1997, Movie, R, 95 mins


Harsh, funny, repellent and occasionally quite moving, KIDS writer Harmony Korine's directing debut is a wormy slice of Americana that's definitely not for every taste. On April 3, 1974, a mile-wide tornado nearly wiped the small southern Ohio town of Xenia right off the map. Nearly 25 years later, Xenia still looks like hell, and its inhabitants stumble through life like they never knew what hit them. Solomon (Jacob Reynolds) and Tummler (Nick Sutton) are two of Xenia's more industrious teens, stealing a few hours from the business of sniffing glue and huffing nitrous oxide to drown, shoot or beat to death stray cats and sell them off to the local restaurant supplier who buys by the pound. Korine's loose, improvisatory script is all over the place, picking up the garbage-strewn lives of Xenia's other inhabitants in fragments that have as much to do with the still photography of Diane Arbus (particularly evident in his questionable taste for human oddities and the grotesque) and Nan Goldin as the films of Gus Van Sant. What emerges from the wreckage is a very stylish, brutally honest portrait of an American underclass whose desperation is otherwise addressed only by daytime talk shows and Cops. With acclaimed cinematographer Jean Yves Ecoffier (LES AMANTS DE PONT NEUF) beautifully capturing every ugly detail -- and be warned, it gets pretty ugly -- Korine's film is full of casual poetry and despair, all tempered by a touching optimism. "Life is beautiful," notes Tummler. "Without it you'd be dead." leave a comment --Ken Fox

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