Spring Breakers

The story of four college students on spring break (played by Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) is inevitably going to spin out of control—agreed—that’ s what the movie’s poster tells us, what the trailer confirmed, and what the dozens of similar previous films have told us before. But let’s not sweat the small stuff. What’s interesting is how effective “Breakers” is cinematically: a great, awesome thrill ride. Watch out, however, because “Breakers” could prove to be yet another of Hollywood’s teenage trap delivering carefully controlled amounts of bikini lines, beer and danger.

Four college students came to Florida to seek thrills in-a-can and escape from reality—like any other student around spring break.

At the beginning of the film we’re treated to MTV-inspired spring break scenes, just like it was when this all-important college-age ritual started in the early nineties (then, the music channel had helped to launch the spring break brand): a gaggle of undulating muscular naked bodies drenched in beer, tanned girls dancing topless on the beach, all captured by Korine’s cams in music video-style. It’s outrageous but fun to watch, especially when taking into account the score by Cliff Martinez and Skrillex, whose wild oscillations seemed to take the debauchery to new heights.

Before long there’s a flare-up between the girls after two of them decide to help balance their spring break budget by holding up a fast-food restaurant. On a formal level it’s important to note the beautifully-filmed robbery scene shot from the point of view of the girl who remains in the car and drives around the location of the stick-up.

Many young viewers will quickly grow disenchanted with “Spring Breakers” upon finding out that this is not the style and substance they were expecting: all you have to do, in fact, is read the enraged tweets sent since the film opened about how it does not look like “Project X.’” Fooled ya.

LISTEN to the track that made Skrillex famous, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

The paradox of “Spring Breakers” is that the film plays on reversing genders all the while adopting the classic masculine posture, bordering on the misogynistic, of Alien, the character played by Franco. It’s one paradox among the many contained in here. Cliches are included, however. Nymphos in bikini? Check. Slow-motion close-ups of tits and ass? Sex, drugs and alcohol. Check. Korine is probably totally conscious that he’s unleashed familiar imagery of a hypersexualized youth capable of letting go completely while on spring break, a vision of fantasy for millions of men with among them a handful of girls hiding behind the faces of angels. What Korine seeks, and often achieves, is creating a kind of mental chaos whose equilibrium is reached through piecing together opposing sequences.

“Breakers” is punctuated with strokes of genius, Korine putting to work some pretty crazy ideas about how to set up scenes. He is assisted a lot by Benoît Débit, his director of photography. Débit, who previously worked on Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible” and  “Enter the “Void,” is finding new film matter to sink his teeth in thanks to Korine, and constructs the kind of visual scenery using fluorescent light and shadows which reinforces the viewer’s impression of an altered reality.

WATCH Harmony Korine talking about “Spring Breakers” during a press conference at the last Berlin Film Festival

All this said, “Breakers” isn’t without some flaws. Next to James Franco’s charismatic guru gangster our girls-gone-wild have paper-thin characters to portray. And strangely enough, “Breakers” suffers from too much reserve. When it comes to shooting his actresses’s derrieres, Korine doesn’t hold back. But he is above deepening the perversion behind the story, at least in any kind of a mature, adult sort of way. Korine lacks Noe’s elegant no-holds-barred approach to debaucherie. Nevertheless, this hypnotic film and its yo-yo effects, a kind of image and sound pressure cooker (the repeating and using of gunshots and off-screen dialogues is nothing short of brilliant) is not your commonplace moviegoing experience, although it isn’t as pleasant as it seems. Ultimately, “Spring Breakers” is an ironic film, Harmony Korine showing us great cinema interspersed with MTV-style clips in which bright colors, catchy tunes and fantasy are given free reign. But he also shows us the absurdity of the dream of weird youth.

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