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« "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"Teases| Main| Take Three: Extra-Terrestrial Abduction Day »
Wednesday
Mar 20 2019

Soundtracking: Spring Breakers

byChris Feil

Harmony Korine'sSpring Breakersis a masterstroke as definitive for its musical sensibility as any film in recent years.The film is a septic portrait of neon dreams gone sour,its partying coeds representing a state of mind numbed by a need to escape their bland existence.Where Korine finds more than beneath the drunken surface of their ultimately violent misbehavings,he also finds more pathos beneath the acid pop veneer that fuels their waywardness.

The film begins with Skrillex's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"and a beer-soaked beach display of debauchery.Skrillex sounds like a decadent traincrash,so he's a perfect vessel to deliver the hedonism that Korine is trying to unpack.The sound reflects the mayhem,a sickly mishmash of tones and repressions set ablaze.There's a subtextual element at play in Korine's song choices,as if dousing the film in dubstep and rap turns the film into the music video fantasy these young women envision as their escape.

After all,they are a generation raised on Britney Spears,more innocent aimless nights spent starting "Baby One More Time"singalongs in parking lots,chasing its vision as an attainable high-def reality.Their first taste off-hand violence is overcast by Nicki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life",a song of self-actualization and an optimism to sustain a feeling of power.Korine and cinematographer Benoît Debie shoot it in a passive bravura single shot with the song fading into the background of the car stereo.

This sensory distortion allows us to engage with both our experience and the girls,our sense of the gravity of their actions and their submission to a pop fantasy in the sway of a song.Much of Korine's sharpest instincts throughout the film is how he makes music a tool to highlight the distance between his characters' perceptions and ours - and does so without judgment.As he shows it,violence and delusion become the natural end point of hypersexualized pop culture as an aspirational ideal.

But what makesSpring Breakerslinger,in tandem with its intentionally off-putting couture gonzo aesthetic,is that none of this is cynical or soulless.He is examining a very particular state of being,allowing its humanity to surface most clearly and unexpectedly by returning to that initial pop diva Britney Spears.

"Everytime"is perhaps the film's most shocking achievement.After an already surreal ninety minutes,Korine provokes us once more with James Franco singing Britney at the piano with the girls getting balletic with shotguns and ski masks.It's fundamentally bizarre while simultaneously showing the film at its most formally gorgeous,for once laying bare the emotional fatalism at the film's core.The song was first famous for its music video that placed Spears in a suicide scenario,and that reference point feels essential here in understanding the film's depressive underpinnings.

As the song continues,the violence turns elegiac.Korine's music has finally defined the source of the detachment of the grave actions from his broken souls.

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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