Prvi Korineov "pravi" film?
The first press screening of Spring Breakers was earlier today and IndieWire had the opportunity to see it. They have posted their review on their site, click to read or see below:
This will make you feel old: it has been 18 years since Harmony Korine wrote “Kids” at the age of 21, with the Larry Clark directed film proving to be something of a firecracker in the midst of mid-90s indie cinema, by turns controversial, seedy, and honest. Korine made his own directorial debut with 1998’s “Gummo,” and over the last 15 or so years has made films that (with the possible exception of “Mister Lonely”), push aesthetic & critical boundaries further and further, culminating in 2009’s “Trash Humpers,” a film shot on a VHS camcorder, featuring a cast in old-people masks generally trying to provoke the audience into walking out. So where could he possibly go from there?
By making “Spring Breakers,” a curiously mainstream (at least by Korine’s standards) crime/exploitation picture — that could be described as “Drive” by way of Russ Meyer, Terry Richardson and “Point Blank” — featuring a bevy of teen starlets best known for wholesome work on the Disney Channel, and a performance from restless A-lister James Franco that might just be one of the actor’s best to date.
The plot is fairly simple, all told. Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are four lifelong friends at the same college campus. Lone brunette Faith is more straight-laced, and nominally Christian, while the others have more fearsome, hard-partying reputations.
They’re planning on heading to Florida for Spring Break, but are short on cash, and so to raise the additional funds, Candy, Brit and Cotty knock over a fast-food restaurant. The job goes off without a hitch, and they’re soon down south partying with the other boys and girls gone wild. The dream looks to be over, however, when they’re picked up on drugs charges by the cops.
But fortunately, they’ve come to the attention of local gangster/would-be-rapper Alien (Franco), who pays off their fines, and takes them under his wing, falling for Brit and Candy in the process. But when he comes into conflict with another dealer, his former best friend Archie (rapper Gucci Mane), which of the girls will stick out spring break by his side, and which will head back to college – or worse?
It’s clear from the off that this is going to be something very different for Korine, with a slow-motion opening sequence of topless co-eds drinking beer bongs on the beach that could be lifted straight from a “Girls Gone Wild” tape or a sleazy music video, albeit one with high production values.
The director’s working with a whole new style here, and thanks to DoP Benoit Debie, the film looks legitimately fantastic – a colourful, neon-lit nighttime aesthetic highly reminiscent of this summer’s other Florida-set picture, “Magic Mike” (the two will make a hell of a double bill one day). There’s also some dazzling camerawork, including a genuinely awe-inspiring crane shot of a pool party with what looks like thousands of extras, and a brilliantly choreographed tracking shot of the robbery seen through the window of the getaway car.
It’s also different because, if it’s art, and it probably is, it’s firmly a piece of pop art. The soundtrack (when not driven by the score from Cliff Martinez and Skillrex) is for the most part up-to-the-minute hi-NRG teen pop and hip-hop, with Nicki Minaj, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, and Waka Flocka Flame all making appearances, along with a robbery montage scored, brilliantly, to Britney Spears.
The colors, the thin character development, the movie references (Alien has “Scarface” playing permanently on repeat), all add up to the cinematic equivalent of something by Jeff Koons – glossy, bright and ultimately disposable. Korine nudges towards saying things about the American dream, materialism, and the need to escape as you break out into your his teens, but never really lets anything of substance emerge. He’s much happier, in this case, making an immaculately stylish exploitation picture. Those looking for something as genuinely shocking as his other work should go elsewhere – there are moments that’ll grab TMZ headlines (coke, some nudity mostly from Mrs. Korine, a “Wild Things” style swimming pool threesome), but nothing truly dangerous.
Which isn’t to say that it’s uninteresting, cinematically speaking. The mood (again, as with “Magic Mike”) is curiously downbeat and sad for much of the film – even as the girls have the best time of their lives, they know it’s coming to an end. Even as they enter a life of crime, they know it can only end badly. And the phenomenal editing by Douglas Crise (a former assistant editor for Sodebergh, who also cut “Babel” and “Arbitrage,” among others) really pushes that to the forefront, rarely letting the viewer settle in to a “present,” constantly hopping around in time, and even repeating fragments and shots.
It’s probably the single aspect that’ll stop the film from becoming a crossover hit, although you never know. Certainly the star appeal of the young cast should be potent, and they actually acquit themselves as well as they could with such thin characters, with the exception of Rachel Korine, who never feels comfortable on screen. Gomez has the best-defined role, but probably the least screen time, while Hudgens and Benson are charismatic, but essentially joined at the hip in the film.
But really, it’s Franco’s film. He doesn’t appear in any substance until nearly halfway through, but his Florida Fagin is enormously entertaining. Buried under corn-rows and metal teeth, Franco plays Alien like Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil ‘Jon (it’ll make sense when you see us, trust us…), a curiously charming and childlike gangster. We’ve grown increasingly tired of Franco’s self-regarding art projects of late, but this served as a much-needed reminder of how much fun he can be on screen.
We mentioned “Drive” earlier, and in many ways this feels like the 2012 equivalent of last year’s crime cult picture (though certainly not as good), and not just because of the neon-lit cityscapes and Cliff Martinez score – it’s ultimately a fairly thin, pulpy crime tale, given more substance than it should have on paper thanks to some excellent filmmaking. It’s unlikely to make Korine’s hardcore fans happy (it almost feels like a statement from the director, for better or worse, that he’s ready to stop dicking around and make “proper” films), but midnight movie programmers of the future will undoubtedly give it a long life years after it’s gone from first-run theaters. [B]
Korine revamps teen dream
By ANTHONY KAUFMAN
Has Harmony Korine, the enfant terrible who wrote “Kids,” and directed “Julian Donkey-Boy” and “Gummo,” grown up?
With his latest film, “Spring Breakers” — premiering in Venice on Sept. 5 — the provocative filmmaker has tackled his most ambitious and possibly most commercial project to date: A girls-gone-wild Florida-s et adventure, starring James Franco and former Disney Channel stalwarts Selena Gomez (“Wizards of Waverly Place”), Vanessa Hudgens (“High School Musical”) and ABC Family vet Ashley Benson (“Pretty Little Liars”).
“Technically, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says the filmmaker, now 39. “We had 12 cameras break; cranes collapsing; boats sinking; at some points, there would be more paparazzi than crew members; you’d have news helicopters entering the shot; 1,000 screaming teenagers with signs trying to destroy the campers — every day felt like some mild form of warfare.”
Korine, who shot on 35mm film, added that he wanted huge production values. “I wanted things to look and feel incredible. It would have been much easier if I didn’t have ambition.”
The last time Korine was on the festival circuit, in 2009, he was promoting a far different project. Called “Trash Humpers,” the 78-minute experimental movie, shot entirely on a VHS camcorder, chronicled the creepy escapades of a family of masked maniacs engaged in objectionable, lewd or just plain weird behavior, including yes, humping garbage. “It was a provocation,” Korine admits.
But with “Spring Breakers,” it wasn’t just about creating something “shocking or seductive,” as he says, referring to the original image that sparked the idea of teenage girls in bikinis, wearing ski masks and carrying guns. “This film is different from anything I’ve done,” he explains. “It’s the narrative: It’s very liquid and boozy, and freed up. It’s more like a pop poem.”
Another big difference is the cast, of course. With Disney Channel icon Gomez in one of the key roles, along with “High School Musical’s” Hudgens, the film is drawing far more attention than Korine’s previous work, increasing the stakes for the filmmaker.
For Gomez, the more risque project also presents a potential hazard.
“Obviously, I have a younger generation (of fans), and I really appreciate that,” says the 22-year-old actress, who got her start on “Barney & Friends.” “I want to respect that and I still want to do things that will earn me that respect. But I also want to do things that challenge me and put me out of my element.”
Korine had always wanted Gomez and the other young female stars for the movie. “I liked the idea of having these girls in the film specifically,” he says. “They are of this pop culture, and that added a whole new element that was exciting for me.”
Entrusting Korine, a director known for his glue-sniffing, date-raping outcasts, with America’s next top starlets on an indie budget, might appear like a risky move. But the director says, surprisingly, he was fully encouraged by his team, including CAA, which packaged the project.
“There was no lack of confidence (in Korine),” says Muse Films’ Chris Hanley, who has known the director since the mid-’90s, and had been talking to him for two years about exploring, he says, “a more pop, and therefore commercial” side of his aesthetic.
“Even as the intention was to make a pop commercial bikini movie,” continues Hanley, “it has its intelligent side, (which) shows there is an underworld to every seemingly perfect and happy setting. So while it is commercial, it makes you think a lot too — this is something Harmony does very well.”
According to Hanley, the investors were kindred spirits, including former members of the Andy Warhol Factory (“Baby” Jane Holzer) as well as Stella Schnabel, daughter of artist Julian Schnabel, and designer Agnes B., who backed Korine’s 2007 feature “Mister Lonely.”
Korine, himself, is upbeat about the results.
“I can’t wait for people to see it,” he says. “As a filmmaker, I did things I’ve never done before that I’ve always wanted to do, that I couldn’t have done five years ago or 10 years ago. I just didn’t understand moviemaking in this way. This one feels special.”
Presenting The New Inquiry’s first free supplement, a pdf collection of eight critical essays on Harmony Korine’s Disneyland dystopia Spring Breakers
No Carries, no Samanthas, no Charlottes, no MirandasSarah Nicole Prickettedited by Sarah Nicole Prickett and Malcolm Harris, designed by Imp Kerr
Don’t hate the slayer, hate the gameAyesha A. Siddiqi
A former KIDS kid laments bad girl banalityElizabeth Greenwood
The Real Beach Lives of Miami
A young boy’s depraved journey into the heart of heterosexualityCord Jefferson
High as Finance
All this coke and no credit card in sightShane Boyle and Joshua Clover
This is 40?
Harmony Korine is pretty rad for a white dadBrandon Harris
Kids in the Haul
From Nazi Austria to late capitalist Florida, a list of the shit we listDurga Chew-Bose
Korine holds our legs for cinema’s final keg standAlexander Benaim
Whether walking around at night with skin exposed or demanding authority while in that same state of undress, the girls delegitimize patriarchal privilege. Korine’s band of heroines saunters in front of the camera but give its gaze as much control over them as they give Alien. That is how a film starring four young women in bikinis subverts the trope of female bodies as sites of experience for others. Spring Breakers pumps you with a full erection only to laugh at your boner later.
The fact that the pieces of story scattered across Spring Breakersare not strung together in a clear straight line, but as the cracked shards of a mirror, is, finally, very much the point: the pleasures of the dream life cannot be neatly separated from its ugly underbelly, nor, at this point, can the lives we live from the cultural kool-aid we imbibe.
If Spring Breakers is a serious piece of art, and I’ll go ahead and say that it is, it’s because of its capacity to short circuit any of the assumptions that we might make about anything that wanders into its view ([Korine's] camera is nothing if not welcoming).
The gleeful sophomorism doesn’t overshadow an aesthetic triumph, whether it’s in Benoît Debie’s neon-lit views of the coast or a handstand motif as poetic as anything in next month’s Malick movie. Cliff Martinez and Skrillex’s hypnotic score is periodically punctuated by gunshots, keeping the threat of violence close. No movie in which Franco accompanies these masked, gun-toting costars in a poolside rendition of Britney Spears’s “Everytime” could be anything less than singularly strange.
Innocence seamlessly slips into predatory ambition. Spring breakers forever so they are, finally at ease with the authentic nature of their nightmarish dream. The gangsta entrepreneur character represents their ultimate aspiration, an accomplished individual (“Look at my shiiit! This is the fuckin’ American dream!”) enjoying the luxury that successful businessman such as himself can afford.
Unfolding like a spiraling, intoxicated dream, Spring Breakers is a vision of American pop culture’s progeny running amok. It’s a surreal fantasy that ranks among recent cinema’s most memorable visions of Hell.
At once blunt and oblique, “Spring Breakers” looks different depending on how you hold it up to the light. From one angle it comes across as a savage social commentary that skitters from one idea to another... without stitching those ideas together. From another it comes off as the apotheosis of the excesses it so spectacularly displays... Mr. Korine embraces the role of court jester, the fool whose transgressive laughter carries corrosive truth. He laughs, you howl.
Heralded as Korine's most conventional, accessible film (mainly because of its cast), Spring Breakers may in fact be his most experimental. Particularly in the final third, working with the editor Douglas Crise (Babel), he achieves something close to a sustained psychotropic state. Time splinters into a subjective chronology of flashbacks and foreshadowing...
This is art-house maximalism with a tenor like poetry, an incisive and critical drama unafraid to relish and indulge in the subject it intends to deconstruct. You could call it "high-trash" cinema; it collects the cast-aside bric-a-brac of an ostensibly bankrupt culture—Harmony Korine operates here like some rigorously anthropological Katamari, rolling up anything and everything in his path—and transforms it into something earnestly, maybe even transcendently, gorgeous.
It’s all about phosphorescence. The insane glow of dorm rooms, lecture halls, nightclubs and pools, the light bouncing off the silver grill in James Franco’s idiot-shark leer. Sometimes it resembles an airhead’s slapdash vacation medley on YouTube, sometimes it suggests Hou’s Millennium Mambo. Brimming with bursts of pungent lyricism, it nevertheless makes me wonder how much of this aggressive, teeny gumdrop vacuity is being ironically sent up by Korine.
In Spring Breakers, Korine’s concerned with re-associating our world and reasserting an ancient connection mostly lost on contemporary US culture. The American Pastoral is not at odds with the crazy violence of America. It’s merely its most natural setting. In our myopic pop culture, that keeps our world neatly compartmentalized, Korine forces us to reckon with the true price of Paradise and the true nature of Ecstasy. And if we don’t like it, we’d do best to take the early bus back home.
I think that Spring Breakers is a fascinating experience... I would also say, however, that feminist objections with this film strike me as more or less on the mark. This is a heteronormative pornographic film; its pornography is both the root of its most brilliant formal strategies and its most obvious "structuring structure" yet it more than warrants feminist interrogation.
There’s something right here: the way that finance’s coldly erotic dream of money minted from pure desire must always rest uneasily on the brutalities and immiserations of the real economy; that the world is structured to preserve this fantasy of autonomy for its beneficiaries; that when the fantasy collapses, it is revealed not simply as illusion but as dependent on racialized violence.
Spring Breakers wears its artifice, its status as Korine’s inspired, ignorant fantasy on its sleeve. In doing so it asks that you consider not American History but Art History, after ‘90s rap videos and Wong Kar Wai’s gangster films, and before all we see melts into Internet as we see it.
Korine’s impressionistic flashes of dramatic action are brought together with evocatively blank glimpses of spring-break rowdiness in a collage that flashes forward and back as to evoke no one character’s memories or imaginings but rather a sort of abstract reverie that collects visual and sonic motifs into an incantatory swirl, like a music video based on a dramatic script.
The thing that makes this especially remarkable is that the young girls here aren’t victims, pulling off a gorgeous reversal that finds them reverse objectifying their potential pied piper (watching the pistol blowjob scene in a theater full of baffled teenagers was glorious, as was the way the scene perfectly engages the film’s intertwined notions of sex, consumption, and violence).
It all plays out in a final flourish of DayGlo Scarface wish fulfillment, and you can’t really believe what you’re watching. Alien—and Korine—tell us it’s the American dream come true, and even if you resist going there with them, the have-your-cake-and-fling-it-too stupidity is breathtaking. It takes some kind of cracked artistry to put coeds in hot-pink ski masks and have them twirl around to a Britney Spears ballad toting machine guns.
The wonderful surprise of Spring Breakers is that, while the film essentially delivers what you might expect from these stars and this filmmaker independently of one another, their talents and assets in combination creates something much weirder, deeper, harder to pin down and impossible to write off as "just" a goof, "just" the result of an art filmmaker exploiting stars to skewer the culture they represent, "just" anything.
Britney Spears, the film’s patron saint and “an angel if ever there was one” in Alien’s words, embodies the promise and the danger of that dream all at once. As often as it flirts with irony and nihilism, Spring Breakers is devoted to pop and cinema with an intensity that approaches the religious.
Korine gestures toward social criticism, but essentially this is just an hour and a half of bongs, beers, tits, and ass, thinly dressed as Natural Born Killers.
If Spring Breakers never cuts especially deep thematically or psychologically, Korine's impressionistic filmmaking style does occasionally pick up the slack, imbuing the situations with more pathos than they perhaps deserve, given how disinterested he seems to be on the level of characterization.
It’s partly a softcore “Girls Gone Wild” spring-break special, featuring formerly wholesome teen-oriented stars Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens; partly an early-2000s episode of “Cops”; partly a deranged, expressionistic crime fantasy; partly a near-abstract study in Florida beachfront light, shot by ace French cinematographer Benoît Debie; and partly a work of James Franco performance art.
This is a director who’s always been great at using ugliness (urban or personal) as a vehicle for meaning. For all its uneven pacing and debatable cunningness, Soring Breakers is an energetic and formally daring effort.
Spinning a hypnotic, repetitive web of sound and images, Korine crafts a vision, not an argument, but a no less beguilingly weird (and occasionally repulsive) one at that.
This is a stratosphere away from Sofia Coppola's languid modishness, being a cartoon or more accurately an interlocking series of cartoons - the world of evangelical religion ("Pray super-hardcore!"), the world of hip-hop wiggas, the world of run-amuck consumerism... and of course the world of Spring Break, all gyrating bodies and big tits - all of which exemplify America, the governing principle being the William Blake quote about the road of excess and the palace of wisdom.
Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are willing to steal, screw, do whatever in order to have a good time. And this somehow makes them the pragmatists, compared to pie-in-the-sky Faith. Hudgens, as we know, was the Disney It Girl. But, in addition to getting older, she had the misfortune (or the business acumen) of having nude cellphone pics leak on the Internet. So in a way, what Faith is, Candy was, and what Candy is, Faith perhaps will be.
It seems to me that Korine has little interest in analyzing American cultural mores and dramatizing their contradiction—he’d rather just have a highly polished laugh about it all, but one where he does just enough staring into the abyss to make you wonder if he’s asking you to be critical.
While this art film in mild exploitation-picture disguise doesn't exactly represent an out-of-the-park triumph, it offers sufficient pop-art pleasure and interestingly disquieting notes to be worth some not unserious consideration.
Typical of Korine’s utopias, it’s simultaneously beautiful and pathetic, and virtually indistinguishable from a dystopia. His characters’ quixotic beliefs that these manufactured utopias are imperishable or possibly imperishable are the source of an underlying pathos in all of his films.
Korine genuinely loves the amoral posturing of his bikini-clad, thrill-seeking co-ed protagonists, but eventually it all feels like too much of the same thing. "Spring Breakers" has moments as provocatively clever as Korine's better works, but its mainly attractive for its abundant superficial pleasures.
Many things pop out of Spring Breakers along with those boobies, but first and foremost this is Harmony Korine doing late Hou Hsiao-hsien (say, Millennium Mambo and Flowers of Shanghai) via Miami Vice (the TV show and the movie) and Girls Gone Wild (the DVD and the downloadable internet version), and it’s as intriguing but also as problematic as that sounds.
With respect to James Franco's cornrowed, grill-mouthed, award-worthy showmanship as Alien, the most subversive quality of Korine's zeitgeist-fellating, sunburnt cartoon of a crime comedy is that it wound up in mall multiplexes across America, but at least this overrated goof exists in the world.
Repetitively nihilistic, it’s a movie making predictable visual poetry — jacked-up neon lights at night, drugged-out partiers reaching transcendence through exhaustion — out of girls whose only viable aspirations for transcendence go no further than the worst week in Florida. That’s sad, but Korine’s beautiful losers are interchangeable, and his shockingly clunky third-act exposition punctures any ambitions for a death-charged dream reverie.
Even when the less-than-riveting performances serve the story, there’s a sense of cutting around the stars; the last hour feels like a simple get-rich-or-die-trying plot unnaturally distended.
Korine shouldn't be making features. Duration is not his friend, mostly because he then feels compelled to Say Something, and he has nothing to say. (If one more person mentioned the American Dream in this picture I was gonna set the theater on fire.) What he does have is a fantastic eye, along with a gift for the sensual that sits uncomfortably—at least for my taste—against his predilection for grotesquerie.
The tragedy is not the bumping, the grinding, the tits and ass, the bikinis and handcuffs, the caricatures of hip hop thuggery, the girls gone bad. The tragedy of this film is that it’s boring. Teens, rather than being introduced to novel trouble-making, will simply recognize the familiar: Grand Theft Auto-style ballistics, booty shorts, and threesomes ripped from Jersey Shore. Disney princesses flaunting their middle-finger attitudes, just as Lindsay Lohan has done for a decade.
Watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel a disconnect between the Korine of our collective wishes (the one who’s our stylish ambassador to self-destructive youth culture) and the Korine onscreen—the one with the purposely impoverished aesthetic who reifies rather than imaginatively reappropriates that culture in a different, though equally preening, register.
Harmony Korine news
The Fourth Dimension
TRAILER WATCH: HARMONY KORINE’S “THE FOURTH DIMENSION”
An anthology film with bizarre “rules” that was produced by Vice Films and Grolsch FilmWorks and directed a trio of international auteurs including Harmony Korine, The Fourth Dimension was always destined to be decidedly odd. But, on the evidence of this newly released trailer, it looks like it could be pretty great too. Korine’s contribution to the film features Val Kilmer as a motivational speaker (called Val Kilmer!) trying to get people to harness their “awesome secrets,” while the rest of the film is comprised of segments from Russian director Alexey Fedorchenko and Poland’s Jan Kwiecinski about a time travel-obsessed scientist and a group of rebellious teens, respectively.
SFIFF Review: 'The Fourth Dimension' A Mostly Humorous Collection Of Shorts With Harmony Korine's Most Comically Focused Effort To Date
As the through-line between the shorts isn’t narrative or character based, there’s a lot of work left to be done. Each story points at its own interpretation of what the fourth dimension might be, driving tone and themes in three separate directions. The films play well enough together but it helps to think of them as part of an exclusive and deliberate short film program as opposed to a single film.
With Val Kilmer starring in the leading role and director Harmony Korine (who was involved with the designing of the creative brief all three films must adhere to) at the helm, “Lotus Community Workshop” shows up first on screen to get things rolling. After establishing a modest roller rink full of even more modest-looking folks, the room comes alive with music and flashing lights. The patrons gather around for what they’ve been waiting for: a new age looking, exploding with energy Val Kilmer playing a guy that just so happens to be called Val. The gag of a celebrity showing up to play a comedic version of themselves has worn thin over the years, but there is such an uneasiness towards the reality of the short that Korine is able to steer away from any immediate skepticism at the tactic.
Val reveals himself to be a motivational speaker of the non-denominational spiritual variety who assures the room, “I’m a very well known entity.” He spouts off nonsense to a crowd moved by every word he speaks, as shock jock-style sound effects punctuate his major points. Brightly colored lights flash all around the room, heightening the energy to barely tolerable levels, as Val leads the crowd in repeated hypnotic chants such as, “Awesome secrets.” He looks and speaks directly into the camera’s lens, simultaneously breaking character and developing “character Val” a self-aware side. It’s a multi-camera shoot with the cameras falling into each other’s frames. It is intentionally disorientating and Korine keeps any of it from feeling accidental.
When Val finally reveals to his audience what the fourth dimension is, a sort of enlightenment he best relates to “cotton candy,” it doesn’t seem so ridiculous stacked next to the rest of his claims. Plus, there’s such a sense of exhaustion by his finale that it is hard to argue anyway.
Thankfully, Val’s roller rink activities are chopped up with a meandering post-performance night with his girlfriend Rach (Rachel Korine -- real-life wife of Harmony). They bike around Nashville’s streets, disagree on what to grab from their local video store, chat with friendly strangers (“You recognize me from movies?” Val asks them), and play video games. This tame side story shows up whenever the chaos in the roller rink is getting out of hand, giving a much needed breath to the sensory overload.
“Lotus Community Workshop” stands out as the film most comically focused in Korine’s body of work and it commands laughter where his previous films might have just accepted nervous chuckles stemming from discomfort.
From here things play out fairly obviously in terms of stories with protagonists stuck obsessing over the past. Grigory’s escalating brooding is matched by his neighbor’s cheerfulness in retaliation. There are a few surprises but none in the lesson the short wants Grigory to learn.
While the mood of Fedorchenko’s short is the most somber of the three in the film, it is not completely lacking a sense of humor. His peeks into the past have a subtle absurdity to them that lightens up the tone. There are also several instances of Grigory’s camera looking into it’s own display monitor, repeating the displayed image over and over, playing the visual feedback trick to great effect given the temporal themes of the short. When Grigory is finally fed up with his semi-failed experiment, the short crescendos into a dramatic moment with a twist that earns some big laughs. If Fedorchenko paced his whole story out to make this joke really play, then “Cronoeye” is a portrait of patient filmmaking. Otherwise, it is a overly familiar story with a handful of clever visuals that are too infrequently effective for the film to really succeed.
After breaking into a shop to grab some snacks, they see a television program informing them that an enormous flood threatening the country (world? The severity of the flood is left somewhat mysterious) has risen to an extremely dangerous level, moving at inescapable speeds. For the first time there is a hint of concern in the group, as Pace (Tomasz Tyndyk) hurries his friends along.
Meanwhile, a love triangle has revealed itself with Koko (Justyana Wasilewska) flirting with Mickey (Pawel Tomaszewski) causing her boyfriend Philip (Pawel Smagala) to push Mickey to the outskirts of the group. Nevertheless, the crew keeps up their wandering, eventually breaking into a house and pilfering whatever they find momentarily entertaining. Inside the house, Philip discovers a book titled “The Fourth Dimension” and immediately dismisses it as worthless. Of all the directors, Kwiecinski most clearly adheres to the creative brief that the films are all supposed to relate to, but he takes the most obvious connection between them as an opportunity to express his character’s lack of direction.
After the discovery of the book, the short starts to transition into a more densely plotted piece. Koko and Philip start making out, causing Mickey to take off, while Pace starts to feel the pressure of the approaching flood. The sound of a gun shot gets the action started, activating the leader in Pace who decides they’ve all fooled around in this empty town long enough. Noting that Mickey has disappeared, Pace quickly tells the happily physically engaged couple to get dressed to go in search of their friend. The directionless group suddenly has a very clear goal and purpose, even if it is just survival.
What was a loosely floating, and necessarily purposeless, story suddenly takes a sharp turn into a situation that puts value and character into question. The shift amplifies the drama of the group’s actions into a realm that feels not quite real, but still engaging.
Throughout all the films, performances are on point. Val Kilmer’s “Val” explodes along with the chaos of the roller rink and Tomasz Tyndyk’s Pace proves to be the emotional catalyst essential to “Fawns” success. While Fedorchenko’s short registers lower on the energy meter than the other directors’ work, Igor Sergeev remains captivating in his reserved lead performance.
Regardless of the cohesion between shorts, “The Fourth Dimension” serves up a mostly stimulating collection of films with plenty of humor and solid visual concepts. The experience overcomes the box the films are designed to fit into, making for a satisfying survey of each directors’ unique interpretations of an identical instigating idea. [B]
In Search of Harmony Korine
This is a strange scene, and in miniature it maps out Korine’s domain: trash-surrealist juxtaposition, deadpan incongruity, mischief. He’s long concocted art films – experimental, raucous, deformed, mostly starless – from junk: juveniles, Satanic teens, satyr-like rappers and now Disney Channel girls in the lurid fantasia of Spring Breakers (2013). But the precise method of this alchemy matters little, what fascinates is that strangeness. Across his various works, this is what Korine has supplied in a manic profusion: weird tableaux, surreal mixtures, hallucinations of North American trash. Photographs and fragments, taken from his films and elsewhere, provide an oblique portrait of the filmmaker – and his films are always portraits of some damaged contingent: mesmeric waifs, drug-addled teens, celebrity impersonators, a depraved group of aged vandals or, in solitude, a starving magician. By contemplating stills and stray fragments, an image adrift can become strangely more meaningful than a whole film.
What follows is a perverse sort of homage, not so much non-linear as erratic. In Korine’s films, everything drifts. Plot matters little, and instead there comes a sprawling sequence of artfully arranged moments, interludes, digressions and echoes. Perhaps his reputation lies in purveying stretches of grotesquerie meant to make you shudder and stare. But they are fascinating, delirious works made from weird passions, entrancing and sinister, woozy and purposefully aimless, their mood pitched between a strange kind of calm and utter lunacy.
Sonic Youth, ‘Sunday’ (1998), directed by Harmony KorineWhen I was 16, I asked Korine a question. Pale, jittery and in the throes of a particularly extreme obsession with his strange work, I yelped through a malfunctioning microphone towards the distant director: ‘Why did you want to work with Macaulay Culkin on that Sonic Youth video?’ He told me the boy reminded him of James Dean, especially in his last film, Giant (1956). Strange, I thought, to use a star as an impersonation of another, as an echo, rather than for their own resonance. That was at the National Film Theatre in London. Korine was there with his comeback film Mister Lonely (2007), about a commune of celebrity impersonators. He has always been fascinated by fame, especially the sort surrounded by rumour and weird myth. In Gummo, a perverted cab driver does little more than recite many scurrilous rumours: ‘Tupac Shakur stuttered, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, Warren Oates swallowed his chewing tobacco spittle…’ Child stars, especially those who vanish or flee their fame, accrue myths like so much shadow. None more so than Culkin who has been, according to rumour, variously dead, near-death or addicted to drugs ever since he retreated from stardom. In the video, an eerily serene film, he becomes an incarnation of all these anxieties: a leering, burnt-out monster. The adolescent recluse, who had famously retired at 14, staggers out into the spotlight (inhabitants in a Korine film often seem half-awake, almost mid-dream) and smoulders with sinister eroticism, his blood-red lips blossoming in slow motion.
Orson Welles recalled that, before every take her daughter performed, Shirley Temple’s mother would tell her, ‘Remember, Shirley, sparkle!’ and Korine’s film is a study of Culkin’s corroded ‘sparkle’, which has turned sinister but keeps him hypnotic. His nearest relation is herself a witchlike double of Temple, the little girl in the first shot of William Egglestone’s glorious ‘home movie’ Stranded in Canton (1973) who stares darkly into the distance, utterly still, as if under some sinister enchantment. Time seems to have almost paused to lead us into the drowned world of the scene. And a similar druggy, dreamlike languor reigns over Korine’s video: Culkin in junkie swoon, tempo opiated, echoing the lines of the song as it ‘seems to move so slow’. There is an echo, too, of Korine’s explanation for his addictions: ‘The drugs were a way for me to slow things down.’
A boy is woken from his sleep by a song. Robert Mitchum, playing the psychotic Reverend Harry Powell, appears by moonlight in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1953), his baritone booming through the dark. ‘Leanin’, leanin’ on the everlasting love!’ he sings. Chloë Sevigny murmurs the same song in Korine’s Julien Donkey-boy (1999); she conducts the cornfield and it nods sleepily, her hair a mass of Harpo-like curls. Pearl is her name, a purposeful double of the little girl’s name in Laughton’s film. Their kinship, though, runs deeper: there is also the matter of light. Laughton’s film is all silver and magical shadow, a supernatural luminosity suffuses everything. A residue of it remains in Julien Donkey-boy where the air glitters, all honeyed light and wintry gloom, ash and atmospheric pollution. The marvel of the film (beneath everything which is traumatic, addled, bizarre) is the splendour of its surfaces.
Chloë Sevigny in Julien Donkey-boy (1999)The other bond between them is Laughton’s image of a fantastical Deep South which is heavily imprinted on Korine’s work. This is an Expressionist wilderness. Night is otherworldly: owls haunt the trees, the sky remains eerily aglow. Like The Night of The Hunter, Gummo is lurid and yet deeply contemplative, sometimes spellbound by its own movements and inhabitants. It transcribes the elusive climate of dreams, their feel of aimlessness and dislocation, non-sequiturs, weird jolts and flashes of vaguely significant things. A parade of strange images: two albino sisters walking home in the twilight with a certain sprawl like enormous bored cats, a boy with pink rabbit ears wandering through junkyards, a little girl with a defaced portrait of Burt Reynolds stuck to her face like a makeshift mask shouting, ‘I want a moustache, dammit!’ Throughout the film it feels like you’ve wandered into a haunted space, the site of some unique deforming weather that makes everything slow and odd. Perhaps all these films (and Gummo especially) come from this darkness in the landscape.
The foreboding silhouette in the frame, singing in the white night, isn’t Mitchum astride a horse but a midget upon a donkey. Somehow this peculiar detail doesn’t spook the mystery of the image away but deepens it. I think of the black dwarf in Gummo who cheerily defeats a yokel at arm wrestling, the boy who rode a pig named Trotsky in his unfinished script What Makes Pistachio Nuts? and Korine excitedly telling Letterman (another sublimely strange utterance) that he wanted to make a movie about Eddie Gaedel, the midget baseball player.
‘My dad used to be a tap-dancer, he hung out with the Nicholas Brothers…’ Here’s Korine on Letterman in 1995, putting himself in the traditions of vaudeville. Though his father was a filmmaker who made films about the folk traditions of the Deep South – moonshiners, carnivals and ‘mouth music’ – this little bit of myth-making has a purpose. Korine’s work is an index of various obsessions: gangsta rap, gleeful depravity, Herzog’s films, insanity… – tap-dancing appears repeatedly. The art requires a bedazzling mixture of manic energy and elegance that seems somehow unearthly, it’s the mode of dance that longs to become levitation.
In Jonas Mekas’s archives, there’s a video of Korine performing a tap-dance. He mumbles about Flashdance and Busby Berkeley’s films, his hair in electro-shock spikes, his voice smoked-out and his sentences broken. This is one of the few recordings from his five or six years of disintegration brought on by numerous addictions, house fires and profound disenchantment with his art. For all his stagger and vacancy, the dance is a joy: demented, all clatter and anarchy, like a scarecrow in the middle of a seizure, or the chicken’s jittery little steps at the end of Herzog’s Stroszek (1977).
A tap dance by Harmony Korine (2001, filmed by Jonas Mekas)As deeply as Korine is fascinated by trashiness, there’s also a deep, lingering affection for the old, weird American school of entertainment. Tap-dancing is part of a repertoire of magical, bygone acts that appear in his films alongside Groucho’s wisecracks (Gummo was, incidentally, the fifth Marx Brother who left to fight in World War I, then sold raincoats), slapstick and cigarette eating, and scattered echoes of its fondness for the repulsive spectacle of blackface and minstrelsy. With their acts transferred often intact onto the cinema screen, these manic routines became among the first entertainments in the cinema, those comical one-reelers. Recalling the films of these ‘show people’ he’d watched as a child, Korine said: ‘There’s almost a poetry or a strange insanity to what they did. When I was a kid, I would watch their films and I almost couldn’t figure out how they existed […] It was like they hovered above reality.’ Perhaps all his films are about these people who do not seem quite real; strange, surreal creatures.
Tap sequence from Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978)Tap-dancing of a more classical kind appears in this little interlude from Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). The dancer provides a masterful switch between birdlike flutter, clockwork jerkiness and eerie glide. He’s momentarily in duet with Linda Manz who leaps from the frame after a few hesitant steps. After a long absence from the cinema, she appears in Gummo, delivering a monologue about old tap shoes in memory of Marlene Dietrich. The African-American dancer looks incongruously refined in the parched landscape: his bowler hat and waistcoat making him a peculiar double of Chaplin’s tramp.
Paul McCarthy, Rocky (1976)This is a still from Paul McCarthy’s film Rocky (1976), which is intended to stand in for Korine’s unreleased film Fight Harm (1998, unreleased, Korine claims, owing to the poor quality of its camera-work). In this 21-minute film, a naked McCarthy fights thin air and punches himself repeatedly in the head, sometimes slathers his genitals with ketchup, masturbates and growls throughout like a dying King Kong, all whilst wearing a grotesque rubber mask complete with bloated nose and drooping mouth. The Italian Stallion is transformed into a lumbering oaf, a deformed masochist oddly premonitory of De Niro towards the end of Raging Bull (1980). There’s no trace of the triumphant underdog, only a sustained study in abjection. But it’s also strangely comic; a kind of failed comedy suggested by the cartoonish mask and the smeared ketchup which spurts out in place of blood, a reminder of fake Hollywood violence. There’s also the comedy of repetition and time. Like Stallone, it’s comic that he just keeps fighting. In Korine’s film, he roamed the streets of New York, intoxicated, and started fights which he’d usually lose.
‘It’s high comedy’, he said, ‘like Buster Keaton’. Lacking Keaton’s animal grace, he’d settle for his injuries. The comedy would come, he said, from the repetition, as if Korine was Wile E. Coyote out of his head or one of the burglars maimed by Culkin in Home Alone (1990), doomed to a never-ending defeat. The routines of slapstick would turn real and so, become somehow funnier. Never completed owing to Korine’s injuries, you can guess its effects would come close to McCarthy’s Rocky: a mixture of repulsion, weariness and anxiety. Korine’s films are about extreme states- the dispossession that comes from impersonating someone else, mental illness and violence- and sometimes gruelling, but they are also obscurely damaged, strangely stitched together.
Diane Arbus, Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, New York (1963)Every still has its echoes. Every time I look at this image I think of the speedfreaks in Larry Clark’s book Tulsa (1971), the delinquent friends he started photographing the same year Arbus took this shot. And I turn to the three nude bodies gathered together on a bed towards the end of that book, when everyone’s haggard and damaged, staring intently at the needle slipping into the middle figure’s arm.
High above their heads, at the very edge of the frame, is a little Hollywood incongruity: Lon Chaney Jr. playing the monster in a horror movie I can’t name, looking haunted, drooling blood. Then I remember the strange way a scene is punctuated in Kids (1995), which Korine wrote for Clark: an amputee appears on the train, chanting ‘I have no legs!’, as if he’s come through the door between Korine’s work and Clark’s studies of teenage lust. Sometimes in Arbus, there’s also an echo of Fellini who had a similar predilection for the more ‘freakish’ sorts of circus folk: hermaphrodites, transsexuals, dwarves and giants. Arbus took them as subjects, too. (Intermittently, her photographs look like Fellini tableaux with all the mischief and jollity beaten out of them.) Her famous and deeply disquieting line echoes, too: ‘Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot.’ There is always a similar anxiety about Korine’s use of people with Down’s Syndrome, dwarves, amputees, albinos, the blind, as if they became merely aesthetic objects whose misfortune carried with it a sort of macabre fascination. (Like Arbus, though, there is a deep tenderness there, too).
I put this last snapshot down in place of the many adolescents in Korine’s work: stoned boys on the couch towards the end of a party in Kids, a girl looking at the sky, bored, glue-sniffers sprawled under the lukewarm sun, Little Red Riding Hood on a blue afternoon, Sevigny wandering through New York like a wounded foal. Spring Breakers (none of the images from the film possess any allure for me) is about teenagers, too, straight from the beaches on MTV – ‘subversive’, I guess, that they’d end up there, like Dorothy thrown out of Kansas and into Hell but… strangely empty, a kind of trick John Waters perfected decades before.
Arbus was also a supreme recorder of adolescence in a way which is scarcely caught elsewhere; a time of mania, innermost contortion, stupor and despair. Think of her store of strange images that contemplate adolescent bodies: the Republican boy whose face is ablaze with acne, the boy on the cusp of his teens in Central Park with his crooked, claw-like hand, the portrait of Marcella Matthaei. Another line from Arbus also echoes: ‘Freaks are aristocrats.’
The critic Serge Daney defined cinephilia as a matter of ‘not just the films you watch but the films that watch over you,’ as if certain works never ended and commenced instead some permanent angelic intimacy with you, the solitary viewer. During my adolescence, I felt that Korine’s films were my angels: demented and misshapen maybe, but we don’t all feel Scorsese or Bergman at our side. I always imagine Korine’s angels look like this.