There’s a scene in Gummo when Solomon is taking a bath in filthy water. It looks like he’s swimming in oil, except it’s not oil because it slides right off his skin. Solomon is a boy who likes riding bike, huffing glue, and shooting feral cats with an air rifle. That’s how he makes money, by shooting feral cats and selling the carcasses to a local grocery store, where he gets something like $1/lb.
Solomon only bathes once during the movie. The filthy water looks lukewarm. Possibly it’s been stagnant for days, used again and again for ablutions. He submerges half his head and peeps above the water with his fishbowl blue eyes like a spy. He scrubs his body with harsh yellow soap, scrubs between his toes, under his arms, inside his ear. There are Barbie dolls behind him, some naked. There’s bacon taped to the wall. His mom comes in with a tray and situates it across the width of the tub.
Solomon looks at his plate of food, presumably dinner, and unenthusiastically remarks, “Spaghetti.” The strands of semolina look hard, like they’ve been in the refrigerator several days after being cooked. Solomon drinks his whole milk first. Then he threads the spaghetti around his fork tines and slurps a serving into his mouth. Is he grateful for this meal in filthy bathwater?
Yes. Yes, he is.
His mom asks for the shampoo. Solomon hands her 1 of 2 bottles. His mom says, “That’s the conditioner. Hand me the other bottle.”
So, I think, Solomon can’t read.
His mom works up a good lather and cleans his hair. She’s disgusted with her son’s hair, as if he were infected with lice. Soap bubbles fall into his spaghetti, but this doesn’t spoil Solomon’s appetite. He isn’t picky. He’s hungry and dirty, and he’s killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
Someone knocks on the door. Solomon’s mom twists his thin blond hair into a tall cowlick and leaves to answer. Harmony Korine [writer, director] keeps the camera rolling on his cowlick until it limply falls over into a candy-cane hook. Then he cuts to the door, where 2 black kids pimped out in suits are selling crunch bars. They say the money goes for children with cancer and hodgkin’s disease. The mom buys 1 for $1 and goes back to her son.
and hands Solomon the candy. He opens it too hastily. The candy bar falls into the filthy bathwater. Solomon fishes it out and opens the foil wrap greedily. He forgets about his crusty spaghetti and bites deeply into this crunch bar. Filthy bathwater pours out of his mouth because he chews with his mouth open. A fly lands on his nose. He shakes it away and continues eating.