I got to see Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers at the Nitehawk Cinema this weekend and was completely blown away. Being a long-time fan of Korine’s work (I’ve seen all his movies aside from Trash Humpers) I had some idea of what to expect but this was something different. It seemed like a brand new way of telling a story – hyper-modern, abstract, repetitive, non-linear, obscene, exciting and in the end undeniably, amazing cinema. There may not have been more than 100 lines of dialogue in the entire movie but that fact did little to diminish what felt like a fully-realized vision. Korine has always loved toying with his audience and this seems like his greatest prank yet – another one of his demented stories of America’s underbelly wrapped in a neon pink package of bikinis, drugs and machine guns. After already pulling in $12M (safe to say the highest box office gross for a Korine film) I can imagine at least half that audience went to the theater ready to laugh at James Franco’s Riff Raff impression and see Girls Gone Wild: The Movie with no real idea what they were getting themselves into. Korine has never been afraid to go into dark territory or show people at their very worst and Spring Breakers pushes constantly into scenes that will not only be unfamiliar to most of his ticket-buying audience but also uncomfortable. Franco’s twin partners were sinister enough for me to be thankful that none of their dirty deeds featured as scenes in the movie. I didn’t recognize any of the movie’s good girls gone bad from the tabloids or previous teeny bopper screen work but that didn’t lessen the effect of seeing their innocence, or what was left of it in some cases, completely dissolve before your very eyes. And then there is James Franco… There are times when I’m just sick of hearing about the guy but in Spring Breakers he pushes all his chips to the center of the table and goes all in to embody Alien. I had no problem buying his ridiculous but believable character and the lengths he goes to sell it are award-worthy. What other mainstream actor is going to have the balls to go near that part? That’s one thing this film is – ballsy. There seem to be no rules to the narrative style, no limits on what can and can’t be shown and some of the film’s best moments teeter on the brink of brilliant or disastrous. There is no doubt that critics and audiences alike will be split down that line. But above all else Harmony Korine is an extremely talented filmmaker with his own point of view. The way he pairs consistently inventive cinematography and the film’s never ending soundtrack (a collaboration between his music supervisor, soundtrack composer Cliff Martinez and Skrillex) is nothing short of genius. There is a robbery scene early in the film that will be tough to unseat as my favorite moving shot of the year.
I went to the movie with my good friend Mike who I went to school with at the University of Colorado. At that time we had both seen Kids several times before Gummo came out and considered it a classic. Gummo was something completely different – twisted and shocking but also a uniquely original vision and as far away from the mainstream as possible. We loved it. At the time we were taking film classes with the legendary Stan Brakhage (someone Roger Ebert compared Korine to) and were dying to know if Stan had seen Gummo. We should have known better. Of course he had. When Mike asked him what he thought of the movie he stated simply, “That’s a filmmaker. That’s a young man dedicated to making films.” Coming out of Spring Breakers I couldn’t agree more and can’t wait to see what this new found success will allow him to do next.