Few filmmakers are as proudly counter-cultural and yet so consistently successful as Harmony Korine, a director who constantly pushes the boundaries of the medium with his extraordinary creative vision. A lover of American absurdism, Korine embraces the same debauchery that the great country so often sweeps under the rug, creating the likes of Kids, Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy alongside fellow cultural icon, and former girlfriend, Chloë Sevigny.
Their history as collaborative partners went way back to their first meeting in Washington Square Park in New York, during Sevigny’s senior year of high school in 1993. As the actor told The Face in an interview in 2000: “We just grew up together…I invited him to my high-school graduation. He was my best friend. He was my university, I never went to college. He taught me almost everything I know about movies and books and music”.
Quickly becoming close friends, it was in the very same park that Harmony Korine would meet the photographer Larry Clark who would ask a young Korine to pen a script for him about the experience of young skaters in New York. The film, Kids, would catapult Harmony Korine to almost cult success. Enlisting many of Korine’s friends among the lead cast, Chloë Sevigny joined the likes of Rosario Dawson among other unknown actors and went on to become one of the most memorable faces in the classic film.
Drawn together following the film, Korine and Sevigny became an on-and-off couple, with the two creatives fueled by the others’ frenetic energy and excitement. As Sevigny told Interview in 2021, “I’ve always gravitated towards people that were doing things,” she said, before adding: “Harmony always knew what he wanted to do, had a lot of interests, and I was very attracted to that. He was very charismatic and just fun to be around”.
Casting Sevigny once more in the filmmaker’s directorial debut, Gummo, in 1997, the wild relationship of the duo came to exemplify their free-spirited creative attitude, with the actor being an icon of their subversiveness. Thriving off each other, Sevigny appeared in Gummo as Dot, a young girl with crazed sensibilities in Korine’s portrait of the forgotten corners of America, exploring the strange solitude of contemporary living whilst exposing its darkest truths.
As the actor told I-D in 1999, “Gummo is something really special to me. I love to be around Harmony, especially in his movies. I’ve known him so long now that we know each other’s tastes. It’s almost as if we think the same way”. As praising of her as Sevigny is of him, Korine later told the magazine that her acting is “amazing” before noting: “Our similarities are definitely an attraction”.
Though they eventually split up and parted ways shortly after the release of Julien Donkey-Boy, the early creative collaboration and relationship between Chloë Sevigny and Harmony Korine remain a significant turning point in the history of American cinema. So rudimental was the filmmaker’s style, and so dedicated and subversive was the image of Chloë Sevigny, the two artists formed an indelible bond that suffused itself into independent cinema at the turn of the 21st century.