Sunday, March 31, 2013
I saw Harmony Korine's SPRING BREAKERS last night and enjoyed it a lot. It's a pretty remarkable piece of work and like no other movie playing anywhere now. It doesn't have a conventional story structure and because of this and also because you know Korine doesn't give a damn about typical Hollywood conventions or endings, you have no idea where the story might go. This is exciting. At the same time, while I was watching it, thoroughly enjoying its inventiveness, I felt that something about its look and rhythm, something about its entire feel, reminded me of another film or the work of another director. I don't mean that Korine was copying anyone or even referencing anyone in any way. He has his influences like anyone else, but in each of his films it's obvious that Korine works from within himself and what comes out of him is his alone.
Still, and I may sound like a goofball saying this, I realized that SPRING BREAKERS made me think of the works of none other than Jess Franco. The Franco who's made over a couple hundred films in almost every genre (mostly horror) and who's made quite a few films that are flat-out terrible. But in Harmony Korine there are a number of things that remind me of Franco. There's Korine's total fearlessness in choosing material. There's an esthetic that loves the contrasts between the beautiful and the disgusting, the gorgeous and the taboo, all of it delivered with a frequently pranksterish spirit. In both guys, there's a peculiar mixture of genius and obviousness you just don't get in many people. As Korine himself says, his films convey something somewhere between profundity and retardation. And then there are specific things in SPRING BREAKERS that, put together, remind me of certain Franco films: the candy colors, the predominance of women in bikinis carrying guns, the many scenes that take place in bright sunlight and on beaches (Korine calls SPRING BREAKERS beach noir) the whole who-gives-a-damn approach to conventional structure, the genre/exploitation picture aspect of it. But most of all it's the editing and dreaminess of SPRING BREAKERS that reminds me of Franco. The loopy editing of Korine's film gives it a kind of forward and backward motion at the same time. It's both energetic and static. Events and scenes just blend into each other. The whole thing is trancelike and druggy in a specific way that I've only experienced before in Franco films. Films such as VENUS IN FURS and LORNA: THE EXORCIST, VAMPYROS LESBOS, and EUGENE: THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION. All these films, and many others of Franco, are edited in such a way that they create what you could call a "time of no time", and it's exactly this "time of no time" quality that SPRING BREAKERS has in spades. There's beauty mingled with terror and the whole thing envelops you voluptuously. The 94 minute running time seems neither long nor short. You are wrapped up in it completely, though, while you're watching, always in the present tense, so to speak. An odd compelling feeling, and a very rare one to experience in a movie. I'd be curious to ask Harmony Korine whether's he's familiar with Franco's films and, if he is, whether he likes them.