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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Spring Breakers

SPRING BREAKERS (Three Stars)
U.S.: Harmony Korine, 2012

Harmony Korine’s movies — up to and including his latest, Spring Breakers —  are mostly outlaw pictures and weirdo comedies about people who don’t want to grow up, or shouldn’t have to: kids, crooks, artists.  Spring Breakers, for example, is about four college girls who take off for the collegiate guy and girl bikini-flipping revels at Tampa, Florida, and begin to descend into Hell. It may be the apotheosis or culmination of all the Korines: a picture that starts off, as many have noted, like an arty  Girls Gone Wild video, inflated to Hieronymus Boschian or Pieter Brughelian Beach Party proportions, and ends up doing a riff on the Al Pacino-Brian De Palma 1983 Scarface, mashed up into Charlie‘s Angels gone homicidal.

It’s a sometimes fascinatingly dumb movie, about fascinatingly dumb people doing fascinatingly dumb things. Some  of it is fun to watch, and some of it is irritating as Hell. The story makes absolutely no sense and gets more senseless the more you think about it. But at the same time, the movie — part of which was shot quasi-verite at an actual spring break — has some authentic peeks at semi-life and at youth style. It’s shot (and in one case, acted) like an art film or a prime neo-noir, and it looks good, even if  its  psychological  substance is sort of ersatz. But then, who needs reality?

Some of it is great — namely the shimmering, sun struck ,stunning cinematography by Belgian/French maestro Benoit Debie (who photographed Irreversible and Enter the Void for Gaspar Noe), and (especially) the amazingly entertaining gangsta-pranksta performance by James Franco as the brain-fried hip-hop-druggie Britney Spears fan Alien.  I may have had some problems with Franco‘s Oz. (Millions didn‘t), But his Alien, a guy with metal teeth who calls his bed an art piece and plays piano and AK47s, is so damned good  — a triumph of  charismatic dopiness and rebel posturing — that  it single-handedly hauls the movie up a star or two.  But who needs stars? Who needs critics?

The movies’ femme stars are an odd assortment of Disney Channel or family-oriented  teen queen junior superstars: Selena Gomez (as Faith), Vanessa Hudgens (as Candy) and Ashley Benson (as Brit) — plus, as Cotty, Rachel Korine (who is Mrs. Harmony). Since three of these girls are blondes in the movie, they all tend to look almost interchangeable, and they tend to act interchangeably too. Brit, Candy and Cotty are outlaws trying to act as if they‘re “in a video game…or a movie“ (they pull a Bonnie and Clyde at a chicken eatery to get money for the break), while Faith is a good Christian who hangs around with the others because they’ve known each other like, forever, or at lest since grade school. Maybe they should be cramming for exams instead of, pulling stick up jobs and snorting cocaine in Tampa. But who needs exams?

When the gals hit Tampa — just like Dolores Hart, Yvette Mimieux, Paula Prentiss and Connie Francis hit Fort Lauderdale in 1960’s Where the Boys Are —  they immediately fall into what seems to be a nonstop , bouncing day and night orgy, which gets them arrested, and puts them in the eager hands of Alien, who goes their bail, and invites them over to his big expensive crib with all his big expensive toys. (“Look at all my shit!“)  Alien is also involved in a street war with an old dealing friend (Gucci Mane), and pretty soon, the movie goes bloody and haywire and murderously illogical. But who needs logic?

A lot of Spring Breakers is shot and shaped like old-style soft-core porn show– even to the old cheapo porn trick of repeating some scenes and lines over and over. It’s blended with what plays like a teen-slanted ‘83 Scarface pastiche. But, as long as Franco is on screen, it’s a good movie, and there’s also something crazily compelling about the scenes of that huge outdoor dance-a-thon. The ending is beyond ridiculous, and not funny enough to save things. And the four femme stars could have used better parts and better lines, but what the hell. The movie‘s credibility vanishes after the restaurant robbery scene  anyway, which is shot flashily, in a Gun Crazy-style single take. But  as the man says, who needs credibility? Just pretend…

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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch