Proudly existing on the very periphery of independent cinema, Harmony Korine is a lover of American absurdism, embracing the same debauchery that the great country so often sweeps under the rug. Having only six feature films to his name, Korine is a mighty figure in the world of art film, with cinephiles listening whenever he rears his creative mind.
Drawing up a portrait of modern American life, each of Korine’s films, including Gummo, Mister Lonely, Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum, explore the strange solitude of contemporary living whilst exposing its darkest truths. Idiosyncratic and bizarre, Korine operates in his own realm of creativity, stating in conversation with Ray Pride, “How can an artist be expected not to be self-indulgent? That’s the whole thing that’s wrong with filmmaking today,” he once stated. “To me, art is one man’s voice, one idea, one point-of-view, coming from one person”.
A big believer in the auteur theory, Korine is the kind of filmmaker, much like experimenter David Lynch, who makes films as a cathartic creative experience for himself, with the hope that audiences too appreciate his work. Taking inspiration from the very inception of cinema, it is Korine’s belief that modern cinema cannot compare to the creative risk of early movies.
Speaking to the iconic Werner Herzog, the director notes: “When I look at the history of film – the early commercial narrative movies directed by D.W. Griffith, say – and then look at where films are now, I see so little progression in the way they are made and presented, and I’m bored with that. Film can be so much more”.
With broad, eccentric tastes, the films that have inspired Harmony Korine have been collated into a comprehensive fan-made list hosted on MUBI and featuring over 180 different titles. Including the likes of directors, D. W. Griffith, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick and Michael Powell, Korine’s opinions are certainly eclectic, with films ranging from releases in 1915 to 2018.
One of the many films on Korine’s list is David Lynch’s 1980 classic The Elephant Man, starring John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, which Korine noted as a “beautiful movie” in conversation with Kuriko Sato. Though whilst the director would “never say anything bad about him [Lynch]”, he does comment that he’s not a lover of David Lynch’s debut Eraserhead, explaining, “I don’t really like that one. It reminds me of junior high school”.
Korine also notes Alan Clarke, the filmmaker behind Scum, Made in Britain and The Firm, as “maybe my favourite filmmaker” in discussion with Sight and Sound Magazine in 1998. Explaining his love for Clarke’s filmmaking, Korine comments, “He was doing something dramatically that I’d never seen before. And his films are so honest — the way the characters speak, as if they just exist, as if they’re organic”.
Continuing, he adds, “His use of violence is very interesting to me. It’s more than real. And there’s such an energy to his camera, such a fluidity to his movies”.
Take a look at Harmony Korine’s full list of favourite films in the link right here, and enjoy the rebellious debauchery of Harmony Korine’s Gummo below.