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New Line Home Cinema presents
Gummo (1997)

"Tummler sees everything. Some say he's downright evil. He's got what it takes to be a legend. He's got a marvelous persona."
- Solomon (Jacob Reynolds)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: March 21, 2001

Stars: Linda Manz, Max Perlich, Jacob Reynolds
Other Stars: Chloe Sevigny, Jacob Sewell, Nick Sutton
Director: Harmony Korine

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (pervasive depiction of anti-social behavior of juveniles, including violence, substance abuse, sexuality and language)
Run Time: 01h:31m:48s
Release Date: March 20, 2001
UPC: 794043523625
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-A-B+ C+

DVD Review

Take a look at that great ratings explanation that the MPAA gave to this film. In fact, ignore any plot synopsis that may accompany this film, and instead focus on that MPAA quote. That is your synopsis for Gummo. Gummo defies easy description or categorization, and perhaps this is what makes it most fascinating. Initially buried by most critics when it came out, the film has achieved the expected 'cult audience', and perhaps this is where Gummo belongs, because, frankly, most people just can't handle this film. The reasons why are fairly obvious: it's just a bit too real for comfort.

Gummo documents "a day in the life" of a small town in Ohio, called Xenia. The story is centered around two boys, Solomon (Jacob Reynolds) and Tummler (Nick Sutton), both of whom spend their days sniffing glue and killing stray cats so they can sell them. The town is populated by a surreal cauldron of humanity's bottom end and we basically get to see them doing what they do best, which is pretty much nothing at all useful. Basically, it's a very unflinching, bizarre, and disgusting portrait of people who most of us would like to imagine don't exist. Although the entire film is fictional, the majority of the cast were simply culled from similar, real-life areas. Many have argued Gummo is without point, but film isn't always meant to give you an easy, spoon-fed capsule of philosophy and meaning.

For better or worse, Gummo presents a series of surreal pieces from the lives of some very odd, if not pathetic, characters. It is also put together and directed with an extremely sharp style. Harmony Korine makes the entire thing feel like a documentary, which I guess it could be, to a certain extent. This makes everything all the more creepy. In fact, maybe that's the best description for Gummo: creepy. It's a quirky, disturbing, and masterfully executed piece of work that will either confuse the hell out of you or make you wonder if there's hope for the human race.

It's ironic that my last review was Avalon, because where Avalon was the story of the 'American experience' and the evolution of a closely knit, durable family, Gummo is the exact antithesis. Certainly this is not a movie for everyone, but it certainly marks a high-point in the independent film industry, which nowadays seems to disappoint more and more.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gummo has a very nice, crisp, anamorphic transfer with solid blacks and well-rendered colors. However, much of the film experiments with different techniques and film-stocks causing obvious changes in the overall quality of the presentation. This being purposeful, it's not a problem. There is some damage on the source print, such as specks and minor scratches, but it's nothing terribly distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Gummo seems to use a stereo mix that doesn't really do anything special. The music score and some ambient sound are in a very broad-sounding stereo, while dialogue is firmly center oriented. I never detected any usage of the surround speakers, but then, there is not much call for them given the structure of the film. It's a very good sounding track, overall.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still photo gallery with commentary by director Harmony Korine.
Extras Review: I was a bit disappointed with the lack of features on this disc, but at the very least, there is an informative, though short, reel of still photos accompanied by an audio interview with Harmony Korine. Basically Korine is asked many challenging questions about the message behind the film and how exactly he created the concept. His answers might surprise some viewers but he certainly reveals that he is indeed the only man that could have made Gummo work.
The disc is rounded off with some thin filmographies for some of the actual 'actors' in the movie. Details on the disc's production can be accessed by highlighting the New Line logo on the main menu.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Gummo effortlessly joins the ranks of such 'cult classics' as David Lynch's Eraserhead, or Philip Ridley's The Reflecting Skin by challenging the viewer with images and situations that penetrate the very subconcious. It may not make much sense, but then, I would imagine that's the point. Highly recommended.


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