Erin Trahan / The Boston Globe / May 4, 2008

Harmony Korine zealots finally have a reason to emerge from their junkyards, gutters, and basements. Last decade's bad boy auteur has emerged from his, with "Mister Lonely," his first feature in eight years.

more stories like thisKorine struck a chord with outsider-arthouse film fans by penning the screenplay for Kids (1995), and writing and directing Gummo (1997) and julien donkey-boy (1999). Replete with cat drowning and kids living in filth, Gummo sparked a kinship with Werner Herzog, who took to the film's stark imagery. (Herzog plays a persuasive priest in Mister Lonely)

As Korine tells it, Gummo prompted Herzog to pick up the phone and introduce himself. "He told me, 'You are the last foot solider in the army,' " said Korine.

But despite an outpouring of support from the anti-establishment establishment, Korine spiraled into what he calls the dark years, in which he was a "narcotics enthusiast" and thought he would never make another film.

"I wasn't watching movies. I wasn't involved in the culture," he said. He earned his living as a cobbler, a fisherman, and a lawn mower. "All I wanted to do was make movies; then when I did, all I wanted to do was quit," he said.

He credits moving back to Nashville and meeting his wife several years ago as the stabilizing forces that have allowed him to return to film. He also tells a story about a woman walking an invisible dog and hearing the dog bark. "Then I just knew," he said.

Mister Lonely premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. A story that involves a Michael Jackson impersonator who falls in love with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator - with Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple thrown in for good measure - Korine's latest work has since traveled the festival circuit, including a recent stop at the Independent Film Festival of Boston, and opens at Kendall Square Cinema on Friday. Korine said the film's theatrical release will free him to write his next project, which he thinks will be about voodoo and curb-dancing in New Orleans.

"Tramps, vagrants, ... show people," he said, "I'm attracted to people who invent themselves." In "Mister Lonely," a group of disparate impersonators forms a commune at a Scottish castle. In a secondary story line, nuns miraculously jump from airplanes and land unscathed.

"Yeah, faith," said Korine about one of the film's themes. "For me, it's important to believe in something."

Korine believes in fans and characters who can't or won't fit in. The raucous Boston crowd at Korine's IFFBoston screening last weekend was no exception. One fan, wearing a black T-shirt with "Best of the Beast" written on the back, set the tone of the audience-filmmaker question-and-answer session after the showing. "I know you. And you know me," he told Korine, claiming to have introduced filmmaker Guy Maddin to Korine's work, after which Maddin dubbed Korine an "armful of harmful."

Another audience member told Korine, "I have something for you," in a creepy voice, then invited Korine out for pizza. This may or may not be the same person who later gave Korine a DVD wrapped in a napkin with a fake finger.

Someone else wanted to know about the connection between the impersonator story line and the flying nuns. Did Korine just make a short and throw it into his movie?

"I have an answer but I don't feel like I want to tell you," said Korine, curtly. "I just don't care enough."

At an interview the next morning at Nine Zero, Korine said the only thing that would've been better the night before would have been if the IFFBoston crowd had torn up the seats or lit a bomb in the theater. "All I ever wanted is to destroy something and build it back up again. Not to feel nothing. It's still what I'm searching for."

He slid an irregular lump of sugar across the table. On one side he'd drawn a straight face, on the other, a smile.