Sunday 4 August 2013

Spring Breakers: Never Mind The Subtext... Here's Some Sex & Pistols

Harmony Korine is a shoe-in for the club of directors who boast an effortless skill for compositional proficiency while dealing with often incoherent and inane subject matter. What's kept Korine as an arthouse hero rather than a schlocky outlaw is that he doesn't seek to overcome or transcend this status but outright embody it. Dragging his camera across the tackiest corners of America, he creates such extremely impressive images of exploitative hedonism while defiantly rejecting anything resembling cerebral or narrative-guided film. Under a certain criteria Spring Breakers is a masterpiece but it's best to leave your expectations, political-correctness and perhaps even your brain at the door. Make no mistake, this is 90 minutes of supreme stupidity but it's no lesser a film for it.

When Spring Breakers was released a few months ago, the baited breath that accompanied it was divided between the tabloid culture that built these tarnished Disney princesses and jaded, snobby film buffs. The people in the middle were left confused as to exactly what the hell was so special. With it's gaudy promotional material, stunt casting and R18+ rating, Spring Breakers confused many as to who exactly it was trying to please. There was a general consensus that this film mattered but few could exactly say why. Is there a fanciful morality tale at the core? Broad cultural satire? Subtle undercurrent of pathos? No, there's none of that. The movie comes exactly as advertised and then some. But my God does Korine know how to hold a camera.

The shots and there unique colour schemes are so hypnotically engaging and creative. Korine manages to fuse the hues of a night club light, lip gloss, bright bikinis and hair streaks to create an irresistible palette. The film is almost entirely composed of a contrast between drab decaying buildings and off-puttingly bright pinks and yellows. It's the kind of aesthetic that, on paper, makes you want to throw up but I can't state enough how well it works. When the film starts it slowly coasts through the familiar territory of small-town banality before it makes the inevitable shift towards the non-stop nudity and liqueur of Girls Gone Wild style partying. Both settings are familiar territory but Korine finds ways to make the fresh again, which is particularly amazing considering how many lame spring break montages have cluttered up film and television. The film's greatest moments are reserved for the third act though, where everything descends into a surreal mashup between Scarface and a Britney Spears video. If you think that that analogy sounded strained, don't blame me, the comparison between those two cultural icons is made explicit in the film.

There's little to decode or analyse here and if there is it doesn't feel sufficiently thought out or compelling enough to focus on. It's mainly about the visceral fun of the characters and the viewer. It's best expressed by the girls' voice-mail messages to their mothers and grandmothers, a device that may strike some as contrived but nicely underscores the whole experience. They described their time in Florida in religious, sophisticated terms  and the first assumption is that they're just lying to shield their reputation. But the praises they sing about their absurdly over-the-top Florida holiday is completely sincere because there is something completely transcendent about this pink-hued, blood-splattered, T&A filled road trip. It's a glorious tribute to hedonism that doesn't shy away from the inherent ugliness that comes with it. But don't confuse it for a critique; that would defeat the purpose.

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