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.