I Am Baffled by the Trailer for Spring Breakers, the New Film from Harmony Korine

You remember Harmony Korine, right? The scruffy auteur who gave us the nightmare white trash tornado-disaster cat-killing opus Gummo? The curb-dancing maniac who never got around to putting out that movie where he provoked strangers to beat him up? The guy who broke the Dogme 95 rules on Julien Donkey-Boy, a film featuring a pregnant Chloe Sevigny ice skating to Oval? The guy who stitched Trash Humpers together using VHS decks? The guy who wrote Kids? That guy?

So he has this new movie coming out called Spring Breakers. He wrote and directed the film. It stars James Franco, along with Disney alumni Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez.

Here is the NSFW trailer for Spring Breakers:

I am baffled.

I do not know what to make of this.

Sure, there’s something of Kids in there, but the lurid, saturated cinematography by Benoît Debie (who has worked with Gaspar Noé in the past) has this nauseating MTV/Hype Williams feel to it that seems miles away from Larry Clark’s plain, unadorned style, or Korine’s own patchy VHS buzz.

The film also seems to be a fairly straightforward, character-oriented plot, likely with clear exposition, an arc—all that stuff that Korine was known to dismiss in the past. Now, I’m not saying that Korine should just keep making the same films again and again (not that he’s ever done that, to be clear)—I’m just surprised by the look and feel of Spring Breakers, and how it seems to be marketed. 

My gut feeling, which might be entirely wrong, is that Spring Breakers is an expensive prank, a film shot entirely in ironic quotation marks that the viewer will never see because Korine will never call attention to them. (This potentially puts Spring Breakers in the same territory as masterpieces like Road House and RoboCop).

Lead actor James Franco, who is currently pursuing seven PhDs in irony studies and metawhatevers, would seem an ideal fit for such a prank. Additionally, Franco’s begrilled performance as Alien is clearly channeling wunderkind RiFF RaFF, (Mr. RaFF even has a song called “RAP GAME JAMES FRANCO” which contains the genius hook “Non-stop through desert / Salisbury steak sweater”). RiFF RaFF’s shtick is even more bewildering than Spring Breakers; it’s difficult to tell if he’s some kind of art genius doing the Andy Kaufman thing or just a white kid from Houston with a bizarre sense of humor. Or both. Or neither. Either way, there’s something endearingly intriguing about him, whether you’re watching him infiltrate an art show in Miami or claim that his underwear is “moccasins.”

But back to Spring Breakers—it looks awful—but so did the previews for Wild Things, so, you know. And, again, the marketing isn’t the film. Still, it’s hard to get excited about this one.

9 thoughts on “I Am Baffled by the Trailer for Spring Breakers, the New Film from Harmony Korine”

  1. Harmony Korine’s movies always have this very unrefined, drab feel to them. If you didn’t state that this was one of his movies in the title; I would never in a million years guess it… Bizarre


  2. Man… completely don’t agree w/ any of that. Korine’s characters have always been weird. My best estimation is that he’s taken these kids and made a movie that will probably be really great. I mean it’s genius: Disney-actresses, make them broke college girls in a flattened economy, they rob to go on Spring Break, etc., mania ensues. It’s going to be great.


  3. Looking at his hot, 20 year old wife, I’d say Harmony Korine, at age 40, is probably tired of being marginalized, and wants to make some serious inroads into the film industry. I think he wants clout and some more money to play with, and because he is 50% scam artist, 50% legit artist, I’d say he has hedged his bets pretty well. That being said, some people are just better on drugs. He is one of them. Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy were made at the height of his heroin and crack addiction, and they are the best things he will ever do. There are plenty of Korine-lite type filmmakers already. Now he will become his own epigone. Sad, but it looks like his survival instinct kicked in over his death instinct. Can’t fault him for that, even though I will.


    1. I think the first part of your analysis seems correct—this film will likely return more $$ for its investors, and maybe garner him some goodwill beyond his outsider status. I read a few reviews of the film (via http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/spring_breakers_2013/ ) and it seems to split critics. Derek Malcolm’s review at The Standard seems to be in line with my interpretation of the trailer (all though again, to be very clear, I don’t think it’s possible to judge a film on its trailer—but I *do* think how a film is marketed does represent the producers’/director’s expectations). Here’s Malcolm:
      “Maybe it is supposed to be ironic. But maybe Korine, having for years thought he was John Waters Mark II, now thinks he’s a second Tarantino. One thing’s for sure, Quentin is going to love it.”


  4. I totally want to see this film. Korine has always featured this kind of down and out, working-class America glamor in his films as a kind of key theme and lens for understanding character. I’m pretty excited to see a big budget project from him, and James Franco seems totally like such a nice guy, boy-next-door type in the trailer. I haven’t read much of the press on this one yet, but trailers can often be misleading, at least in terms of constructing narratives that are like hardly even in the actual feature.

    I guess maybe I’m in the minority, but I genuinely enjoyed Robocop and would even say it’s a classic. Paul Verhoeven faces us to confront our notions of the spectacle, as well as our classed viewership. His films, at least the really good ones, are like some kind of Brecht on Brecht post-modern meta-moment. Road House is basically an interesting artefact and falls more into the category of 80s douche constructions of masculinity for me. I think irony is a method of self-preservation, at least in terms of completing viewing for that one.

    Anyway, I remain pretty stoked to see this film. Thanks for the heads up.


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