I assure you that the 1990's-era Korine is long gone -- or, rather, has morphed into an agreeably warmer artist. Mister Lonely, which stars Diego Luna as a Michael Jackson impersonator and New German Cinema legend Werner Herzog as an eccentric priest, doesn't always make sense, but that's precisely what Korine was going for. "I've always been interested in making a perfect nonsense," he told a crowd at the Apple store in lower Manhattan Thursday night. "I never really cared much about plot. I wanted to make movies about moments that went through you, that were experiential."
Like everything Korine has made, Mister Lonely is undoubtedly an experience that defies categorization. In a conversation moderated by Filmmaker magazine editor Scott Macaulay (the producer of Korine's first two features), He made it clear that his creative process stems from his state of mind during production. "For me, the fun of it is making it up as I go," Korine said. "I discover the film." He also elaborated on his friendship with Herzog, an early champion of Gummo ("the guy's a soldier of the cinema") and the wondrous musical selections in the new film, which include tracks by Sun City Girls and original pieces by Jason Spaceman.
The highlight of the evening, however, definitely arrived when Macaulay asked Korine if he would ever finish Fight Harm, an elaborate project that found the director instigating random incursions with people on the street (the idea was to create "the great American comedy," in his estimation). After getting badly hurt on several occasions, Korine decided to move onto other things. It's quite possible, however, that he only managed to survive at all thanks to the help of one man: David Blaine.
The renowned magician and dogged world-record breaker (you may recall his attempt last year to hold his breath under water longer than any human being in history) showed up at the Apple store to support his longtime friend, and when Fight Harm came up, Korine gave Blaine the microphone to provide some background to the whole affair. Blaine told a simultaneously hilarious and horrifying duo of anecdotes featuring Korine battling people and Blaine interceding before things got too ugly. On one occasion, Blaine nearly saved Korine from the ire of a cop called to the scene after Korine urinated in front of a young woman. "I said, 'Officer, this is Harmony Korine, an amazing filmmaker,'" Blaine recalled. "'He did the movie Kids. What he's trying to do is show that the ultimate tragedy is the ultimate comedy.' That whole pitch. The cop said, 'Harmony, apologize to this girl and let's call it a night.' Harmony looks at the girl and yells--"
Blaine stopped and turned to Korine. "Should I yell what you said?" he asked. Korine nodded. "He yells 'f--k you, you f--king...' which wasn't nice. The girl freaks out. Then he goes, 'And f--k you, too, pig.' I'm out of there. I leave. Harmony gets arrested and spends the night in jail. I wanted no part of it." The crowd roared with laughter. Korine smiled. Talk about being an escape artist.