There Will Be Trash Humping 

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Trash Humpers
Directed by Harmony Korine

Is Harmony Korine's latest paean to freaks not amateur-esque enough? The movie's title and cataract-pallid, skipping-video look simulate early 1990s community access television, and the episodic antics of its Lawrence-Tierney-as-burn-victim-masked grotesques include tried-and-true fluorescent-light-strip-smashing, nonsense rhymes and jigs, and the slightly more recherche compulsion to masturbate tree branches and assault dumpsters. And yet the entire affair is beset by a slippage between its much-praised "id" imperative and the actual tedium of the playacting, reinforced by editing that concertedly plays up repetition and frustration.

That's not entirely a criticism: Trash Humpers is at times virtuosic at inducing irritation (especially Korine's piercing off-screen toddler-yelps, evoking what is often discovered right after "airplane noises") and there are lo-fi, dada, and ha-ha pleasures and pretty-ugliness. But this does not feel like a liberated or liberating anarchy, despite impeccable citations and influences (Flaming Creatures, Stranded in Canton, Paul McCarthy, naive-VHS nostalgia generally). Even when approaching success in his chosen aesthetic, Korine increasingly seems cursed with the sense of trying too hard, all assertions to the contrary (though Humpers does not reach the extremes of the interminable Mister Lonely's showiness).

Korine's stated attempt was to simulate a found videotape—nothing new in experimental circles, which his crazy-man art-house releases, here with handscrawled oh-that-Harm! press notes, suggest an interesting desire to adapt but not fully embrace. That helps explain the movie's gnarled private mythology and landscape, familiar in its out-thereness: the scary masks/dolls/high-waisted thriftwear/concrete parking-lot no-man's-land. But Trash Humpers is more like a remake that makes one clamor for the truly strange original item.

Opens May 7

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