Friday, March 22, 2013

If Terry Richardson Remade Badlands...

Harmony Korine creates high concept product for the international arthouse circuit. Spring Breakers (2013, Harmony Korine) is atypical for him because it is unlike the intimate cockroach surviving devastating disaster of nature structure he commanded in Gummo (1997, Korine), or the narratives where he transports us to tag along with obscure communes, Mister Lonely (2007, Korine) and Trash Humpers (2009, Korine); because, in his newest film he ventures for the first time away from his commitment to realism.

Gummo is presented almost as a documentary. Trash Humpers is presented as a home movie. And, while portioning out his aesthetic with equal measures of both, Korine goes all out in favor of a superbly realized stream of images--mostly shot with a shutter over-cranked to the point of tableau--and sounds, to arrive at what I am unfortunately struggling to decide describing as either like a music video, a commercial, or post-Eisensteinian montage. But undoubtedly, Spring Breakers is presented as a dream fantasy.

Music videos and commercials rely on image and sound because they're so short. They also typically feature many cuts. But, whereas they can project a wide array of disparate and unrelated shots, Spring Breakers feels more like a theme; or, like a book of photography.

Spring Breakers is A-list teensploitation. We get no plot or character. The girls are one dimensional: they like partying (sex, drugs, and violence) in bikinis and believe spring break is about finding themselves. The only plot turns are who gets robbed and who leaves spring break. Maybe I'd expected more. But, this is acceptable for the teensploitation genre. The goal of teensploitation is to get teens to spend money on a movie that promises sex and other R rated antics. So, why I would still commend the plot structure of Spring Breakers is because it places the reality of the dangerous crimes being perpetrated in the background, and basically eschews any moral consequences in favor of following each girl's pursuit of their ideal endless spring break.

And the girls' continuous grounding in reckless high-stakes adventure is what sets the movie apart. No one ever interrupts their roadtrip; well, at least no moral laws do. The obsession with the fleeting spring break is all that matters. While the girls travel to Florida, spring break ends. However, they stay and refuse to quit living the spring break lifestyle. And inexplicably, so does the film. The film places all the vice and danger so close you can touch it, and says if you want it, you can have it all and for life.

The setting is magnificently realized. Korine's primary ingredients are several party scenes full of girls in bikinis and topless (Is this a record for number of nipples?), girls making out with girls, girls in ski masks, pistols, machine guns, blunts, lines of cocaine, hard liquor by the liter, beer bongs of the syphon variety, beer bongs of the trumpet variety, and cool cars. And the bulk of the film is precisely about shuffling out these images. The aesthetic is fetishistic taboo. Again, like Gummo, Korine delights in beautifully photographing filthy squalor.

One shot that occurs shortly after the midpoint, that nears sublime, is an image of a girl in a bikini on the beach holding up a beer bong with its trumpet end blown out by the overhead sun behind it--it looks truly sacred.

Every aspect of the film has been punched by a rainbow. Even the dreary lecture halls are no match for the dayglo candy colored beams emanating from the girls' laptop screens; the Christian church of course, happens to be one with colorful stained glass vignettes of the gospels.

James Franco as Alien is over the top, but doesn't turn the film into camp. He's hilarious, but subordinate to the dangerous warpath of the girls.

The centerpiece of the film is a climactic, character-defining sequence set to the extant, prominently mixed "Everytime," by Britney Spears, from her 2003 album, In the Zone. And here's where I'll end it: I didn't think the use of the song was ironic; I bought into it; I bought into the whole plastic shallow sexy sentimental invigorating sweep of Britney, spring break, uninhibited youth and the whole enchilada. For real. Sometime last year I heard about this and decided it was the biggest thing I would look forward to in 2013--and it is every bit what I'd hoped for and more. This proves Harmony Korine is never ironic or condescending about his characters. When he decides he's found an interesting story, he comes up with art.


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