An eight year hiatus is a long time for a filmmaker, especially for someone as iconic in indie film as Harmony Korine.
His last project was the little seen “Julien Donkey-Boy,”(1999) made when he was 26 and which gave him the distinction of being the first American director to work under the Dogme 95 Manifesto (an avant-garde filmmaking movement launched by Sweden’s Lars Von Trier).
Korine has now returned with “Mister Lonely,” a skewed, wildly inventive tale of celebrity impersonators and flying nuns.
“For a long time I was disconnected, pretty much drained and burned out,” he said during a recent promotional trip to Tokyo. “And, after ‘Julien Donkey-Boy,’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to make films anymore. Now, you know, the faith is pretty much restored.”
Was it hard to come back?
At first it’s like riding a bicycle on a wobbly road. You can do it and everything is familiar, but it still feels a little weird.
Four years ago I started to think in images and stories again. Before, I limited myself to doing odd jobs (promotional DVDs for Sonic Youth and David Blaine among them). I was also traveling a lot, experiencing life. But then I decided to leave myself open to things and one day I heard Bobby Vinton’s “Mister Lonely” on the radio.
The song itself was a whole movie, you know? I knew I could go with this — the image, the sound. And it took off from there. I didn’t have a linear structure though, it was an organic process — like a kid making a collage. I would take different components of the story and music, paste them together, move them around.”
What gave you the idea of depicting impersonators?
I didn’t want to make a movie about impersonators, but wanted to call attention to the strange poetry of their existence.
I didn’t want to watch these people do their gigs throughout the whole story either . . . but the impersonation thing gave the characters a mythology that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. I also wanted them doing different levels of mimicry: Charlie Chaplin’s impersonator, for example, adopted the actor’s legendary sadism as his own. And Marilyn’s impersonation was so convincing because she was depressed too, like the real Marilyn.
Do you think you’ve changed over the years, and that some incident triggered the events that led you to making this film?
Um, I’ve never been much for self-analysis, I think it’s a super waste of time to think about where I fit in and why. In the end, I don’t want to know anything about myself. It’s just better not to ask myself these questions. I guess that’s why I choose to live in Nashville instead of New York or Los Angeles. It’s good for me to live in Tennessee, where there’s not so much creative, analytical energy buzzing in the air. That would be dangerous for me . . . too much temptation!