Monday, August 5, 2013

Generational wastelands: a look at Harmony Korine’s latest and greatest contribution to the world of cinema…

A night of Harmony

So, tonight I finally was able to see the film that everyone has been talking about this year; ‘Spring Breakers’.  It’s been a long time coming.  I should have seen it in the theaters, I know, but my life is far too hectic and busy to allow for that kind of thing.  When you have three children it appears that unless it’s a cartoon, I don’t get to the theater to see it (an exaggeration, but not a very big one).  I’ve refrained from reading very many reviews, mostly because I didn’t want to spoil for myself what was bound to be the highlight of my cinematic year.


Before watching ‘Spring Breakers’, I sat down to watch Harmony Korine’s very first film; ‘Kids’.  While he didn’t direct it, he wrote the screenplay at the ripe old age of 19, and so I was interested to see how these two bookends complimented one another.  I must say, watching these two films back to back brought so much perspective to both features and helped highlight the raw honesty of Korine’s vision.  Despite being 18 years apart, the themes and even the way in which those themes are expressed and expounded on show the bleakness of youth and their culture and how little it has evolved over the years. 

“Life is short.”  A taxi driver makes that statement to a grief stricken Chloe Sevigny in ‘Kids’ and that very statement, while a very common one, makes itself extremely prevalent in both of these features.  The truth in that statement looms over every frame like a dark cloud that permeates every moment, every sequence, every nightmarish reality.  Harmony Korine is not afraid to exploit the darkside of modern youth, and finding fragments of apathy and ignorance to lace the development of character gives both ‘Kids’ and ‘Spring Breakers’ a chilling sense of honesty.

We hate for it to be true, but we can’t deny that it is.

That is what makes these films so socially important.  They are not shy of social relevance, no matter how unattractive or uncomfortable it may be.  Watching either film, especially ‘Kids’, is not pretty.  In fact, I squirmed during some moments and found my stomach tensing as certain sequences of events were unfolding in a way that made me feel almost dirty.  Korine doesn’t sugarcoat a thing.  He lays it all bare for us to decipher and dissect.

With ‘Kids’, Korine exposed the ignorance of youth in the way they viewed sex.  With innocence being wasted on a group of children thrust into life, wholly unaware of where it is going to take them, ‘Kids’ is a brutal look at the effect that growing up too soon can have on an entire generation.  With ‘Spring Breakers’ he exposes a more apathetic view towards life itself but showing the steady decline of morals and value of life as these young girls fall into a pattern of reckless abandon.  Together they paint a stark yet accurate picture of the very problem with society today.  Children are oppressed by the very image of immorality that corrupts the heart of pop culture and creates in them a complete disregard for life because to them they are invincible.  In ‘Kids’, young Telly is blinded to facts by the fantasy idea that sex with virgins will keep him safe from STDs, while in ‘Spring Breakers’ the girls fall into a video game mentality, even using that very inspiration for their behavior (“just pretend it’s a video game, like you’re in a movie”).

Littered with provocative and lived in performances, both films thrive thanks to the dedicated performances throughout.  James Franco, Selena Gomez, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Justin Pierce and many more lend their surprising talents to creating characters that feel far more than mere caricatures. 

These are not easy films to watch and yet they are important because they expose something that many people are afraid to embrace.  Our youth are being polluted, possibly by the very films that are exposing that pollution (the controversy surrounding ‘Spring Breakers’ alone points to the detractors to this very kind of statement piece) and yet adults are afraid to look that pollution in the face and work to clean it up.  Harmony Korine has seen that pollution, and he has given it a voice and, in the process, lent us his eye.

I’d give both films solid A’s.  They are both on the brink of masterpieces, and while some could balk at the repetitive nature of Korine’s work (‘Spring Breakers’ especially falls into the rut of repetitive images and dialog) it is in that very purposed pacing that the rawness and reality of these films comes through.

As far as Oscar chances for ‘Spring Breakers’, I’m leaning towards none at all and then, this has become such a phenomenon that I would not be surprised to see the critics revive it somewhat.  Franco could make a play in a very open field (Supporting Actor) and the technical aspects, especially Cinematography, could become possibilities if the critics’ awards bring it back to life.


  1. Yay! Glad to see an A for Spring Breakers! :) (I still need to see Kids.) Franco has the best chance at scoring some acting nods from the critics, but I'd love for Gomez to get some recognition. For me, she gives the best performance in the film. She blew me away on all 3 viewings, and it's one of those performances I just can't shake. If only...

    1. Yes, Gomez was the best in show, which was a wonderful surprise. I hope she gets some play with the critics awards this year. I have a feeling that Franco will nab a Spirit award, and I actually think he'll win a few critics awards. He could be this years McConaughey (actor who racks up critics mentions for a performance in a film that Oscar won't touch).

  2. I don't know how I missed this post before now. It's very interesting comparing these films together. Kids felt more "real" to me. There was several times during Spring Breakers where I thought things were unbelievable. I didn't feel that way during Kids. Comparing the two, they're both pretty pervy I guess, but I think Kids had a stronger message, Spring Breakers really didn't speak to me at all, unfortunately.

    1. For me, I think they both capture the culture at present really well. Kids feels deeper, more grounded, because the 90's was more realistic than now. Spring Breakers captures the celebrity obsessed culture and belief that teenagers are indestructible. Just look at the two quotes I pulled from the films. Kids has something grounded in realism ('life is short') while Spring Breakers shoots for the unrealistic ('just pretend it's a video game')...and that to me is what children and teens are like today, completely unaware of what life is really like anymore.

  3. "Harmony Korine is not afraid to exploit the darkside of modern youth, and finding fragments of apathy and ignorance to lace the development of character gives both ‘Kids’ and ‘Spring Breakers’ a chilling sense of honesty."

    This is precisely where I was trying to go with my discussion of Spring Breakers. And I really wish I'd given more thought to the video game aspect. I left that out. The violence he is trying to convey looks like something straight out of a Grand Theft Auto game. Great stuff, man!

    1. It's chilling how accurate this film is...CHILLING.