Harmony Korine delivers chaos at a Hollywood premiere

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Harmony Korine delivers chaos at a Hollywood premiere
The director Harmony Korine, in a yellow mask, performs as a DJ at the first public screening of his film “Aggro Dr1ft,” at Hollywood’s Crazy Girls strip club, in Los Angeles, Feb. 8, 2024. Critics panned “Aggro Dr1ft,” but the experimental action film found its intended audience in a surreal experience at the strip club. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones/The New York Times)

by Sonaiya Kelley



LOS ANGELES, CA.- At the Los Angeles premiere of filmmaker Harmony Korine’s “Aggro Dr1ft,” which was held Wednesday night at Hollywood’s Crazy Girls strip club, scantily clad dancers shimmied on three small stages.

Korine, a 51-year-old experimental artist known for directing 2012’s “Spring Breakers,” has been seeking to understand and capitalize on youth culture since he wrote the 1995 cult classic “Kids” when he was only 19. That’s why the enigmatic filmmaker, actor, photographer, painter, DJ and author is aiming to disrupt the traditional cinematic release format by offering immersive experiences for a group of film, fashion, skate and fine art ventures, which he launched with “Aggro Dr1ft.”

At the film’s first public screening, which drew about 400 people, a smoke machine blew softly overhead, creating fog reminiscent of the pouring rain outside. A merchandise station for EDGLRD, Korine’s multimedia design collective — and his DJ moniker — was set up in the back corner offering branded T-shirts, hoodies, skateboards and more. The screening was followed directly by DJ sets from music producer AraabMuzik and from Korine himself.

Showing a movie at a strip club is an unusual choice, which is typical of EDGLRD’s rollout strategy, according to the company’s head of film strategy and development, Eric Kohn.

“What we’re leaning into with this company is a more expansive approach to creativity,” Kohn said. “We’re trying to engineer a new way to get this kind of work out in the world that isn’t beholden to the limited economics of the film market. You’ve never seen a movie in a strip club before but you’ve also never seen a movie like this before.”

“Aggro Dr1ft” certainly lends itself to the strip club aesthetic, boasting the staples of a movie geared toward men: There’s cash, cars and hypersexual women. Men in ski masks brandish large machine guns. Strippers are bound inside large bird cages. A street brawl devolves into a knife fight. And there’s a cameo by Korine’s “Circus Maximus” collaborator, Travis Scott, who stands around as the camera draws in close.

Although the movie comes in at a tight 80 minutes, it feels akin to an assault on the senses because of its visuals — which were shot entirely with an infrared lens — and its score by AraabMuzik. It is the kind of thing that might play in the background of a frat party.

The audience was primarily male, comprised of many Seth Rogen look-alikes clad in skate brands and baseball caps. Many of them were mustachioed.

The gender divide was never more obvious than in the film’s attempts at humor.

“There were a lot of men that were laughing when the guy got his head cut off,” Mariah Kock, a stylist, said of a scene in which the protagonist beheads an opponent with a small hand-held blade. “I thought that it was a very serious moment and all these guys were maniacally laughing.”

At the same time, she described the film as “amazing.” “I had an out-of-body experience the whole time I was watching it,” she said. “I was honed in. I feel like I’m not even here in this room. I feel so weird in such a good way.”

“I thought it was a really sick commentary on warmth and manhood,” Luisa Coats, an artist and friend of Kock, said enthusiastically. “We were saying we all feel high. I think I was surprised at the crowd. I was expecting something a bit different I think but this movie was so sensual, it made me want to be reincarnated as a man.”

The film debuted last fall at the Venice Film Festival and was critically panned. But critics aren’t the target audience for Korine’s projects, according to Kohn, who was formerly the executive editor at Indiewire.

“My first day at EDGLRD I was flying to the Venice Film Festival for the world premiere of this movie,” he said. “Incredible environment, but it’s a highbrow cinephile crowd. So to see it there and then to see it with this environment shows you there really is a potential to reach everyone with the right kind of work.”

Later this week, the film will host additional screenings at the American Cinematheque, a cultural organization that offers curated film programming.

“I was stoked ever since I heard about this at the film festival circuit to obviously mixed reviews, as all his films are,” said Jeremy Long, a writer and TV producer who learned of the event through a Discord group for film. “I thought it was trippy, I thought it was nuts. There’s no movie like this movie that exists. There probably never will be again.”

Long said he is not a “strip club goer,” but that certain scenes of the movie transported him directly into the action.

“It created a really surreal experience on top of an already surreal movie,” he said. “I like that not one movie of Harmony’s is the same as the movie he did before. He’s always pushing the envelope of not just what cinema is but what storytelling is within a film.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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