Wednesday, April 3, 2019


In anticipation of the release of his newest film, The Beach Bum, writer and director Harmony Korine visited the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood for two nights in March 2019 to discuss his work. For the first night of the retrospective, Korine spoke in between a double feature of his first film, Gummo, and its follow-up, Julien Donkey-Boy. Korine spoke about his childhood in Nashville, what led him to film, and his beliefs as a filmmaker.

Harmony Korine at the Egyptian Theatre on March 20, 2019. Photo credit: Silvia Schablowski

“My dad loved movies, so he would take me to movies when I was young,” Korine explained. “I was a skateboarder, so I’d skate during the day. At night, I would go [to the theater]…every day you could see a W.C. Fields movie or a Douglas Sirk film, or Buster Keaton. I just loved it so much. I just felt early on that I could do it.”

Korine shared that he always knew he wanted to write his own scripts. "I felt like I could figure out the technical part of making movies on my own, but I never wanted to depend on anyone to write scripts for me. I always wanted to make my own work, I never wanted to be dependent upon anyone. I wanted to learn to be a writer.”

A still from Korine's GUMMO, 1997.
For Korine, writing was both a tool to tell his story and to experiment with how his story was told: “I was super into the idea of narrative and deconstructing narrative. I wanted to make movies that felt more like a collage, or impressionistic. The things that always frustrated me about films was rarely did I love a whole film; it was usually specific moments or scenes. With this movie, I was like, 'Why couldn’t I just make a whole movie of that?'" Korine described how his process affected Gummo: “I wanted it to feel like the images were falling from the sky, like they were this strange tapestry, and things like sounds and images were deconstructed in a way where it seemed random, but at the same time it told this story of this town and these characters.”

Korine poses with a fan after the screening. Photo credit: Silvia Schablowski
Much of Korine’s early work is notable for its experimentation with physical film and cinematography. More than 30 different types of cameras were used to shoot Julien Donkey-Boy, and Korine credits this to his affection for “the fog of analog.” He later added, “What I love about film is that there’s a romance to it. There’s soft edges to it, it’s an alchemy. You can break the image down in a way, you can treat it, you can expose it in a way. There’s something kind of magical about it.”

A celebrated element of Korine’s work is its reoccurring subject matter. Korine’s films often showcase characters and events that are otherwise absent from traditional cinema, and Korine cited this trend as part of his goal to highlight “different types of people that you never see on the screen.” He elaborated, “What I always try to go for, especially when I was younger, is something I would call beyond a simple articulation. It’s more of a feeling. It’s like if I see something or I put something together, and I feel like there’s a power to it. Maybe it’s upsetting, confrontational, maybe it is provocative, but if it feels like there’s a power to it, then I want to use it. I like things that you can’t explain. I like things that take your breath away, and I like looking at people that you don’t often see on the big screen. I like to be surprised. I hate that we’re starting to live in a culture where everything is so offensive to everyone, and you can’t look at anything; discuss things anymore. Life is beautiful, and I want to explore the complexities and the intricacies of the whole thing.”

Korine's friend Alex Rose moderated both evenings' Q&As. Photo credit: Silvia Schablowski