Known as one of the most significant subversive pioneers of American independent cinema, Harmony Korine changed the landscape of cinema with the release of his writing debut Kids in 1995. Scruffy, authentic and brutally honest, Kids would trigger a revolution in the community of underground cinema, with the film reflecting the disillusionment and detachment of young people at the turn of the new millennium.
Embracing absurdism, grimey debauchery and realism living on the very periphery of independent cinema, Korine has created his very own brand of filmmaking despite having only directed six feature films. Each exploring the intricacies of modern life, Gummo, Mister Lonely, Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum analyse the dark truths of life whilst elevating its sheer absurd greatness.
Operating in his very own realm of creativity, Korine told film writer Ray Pride: “How can an artist be expected not to be self-indulgent? That’s the whole thing that’s wrong with filmmaking today”. Continuing, he added: “To me, art is one man’s voice, one idea, one point-of-view, coming from one person,” with Korine’s enigmatic and eccentric filmography certainly illustrating this idiosyncratic preference.
Working on big-screen feature projects as well as short films, music videos and art installations, Korine is an all-encompassing creative much like his fellow American innovator David Lynch who uses cinema as a cathartic form of self-expression. Whilst he is certainly his own favourite artist, Korine has also undoubtedly been inspired by the history of cinema, looking to the likes of Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick and Michael Powell.
Such inspirations are explored in a conversation Korine takes part in alongside filmmaker Werner Herzog, with the influential director of Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God admiring the work of a unique American mind. Asked if he remembers the very first film he’d ever seen, Korine replies: I think it was Harry & Tonto…The first movies that really changed my life were yours, Fassbinder’s, Godard’s, and [Charles Laughton’s] The Night Of The Hunter.
Explaining that his father was a great lover of movies and that he would rent the extensive collection of Werner Herzog for a young Korine to watch, the director then describes when his dad took him to see the 1968 film Even Dwarfs Started Small. Fondly recalling his delight at seeing the film for the first time, Korine calls the film, “my favourite movie of all time,” before adding, “It was when I heard the girl screaming in the cave and saw the monkey being crucified in that film that I knew I wanted to make movies”.
Whilst Harmony Korine has no upcoming film in the pipeline, he continues to remain a prominent figure in the world of independent cinema, with the reverberations from his previous film The Beach Bum still being felt. Starring Matthew McConaughey alongside Zac Efron, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dog and Jonah Hill, the film follows a philosophical stoner living in the Florida Keys.