Monday, June 5, 2017

What more can one possibly say about Chloë Sevigny's birth and early life in Connecticut, after reading the piece last month in the New York Times by Amanda Fortini, Going Home With Chloë Sevigny? What more is there to say about Chloë in general, whose status as "the coolest girl in the world" was cemented way back in 1994 in Jay McInery's New Yorker profile, and has continued long after her 40th birthday? Saying that Chloë is cool is like saying that water is wet, or like saying that, as a supposedly hipster art-graduate chick in my late twenties, I personally think that Chloë's cool. It would be strange if I didn't, as Chloë Sevigny — like Joan Didion, or the humble avocado, or the films of David Lynch — is one of those things that we all like. A cliché that has become a cliché because it is unequivocally pleasurable, or hip, or perfect in its assemblage. She's a human Velvet Underground album.

Alice Hines, more recently at the New Yorker, pins down Chloë's appeal with a perfect electronic-age metaphor: "For years, she resisted joining [social media], until two months ago, when a publicist talked her into it. Yet she's long been an unwitting fixture on the platform; her name has been tagged more than twelve thousand times." She is, in other words, someone we talk about but do not really know, which is far cooler than being transparent. You can't be in Gummo and have your opening line be: "Foot-Foot, you stinker bitch!" and still maintain a Garbo-esque air of mystery — and yet, here we are; and hereI am re-watching Gummo, two full decades later, and wondering what I really think about Chloë's performance. How can somebody bare herself like this, and be an enigma? "As childhoods go, Sevigny's in Darien, Connecticut, a wealthy town of 20,000 an hour's train ride from New York City, was as suburban as they come," Fortini explains in her profile. "The house, she remembers, had a big forsythia bush in the front yard. 'It was, like, my spot," she says, as we drive past gracious colonial-style homes with manicured lawns. "I always just chilled there, underneath. It was all very, you know...' She begins to laugh, a boisterous, asthmatic-sounding, from-the-gut guffaw that signals she's aware of the triteness, the irony or maybe just the sheer unlikeliness of what she's about to say: '... idyllic.'"

Gummo drops our heroine into a different typical American scene: the town of Xenia, Ohio, which has recently been wasted by a Tornado and is, in the words of the critic Janet Maslin in the New York Times, "a post-apocalyptic home movie hell." "At the start of Gummo," she snarled, in a vicious review, "Mr. Korine accomplishes the rare feat of showing the worst of his hand within 30 seconds. Little kids spout obscenities in voice-over; cinematography… is skittishly high-speed and hand-held and grainy… [he] casts nonprofessional actors, often freakish individuals whom the film flaunts contemptuously, like the simple-minded woman who treats a doll as her baby or the albino cook who proudly names Pamela Anderson and Patrick Swayze as her favorite movie stars."

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