' ' Cinema Romantico: Spring Breakers: Opening Scene

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spring Breakers: Opening Scene

As the title card "Spring Breakers", in a sort of neon pseudo-confetti appears on the screen, the soundtrack strikes up the sounds of Skrillex. We cut to assorted shots of revelers on a pristine beach. The revelers are noticeable for their activities, age and attire - lewd, young and skimpy. They are primarily female - at least, at first.

Then we see a dude. He's grabbing his crotch, as if he was raised on rap videos (which he might have been). Another dude just over his left shoulder is giving us the finger. Then we see a girl with her back to the camera, shaking her moneymaker. Then a beer bong. Then......well......I believe Seth MacFarlane wrote a song about them - namely, boobs. We see boobs. We see beer being poured on them as they sway to and fro in all their admitted glory. And then the camera jump cuts......but to the exact same shot, just a little bit closer. It's as if the director, Harmony Korine, is saying prior to the jump cut, "Oh? You're offended." Jump cut. "How offended are you now?"

For a normal movie, this might be enough. This is not a normal movie. It keeps going, perfectly matched by the stop/start nature of Skrillex. A dude mimes jerking off with a beer bottle. Another middle finger. More boobs. Then girls sucking on red/blue/white ('merica, bitches) popsicles, a la Kate Upton. Now are we done? Nope. More boobs. Dudes "urinate" out of beer cans onto not-entirely-clothed female faces. More popsicle sucking. Cut to black.

(Wipes brow.)

So, why do I find this opening as majestic as I do scuzzy? Can those two even co-exist? If so, how? I mean, are these sixty or so seconds any different from "Girls Gone Wild" (or, as "Arrested Development" might say, "Girls With Low Self-Esteem") and its hideous, jaw-dropping exploitive nature? Well, sure. For one thing, "Girls Gone Wild" is really nothing beyond soul-rotten home video tripe that exists to sell a product - albeit a product to the sort of dudes we see in "Spring Breakers" grabbing their crotches and pretending to jerk off.

Harmony Korine, for whatever anyone wishes to say about him (and feel free), knows how to implement the camera and cuts and music and any number of in-editing tricks to create something beyond a mere product, something Jiff Ramsey would have termed "film de cinema."

Except that simply enlisting a French cinematographer, BenoƮt Debie, prettifying the whole picture in a visual sheen that makes it seem as if you're watching all this debauchery through aviator sunglasses while high on mushrooms, does not automatically make it any more tolerable or excusable.

What struck me upon re-watching "Spring Breakers" (my original review), even more than its Malick-ian overtones, reliance on montage-y images and voiceover, is that underneath all that deliriously glossy surface is something surprisingly traditional. Girls go on spring break. Girls get sick of spring break. Girls go home. Seriously. That's what it is, right down to the end. Which is not a bad thing. The last shot, God save my soul, actually made me wistfully smile. And all of this makes the shameless opening sequence so vital.

The opening exists apart from everything else in the film, just as spring break itself exists apart from everything else in the world in some sort of mystic spring break continuum. Ultimately we can hate it, be discouraged by it, frightened of it, rail against it, but it doesn't matter. The beat goes on.

Spring break forever, y'all.


Ryan McNeil said...

I keep meaning to revisit SPRING BREAKERS now that it's on video, but it's in the running for the 2013 that has stuck with me the most.

That beginning seems to mock the audience - as if it knows what they've come to see. It turns all of the debauchery into one long money shot and dares the audience to get aroused. The funny thing is, that the complete opposite occurs. The audience feels ashamed, confused, voyeuristic and uncomfortable. What's more, there's no escaping it! In an empty theatre, you feel icky. In a full theatre, even ickier.

It does a great job at setting up the absurdities that are to come and tells us quite clearly "You aren't in Kansas anymore".

Excuse me, I need to refill my PBR...

Nick Prigge said...

Sixty seconds......sixty seconds and takes you through everything you just said. Amazing. Well put. Aroused and Ashamed.

Alex Withrow said...

It's as if the director, Harmony Korine, is saying prior to the jump cut, "Oh? You're offended." Jump cut. "How offended are you now?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I love your writing so much because, in part, it's as if you're articulating my feelings in a different way. I agree with everything you said here, and I was thrilled that you wrote this. Great work.

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks, man. I know you're a huge admirer of this film so I was curious to see what your take of this piece would be. Glad to see it connected.