Spring Breakers [Blu-Ray]

Directed by Harmony Korine

> > Jul 11 2013

Spring Breakers [Blu-Ray] - Directed by Harmony Korine
By Robert BellEver one to ingeminate and catapult quasi-bohemian, crudely mainstream pop culture signifiers and bric-a-brac of past and present, the influence of L'enfant terrible Harmony Korine (the skater-boy-turned-screenwriter that crapped out the exploitive and desperately affected Kids) reaches only so far as what is trendy within his lexicon of street punk, pseudo-gangster, literate but unshowered children of capitalist indulgence. A try-hard skid that emulates populist art world cinema tropes to simultaneously patronize and embrace a constructed, nightmarish, sleazy underworld, he projects his dirt bag film subjects as a facet of his faux-hip, streetwise identity. With Spring Breakers, he's taken the Gaspar Noé route to storytelling, even borrowing his cinematographer, Benoit Debie. He presents a similarly alienating, yet less consciously nihilist, disparate mash-up of images that simultaneously deconstructs American iconography and mythos while indulging in it pornographically, wanting to be above it all, but being too self-conscious and desperate for validation to acknowledge or admit it. Film grains and styles vacillate between Noé's discomforting, artificial neon glow and the cheaply shot, faux-amateur porn tackiness of a sun-drenched spring break experience. They're used to assault the viewer with distressing ugliness while Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Faith (Selena Gomez) partake in spring break festivities, having funded their journey by robbing a diner. Endless handheld shots of women pouring liquor on their breasts and shaking their asses for the many interchangeable, half-naked boys groping them in libertine carnality drive the first half of the film. These protracted, oft-repetitive montages reiterate the perpetuating theme of a fantasy-turned-nightmare that links the idea of spring break to the notion of the American dream — escape from the routine and endless decadence as a reward for hard work. But when the girls are arrested and drug dealer Alien (James Franco) busts them out, revealing an even darker side to escapist fantasy — criminality and toothless, shirtless meth addicts as an alternative to assimilating to the status quo — their dreams and illusions are gradually shattered. While casting three Disney girls (Hudgens, Gomez and Benson) as desirable cultural signifiers thrust into a world of abrasive depravity, one that's initially a widely accepted North American tradition, is in itself inspired, there's a great deal of greyness in what Spring Breakers has to say about it all. In part, Korine obviously feels superior to this nasty underworld he's portraying, playing a poignant, unplugged Britney Spears song to a montage of orgy-esque indulgence and violence. Two Disney girls make out and rub each other's breasts, grabbing guns and planning a revenge shooting on the gangster (Gucci Mane) that shot one of them in the arm. Because Cliff Martinez's score, and ability to make poignant the contrary electronic sounds of Skrillex, manipulates the raw, pretentious, mostly incoherent footage into something melodic and even, at times, moving, there's a false sense of heartfelt, coming-of-age, adult demystification. But Korine's desperately needy, perpetually winking tendency to emulate "cool" filmmakers and deliver smug, self-satisfied scenes of deliberately subversive material is mixed with an endless celebration of naked girls being objectified and the inherent awesomeness of an opportunistic criminal. It's as transparent as it is nauseating. Because he's so desperate to maintain his image and credibility, balancing art world elitism with an appreciation and understanding of those on a darker path, there are mixed feelings and an overall nasty insincerity fragmenting his work, leaving it as cold and distant as a person whose disposition is that of affected performance. If he weren't so busy trying to be cool and attempting to be like the many more talented artists he insists on copying, he might find some truth amidst his social criticisms and senseless titillation. As it stands, aside from the deliberately obtuse aesthetic presentation of the material, Spring Breakers suggests that Korine hasn't matured a day since writing Kids in a youthful bid for attention, which, now that he's 40, is rapidly losing its charm. He doesn't do much to eschew this perception on the commentary track or the "behind the scenes" supplement included with the Blu-Ray. It is, however, interesting to hear what Martinez has to say about approaching the raw footage, knowing how important music would be to making it into anything resembling a film.
(VVS)
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