lasting images and tonal coherence, in Trash Humpers at least, it still doesn't make for much of a movie. We all have to grow up sometime.