Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers"

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Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers"

Postby Michael » 24 May 2013, 14:30

I would like to recommend to forum members that they check out Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers". It has been a critically splitting film: one group of critics thinks it is simply exploitation, another group thinks it is a profound comment on Western decadence, in particular the depravity of much 'youth' culture. I happen to agree with the latter group:



Warning: trailer is a bit NSFW.

The film is a very dark satire, taking the American idea of "Spring Break" - where college students descend on Florida to party, drink, take illicit drugs, and have empty sex - to and past the point of absurdity. Four college coeds, short of cash, rob a local restaurant and take off for St. Petersburg, Florida. While there they get into trouble with the law and are bailed out by a rapper/drug dealer named Alien (played by James Franco in a hilarious and grotesque performance). Alien shows the girls around the seedier sides of St. Petersburg, and involves them in his gang war against his rival.

I don't know how anyone could watch this film and think it was promoting the actions of its characters as admirable. The soundtrack, I think, makes clear the judgment you should have of the story's events: I hate dubstep ordinarily, but in this film Skrillex's harsh soundtrack serves as a fitting counterpoint to the truly wretched excess on screen.

That said, a few rows down from me at the theatre were six young women who couldn't have been older than 21. They all had died blonde hair and all seemed to have not understood the film's satire in the slightest. They were even dancing in the aisles as the film's end credits rolled. I sat there a bit stunned by the movie while they seemed very excited by it, talking about they wanted to take a vacation to Florida during the summer. You can lead a horse to water ....
Michael
 
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Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 21:28
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Re: Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers"

Postby Caleb » 24 May 2013, 23:27

A friend of mine who is a raging American liberal recently posted an article about this and how race is defined in America on Facebook. I wanted to put my head through my computer monitor it was so awful. The way it described it though, I thought it was just a stupid movie.

I didn't realise it was a commentary on contemporary culture. I recently read a blog post (I can't remember where) that linked to an article that said that a lot of these movies are actually conservatism by stealth. Sure, some people (such as the people dancing in the aisles at your cinema) don't get it, but many do, and there seems to be something kind of interesting going on there. I think I will check this out.

Incidentally, what do you think of James Franco? I've seen him in a couple of things and not thought much of him, but the more I read or hear about him, the more he seems like an interesting character. He could be a bit of a poseur, but maybe not. Apparently, he wants to direct Blood Meridian, which is a movie I would love to see, but hope they never make because I know they'd screw it up. There are scenes in that book that I don't think they could ever put in a movie, plus the last third of it is so surreal I don't think many people would understand it (I'm not sure I understood it).
Caleb
 
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Joined: 20 Oct 2011, 04:44

Re: Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers"

Postby Michael » 25 May 2013, 04:44

I don't know about Franco personally - I do think he is a fantastic actor. I've seen him in other films playing a sophisticated man, and in interviews, and his transformation into Alien the drug dealer/rapper makes him almost unrecognizable. It's a mesmerizing performance.

A fairly close connection is drawn between the pop culture values the girls ingest through their music (they listen to a popular and truly loathsome rapper named Nikki Minaj while pulling off their robbery) and the culture of African Americans in Florida - the latter of whom I think are supposed to stand in for black popular culture, as marketed to the rest of America. I don't listen to rap music, but I read cultural critics writing about it, and the phrases the girls spout, like constantly calling each other and everyone else "bitches", are directly drawn from rap music and low-class black culture. There is a hilarious scene where Alien takes the girls to his house, and shows them his gun and weapon collection, along with all his clothes and lots of tasteless tacky crap. He points each item out to them and keeps repeating "look at all my shit!" proudly. This scene directly parodies much rap music, whose 'artists' regularly brag about their material possessions.

The film raises an interesting notion of authenticity and simulation. As loathsome as Alien and his milieu are, they are undeniably authentic: this is their world. The girls are living in a simulation, which Alien at first finds desirable but then finds frightening. Alien displays doubt, but the girls seem to not understand the stakes they are dealing with at the end of the movie.

Overall I took the film to be questioning the American Dream idea of self-transformation: that you can become whatever you want to be. The question the film raises: transform into what? What are you using as your guide to what is desirable or good?
Michael
 
Posts: 304
Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 21:28
Location: Canada


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