Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2013)

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eerik
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Re: Harmony Korine

#2 Post by eerik » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:33 pm


criterion10
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:19 pm

Re: Harmony Korine

#3 Post by criterion10 » Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:49 pm

Spring Breakers currently sits at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Lots of new reviews piling in, include a rave from Scott Foundas.

Movie opens in LA/NYC this Friday, then expands wide next Friday (although it appears that it will only be in 550 theaters, according to Box Office Mojo).

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: Harmony Korine

#4 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:37 am

Spring Breakers is my first experience with Harmony Korine the director (though I've read his book A Crackup at the Race Riots), so I'll apologize for not having any comments that will place it in context of his other work. That said, it was a delight to see this film at a suburban multiplex full of college students who had no knowledge of who Korine is or that they were in for an experimental film soaking in neon with enough pop culture sensibilities to con them into their seats. While I often prefer to see films in small crowds, the movie plays better with a general audience that comes to the growing realization that the film is much more subversive than they'd expected and noticing their shift from boredom to bewilderment and finally to delight at the levels of absurdism reached (one ten minute stretch that Scott Foundas emphasized heavily in his review left me weeping with laughter unlike anything I've experienced in some years). From the movie to the atmosphere of my viewing, I felt like I'd stumbled into a satisfying hallucinogenic trip.

The Third Man
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Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#5 Post by The Third Man » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:46 am

Odd that there exists no thread for what is easily the most buzzed-about movie in both mainstream and arthouse circles right now, so I figured I'd take the initiative and make one. (Unless I just missed it, in which case just lock this...) I just got back from the first available showing in KC. I'd been hotly anticipating this for damn near a year now and when I found it I had the chance to see it a day earlier than I thought, I jumped at the opportunity. And even having a familiarity (albeit passing) with Korine's aesthetic, attitude and outlook, having seen Gummo and read thousands of words about or spoken by the guy over the years, I don't think I was adequately prepared for what a strange movie Spring Breakers is.

Though, maybe it's the opposite, and it's strange precisely for not being as alienating as you might expect a Harmony Korine film about Disney pop princesses on spring break to be. Because, whatever you want to say about it, I can't see this as a movie that exists just to exploit, ironically skewer, or morally grandstand about youth culture. It's certainly bizarre and with a wicked sense of humor (if anybody tops Franco's comedic performance this year, I'd be shocked), but it's also somehow completely earnest and affectionate towards its characters and spring break/youth culture at the same time. No sequence better encapsulates that dualism than the amazing montage late in the film set to Britney Spears' "Everytime," a sequence often uproariously funny but sad and beautiful too. It doesn't really shift or veer tonally, but rather makes all the moods it hits on feel like one piece of a larger whole, which is something I always admire in a film.

I can't think of much more to say. I was just really impressed. Hell, the more I think about it, I'm pretty sure I love it. Anybody else had a chance to see it yet?

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wigwam
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#6 Post by wigwam » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:56 am

I was so excited for this that I spent over 11 hours rewatching all of his feature work in preparation

I made it 20 minutes, two seat changes, 6 cell phone shitheads, 11 latecoming fucktards, 50+ worthless bystander fucks, zero vigilant staff persons tasked to check auditorium conditions, and infinite past admonishments from my wife not to confront people anymore. I have no idea what happened on screen while I was in there, so distracted was I with psychotic rage, i understand that they're too stupid not to go to a movie making fun of them, im just sad they wont feel made fun of if they're all facebooking on their samsung galaxies instead of paying attention

trying again at the 315p show before dinner tomorrow, hopefully the shitheads are all in class or mid-shift working at abercrombie

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Brian C
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#7 Post by Brian C » Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:15 am

Not sure how many people care, but for what it's worth, it's being distributed digitally as a 4K DCP.

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warren oates
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:16 pm

Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#8 Post by warren oates » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:58 pm

I liked this. One of the better new releases I've seen so far this year. Certainly the most mainstream, polished and professional effort by Korine so far. Proof beyond a doubt that he's a real director and not just some marginal artiste. Yet in terms of what the film could have been, in relation to what seem to be his personal aesthetic and thematic interests and compared to his other recent work, I was disappointed.

Part of the problem for me lies in the tension at the heart of this film's attitude toward its characters. At first the film almost seemed like it would be Harmony Korine's Show Girls, the sort of film where he manages to deliver a superficial version of the genre goods he imagines draw an audience to an exploitation picture all the while mocking the entire enterprise with an kind of merciless directorial deadpan. Yet I agree with The Third Man above that the film isn't as alienating as you expect it to be on any level. And for me therein lies its strange strength and greatest weakness.

On the one hand, there's an admirable almost documentary interest in the details of the characters and their world that eschews judgment in favor of relatively objective reportage.

On the other hand, there seems to me a structural ambivalence where the film's concept is at odds with the sort of improvised outsider family that often ends up being the core of a Korine picture. His sympathy is usually with the rebels and outcasts on the fringes of society. But he's got a problem here from the get-go because what could be more mainstream than these four girls or the things they want? So he makes them criminals and it's a neat trick that seems to be going somewhere for a while. But it turns out that the crime stuff just bookends the rest. And none of it has the impact it might if it were more integrated into who these girls are, what they want and what they are willing to do to get it. The ramping up of crime and violence in the film's final act seems more a result of Alien's long history with a rival than the girls' characters. The ending isn't a comment on or a parody of De Plama's Scarface (which Alien has in his house constantly "On repeat, yo! On repeat!") so much as a mere retread of it with pink bikini-clad girl assassins -- which is a funny idea for a short or a music video maybe, but as the end of an hour and a half journey left me wanting. His spring breakers just can't be both the hollowed out everygirls they are the weird rebellious outsiders he sort of needs them to be, as even their biggest transgressions are driven by cliched motives and play out in predictable set pieces.

The girls are uniformly good -- fully committed to their roles -- but they usually don't have that much to do. Franco is great as a kinder gentler version of Gary Oldman in True Romance and the film definitely comes most alive in his scenes.

The cinematography and the score are both beautiful and effective if more conventional than I expected. By which I mean to say that many of these images from Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void DP would seem perfectly at home in a Michael Mann movie. The same is true of the cues by Cliff Martinez. Though as others have mentioned above the jokey/sincere use of source cues from Britney Spears provides some of the film's best musical moments.

The editing is probably the most interesting technical aspect. It's often elliptical, skipping forward and back in time for brief flashes, repeating odd bits of dialogue (once or twice to the point where it begin testing the patience of those around me), and generally freeing up the soundtrack from strict sync fidelity to the images (very Michel Chion). I noticed a fairly prominent "additional editing" credit and I wonder if perhaps these sorts of effects weren't given over to just one pair of hands. There's a bit of play with voiceover throughout too, somewhat Malick-y, though far less poetic and more blatantly banal.

For me Trash Humpers remains his most interesting and honest work precisely because it's about the outsiders in it from their own perspective and on their own terms. There's no distance between him and his subjects. No whiff of exploitation or slumming about the people or the places we see, no sense that the deliberate prankish stupidity on display is something he himself has captured but would never indulge in. And the whole thing is as purposefully ugly and annoying as Spring Breakers is glossy and gorgeous.

The Third Man
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#9 Post by The Third Man » Fri Mar 22, 2013 2:28 pm

warren oates wrote:The editing is probably the most interesting technical aspect. It's often elliptical, skipping forward and back in time for brief flashes, repeating odd bits of dialogue (once or twice to the point where it begin testing the patience of those around me), and generally freeing up the soundtrack from strict sync fidelity to the images (very Michel Chion). I noticed a fairly prominent "additional editing" credit and I wonder if perhaps these sorts of effects weren't given over to just one pair of hands. There's a bit of play with voiceover throughout too, somewhat Malick-y, though far less poetic and more blatantly banal.
It's funny you should mention this. I saw Spring Breakers not 24 hours after revisiting Badlands on blu-ray, and was struck by what an appropriate double-feature they made. Both feature adolescent girls torn between normalcy and a bad boy/criminal lifestyle, both allow for the appeal of the latter while recognizing the dangers and knowing things can't possibly keep up like this, both have a dreamy quality that make the film feel like a memory instead of something happening in the narrative "present" (an effect enhanced in Spring Breakers by the elliptical editing and flashes of past/future events), both feel both distinctly of a time and timeless...and of course, Badlands features Malick's most unaffected and banal narration, to the same humorous and ironic effect that it's employed in Spring Breakers. (And Badlands, of all Malick's films, is the only one with any particular sense of humor, but it's a very bizarre sort of humor.) And according to a quick Google search:
In a 1999 Dazed and Confused magazine article Harmony Korine listed his top ten films as: Pixote by Hector Babenco, Badlands and Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick, Fat City by John Huston, Stroszek by Werner Herzog, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and A Woman Under the Influence by John Cassavetes, McCabe and Mrs. Miller by Robert Altman, Out of the Blue by Dennis Hopper and Hail Mary by Jean-Luc Godard.
Plus the casting of Linda Manz in Gummo.

Certainly I don't want to jump in with both feet and declare Spring Breakers the new Badlands or of the same level of artistic achievement, but seeing them in succession made those parallels of tone, structure and narrative really striking.

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Kirkinson
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#10 Post by Kirkinson » Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:03 am

I haven't seen this film yet (or any Harmony Korine films, actually) but I'm glad Gawker has called attention to Harmony Korine's amazing Reddit AMA from earlier today. I read through all the questions he responded to and the Gawker article mentions most of the best, but the one they skipped over that I really liked was this:
hashtaggd: How do you personally describe your style? Film journalists/critics love to describe it for you, but what words do you use to describe your films?
HarmonyKorine: magic
For something a little more informative, his AVClub interview is worth taking a look at, too. I especially liked this passage:
The subject is, in some ways, what you would consider culturally based, and something that pretty much thrives on surfaces. It deals with a culture of surfaces. In that way, I wanted to represent that and make a film that looked like it was lit with candies, like we were lighting it with Skittles or we were using Starburst Fruit Chews. I wanted all that kind of pop gloss and tone, and I wanted all the mythology and the meaning to be the residue from the surface, to kind of bleed from it. A lot of it was about all the neon colors, the candy colors. The tone is something kind of physical. I wanted you to be able to feel like you could touch it or lick it.

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wigwam
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#11 Post by wigwam » Sat Mar 23, 2013 4:00 pm

Different than what I was hoping for, but not disappointing for it. I was wanting it all to be like the Britney Spears montage or the party before they get arrested with the fuzzy morphing faces. I came around on the repetitious voiceovers and see that as these vapid idiots' self-perpetuation and the moodier, dreamy aspects of it are most likely its greatest achievements. The whole gangster rivalry thing looked and played better when it was Hype Williams's Belly, but James Franco was great, giving all these glimpses of vulnerability underneath the facade and his character's simple joy in what was supposed to be materialistic braggart-ism was really cute.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#12 Post by HistoryProf » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:32 am

When I first saw the trailer for this I thought it was a Funny or Die! bit or something. It hardly seems real. I've now heard from a few friends whose opinions I respect and have gone from not caring a bit to really wanting to see this. I haven't set foot in a theater since Django Unchained on December 31st, so i've been starved for SOMETHING worth shelling out my time and money for. Looks like this might be it. This spring has been unnaturally awful even by the usual bland spring box office standard. Not a single good movie has been released in the U.S. beyond festivals or big city limited showings. Very frustrating.

One question: I am assuming there is no "tough love" lesson here for a 14 year old girl? Watching the trailer I wondered about the potential for taking my daughter and a friend...but the MPAA warnings seem to cover every type of debauchery they could list.

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#13 Post by warren oates » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:56 am

HistoryProf wrote:One question: I am assuming there is no "tough love" lesson here for a 14 year old girl? Watching the trailer I wondered about the potential for taking my daughter and a friend...but the MPAA warnings seem to cover every type of debauchery they could list.
Um, I wouldn't do this. I think the film is too graphic and explicit for a 14 year-old to see.

Btw, you should try and catch Stoker in the theater too, also without your daughter.

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knives
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#14 Post by knives » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:59 am

Of course that entirely depends on the threshold he has for content.

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#15 Post by warren oates » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:14 am

Put it this way then: as a former 14 year-old boy, I probably would have wanted to see this film. But I never would have wanted to see it with my parents who would definitely have been negligent in not doing their level best to prevent me from seeing it, whether I ultimately found a way to sneak in or download the eventual video or whathaveyou. I don't know about you guys, but during my teenage years it was never a problem to be watching something that turned unexpectedly violent with the 'rents. However, anything remotely sexual was instantly embarrassing beyond belief for all of us. And Spring Breakers at its most intense is wall to wall in your face naughty bits.

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knives
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#16 Post by knives » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:17 am

That seems a bit backwards since violence is far worse than sex. Though this is probably just the environment I grew up in.

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#17 Post by warren oates » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:37 am

knives wrote:That seems a bit backwards since violence is far worse than sex.
I don't know if it makes sense to get into gross generalizations like this. Worse in what way? At what time? For whom? Looney Tunes are by certain standards incredibly violent. And I'd still wager they're more appropriate for first-graders than, say, In The Realm of The Senses.

That said, I'll admit my family certainly inherited the collective hang-ups of our Puritan forefathers, the same ones that the MPAA currently has and needs to get over. I should also say that to their credit, if my parents had known half of the twisted violent shit I was watching on the sly without them -- all sorts of verboten horror films mostly -- they would have disallowed those too, as they should have.

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knives
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#18 Post by knives » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:44 am

That's a false comparison though as the violent content in a Looney Tunes short is not like the sex content of Oshima's film.

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#19 Post by warren oates » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:54 am

Sure. Not comparable. Not generalizable. Which is kind of what I was getting at. It's all about specifics when it comes to what parents ought to screen for their kids at any given age or stage of development, isn't it? Hence HistoryProf's question to us. To which I'd still answer: don't take her to this one.

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R0lf
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#20 Post by R0lf » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:59 am

warren oates wrote:
knives wrote:That seems a bit backwards since violence is far worse than sex.
I don't know if it makes sense to get into gross generalizations like this. Worse in what way? At what time? For whom?
Because sex is at the core of the way humans reproduce?

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#21 Post by warren oates » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:30 am

R0lf wrote:
warren oates wrote:
knives wrote:That seems a bit backwards since violence is far worse than sex.
I don't know if it makes sense to get into gross generalizations like this. Worse in what way? At what time? For whom?
Because sex is at the core of the way humans reproduce?
Surely that does not mean that, for example, even the most female-empowering, sex-positive loving-couple featuring and realistically body shaped/typed hardcore porn is then therefore appropriate viewing for children of all ages.

One could make an argument that violence is as "natural" as sex in this regard -- as a central, primal, volatile human instinct* -- which is why there are so many taboos (a.k.a. laws) regulating both in human societies. But one is tired and going to sleep.

[*see Freud et al]

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Alan Smithee
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#22 Post by Alan Smithee » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:59 am

I'd say the argument for exposing children to sexual content should go along the lines of whether it's something they can understand at this stage in their development. The nudity in Spring Breakers wouldn't be the warning signal to me but the drug use coupled with the sex, the pseudo date rape, the three way (depending on your feelings about that), the gun fellatio, the murder during sex, all coupled with the wanton violence might be something they aren't ready to understand. Especially when it comes to the way that this film is approaching it all. Very learned and cultured adults, steeped in theory are still trying to parse exactly what the film is doing. Whether it's satire, celebration, curation or all of the above isn't so likely to be understood by a 14 year old.

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warren oates
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#23 Post by warren oates » Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:34 pm

Riff Raff the St. Pete rapper on whom Franco modeled his performance "reviews" the film.

criterion10
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#24 Post by criterion10 » Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:31 pm

Despite being a frequent, daily lurker of this forum, I don’t comment all that often. In the few times that I have commented, I have made sure to profess my admiration for Harmony Korine, in particular his debut masterpiece, Gummo (I actually have reserved thoughts towards some of his later films, in particular Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers). But, regardless, I felt it necessary to offer my thoughts on Spring Breakers.

I first saw the film last Saturday, opening weekend, and then again for the second time today. The last time I was this excited for a movie was when I saw Inglourious Basterds back in 2009, which turned out to be an epic disappointment upon first viewing (I’ve gradually come to really like the movie). Luckily, Spring Breakers didn’t disappoint, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to say that it lived up to my expectations, because even I wasn’t entirely ready for what the film turned out to be. And that’s not a bad thing by any means.

I had read numerous articles and reviews about the film, and so I knew much about the style of it (i.e. frequent repetition, etc.). I avoided any major plot details, however.

I’m going to start by saying that Korine now has three great films in his oeuvre: Gummo, this, and Julien-Donkey Boy. I would rank them in that order. Spring Breakers is easily his best, most focused, and most original work since Gummo. It is a really unique film that I’ll certainly be remembering for some time to come.

The film is brilliant on a technical level. Benoit Debie’s neon-lit cinematography is simply breathtaking. The overlapping, repeating editing style worked well also. I never became annoyed by it, and I felt that it worked greatly for the film. The score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez is simply wonderful, and I enjoyed hearing more familiar tunes, such as “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”, which was utilized excellently in the opening sequence.

And that opening sequence brings me to a point I wish to address. Here, Korine accomplishes one of my favorite aspects of his directing. He captures a sort of beauty and innocence in a situation that we, the audience, find to be without beauty and corrupt, impure. He never exploits it, or glamorizes it. He simply depicts it and allows the audience to make up their own mind. Also, I love the fact that throughout the film, we are constantly brought back to this image at pivotal moments in the story. It reminded me greatly of the image of the tornado in Gummo, how the film opens and closes with it.

I've seen many people comparing Spring Breakers to the style of Terrence Malick, in particular The Tree of Life. And I can definitely understand these comparisons, but one film that I actually thought of was an unusual one: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, one of Korine's top ten favorite films. I remember having a similar reaction to that film, where I felt that there was a story that the director was telling, but it was presented in such an unusual and deliberately paced manner that it almost felt as though there was no plot development. And out of this, individual moments, certain specific scenes, or images became what the film was primarily about, not the story that the film was presenting.

A great quote from Korine himself demonstrates this idea that I have presented, where he claims, "What I remember myself from films, and what I love about films, is specific scenes and characters." And this is what I find most fascinating about Korine, that he is not concerned with a story, but with images, scenes, moments, slices of life. And I think that Spring Breakers does a perfect job of applying this concept. Thus, I found it ironic when my friends, whom I saw the film with and most of which did not care for it, claimed that the film had no plot. One friend even said was that all the film consisted of was a series of memorable scenes.

This concept of scenes, characters, and images is something that can be seen greatly in Korine's debut, Gummo, which is virtually a plot less film. It's also his most innovative in my eyes, probably followed next by Spring Breakers.

Seeing Spring Breakers a second time further solidified my love for it. I really like this film, and I hope that it marks a turning point for Korine, in that he now attempts to maintain his artistic style while appealing (somewhat) to mainstream audiences. I also hope that with Spring Breakers reaching mainstream success (sort of), others will go and discover the rest of Korine's films. They certainly aren't all perfect, but I really think they do deserve more attention than they have previously received.

By the way, I have to admit that my audience during both screenings could not have been any more annoying. Luckily, there weren’t too many people and they were sitting far away from me.

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FerdinandGriffon
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Re: Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

#25 Post by FerdinandGriffon » Fri Mar 29, 2013 7:06 pm

I think Richard Brody has come very close to summing up my feelings for the film, which, if I were to paraphrase him and myself, might sound a little like this: I greatly admire the film's technical excellence, playfulness, and unusual choice of subject, but find the sum total blank, narcotizing, and lacking in the structural depth that might make it into something more than mannered posturing.

Brody:
The movie isn’t so much an elaborate put-on as it is a simulacrum. Whether Korine films half-naked young women exulting on the beach or gunslingers in the heat of conflict or characters reflecting in moments of pensive stillness, he seems to be miming the gesture—this is how, if he had wanted to convey such pleasures, such drama, or such emotion, he might have done it.

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