With “Spring Breakers,” Harmony Korine has succeeded in making his most conventional movie to date. While it does subvert crime thriller genre to a large extent, it feels so much more straightforward compared to the movies he has made.
Ever since he made his cinematic breakthrough with his screenplay for Larry Clark’s highly controversial “Kids,” Korine has become a filmmaker who gleefully breaks the rules of movies to present us with something completely unconventional. In retrospect, it was great that he came of age during the 90s as that was a golden age of independent films, and back then movie directors could get away with a lot more than they ever could in today’s blockbuster and franchise dominated universe.
Korine’s films were never designed with the intent of reaching a mainstream audience, but that’s part of their appeal. For those who got a kick out of “Spring Breakers,” be sure to check out some of his earlier flicks which are hard to compare to anyone else’s.
Following the acclaim he earned with “Kids,” Korine made his directorial debut with this film about the residents of a small Midwestern town called Xenia, Ohio. This same town was hit by a tornado back in the mid-1970s, and it looks like those who live there are still shell-shocked from its aftermath. With “Gummo,” Korine went out of his way to break out of the traditional three-act movie structure, and he also gave us characters that were not designed to have moral dimensions to them. In the end, he was more interested in capturing those strangely beautiful moments as they came along during filming.
Korine had a budget of just over $1 million to make “Gummo,” and he shot the whole movie in just 20 days. Chloë Sevigny, who co-starred in “Kids” and was Korine’s girlfriend at the time, also served as this movie’s costume designer and found many of the costumes at local thrift stores. Much of it was shot in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and Korine went out of his way to shoot in the poorest neighborhoods there. “Gummo” also marks the first movie appearance of actress Linda Manz, best known for her work in Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” in 16 years.
Ewen Bremner, best known for playing Spud in “Trainspotting,” stars as the Julien of the movie’s title; a young man dealing with untreated schizophrenia. It doesn’t help that his family is beyond dysfunctional as his father (played by filmmaker Werner Herzog) is domineering and dances while wearing a gas mask and his sister Pearl (Chloë Sevigny) may or may not be pregnant with his baby. It also turns out that Julien may actually be a murderer, but that is not made clear right away.
“Julien Donkey-Boy” was actually the first American film shot under the Danish movie manifesto Dogme 95, an avant-garde filmmaking movement designed to create movies based on traditional values of story, acting, and theme while excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology. All the props you see the characters use were found at the locations the movie was filmed at.
Korine got Herzog to co-star in this movie as the filmmaker was a huge fan of his previous film “Gummo.”
Diego Luna stars as a Michael Jackson impersonator who, while doing his act on the streets of Paris, meets up with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton). From there they travel to a commune in Scotland where a number of other impersonators live and are building a stage to perform on so that they can find the audience they truly deserve. There’s also a subplot involving a group of nuns who jump from an airplane to deliver food to villages, and they also do it to show they are true of heart and protected by God.
Now while “Mister Lonely” sounds like it is out to mock all the celebrity impersonators who ever lived, Korine actually treats them with a sincere empathy as he has been fond of them since he was a kid. During filming, the cast and crew stayed in a Scottish castle and the actors took the time to work on their character impersonations when the camera wasn’t rolling. Korine also worked with nuns in Spain who really did skydive, and they did their jumps even when the temperature reached an unbearable 120 degrees.
Korine’s 2009 film brought him back to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and it revolves around a group of elderly people with severely burned faces who go around town and mess with other people’s trash. On top of that, they also smash TV sets, torture plastic dolls, and they even pour dish soap on a stack of pancakes. And yes, the title is meant to be taken quite literally.
Korine was inspired to make “Trash Humpers” from his memories as a teenager of a group of elderly people who came out at night in Nashville looking all dirty and peeping through windows. However, the movie was meant to be an ode to vandalism, and Korine found a wonderful creativity in the destruction they caused. He also shot and edited the movie on VHS tape as he found a strange beauty in analog, and he found himself rebelling against the overall trend of everything needing to be in high-definition and looking so crystal clear.
James Franco Becomes a Gangster Rapper in ‘Spring Breakers’
The Cult Films of ‘Stoker’ Director Park Chan-wook
The Cult Films of ‘The Hobbit’ Director Peter Jackson