Spring Breakers (UK - BD RB)
Spring break y'all! Chris checks out the BD release of Harmony Korine's feature
Childhood friends Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) are now in college and desperate to attend spring break. Unfortunately they're short of cash, so Brit and Candy resort to robbing a diner with Cotty acting as the getaway driver, an act that shocks the religious Faith. Even so, Faith travels with the other girls to Florida where they attend wild beach parties, drink, smoke and generally get up to all sorts of mischief until they are arrested and sent to jail. They are quite literally bailed out by local gangster and part-time rapper Alien (James Franco), who introduces the girls to his lurid lifestyle and grooms them to become part of his criminal gang.
I'll hold my hands up and admit to being almost entirely unfamiliar with Harmony Korine's previous work, save for Larry Clark's Kids (for which he wrote the screenplay). If what I've read on various message boards is any indicator his work is fairly divisive, often polarising audiences into 'love' and 'hate' camps. If that really is the case I'm an anomaly, because I neither loved nor hated Spring Breakers. It's perhaps because we don't really have an equivalent here in the UK - certainly when I was at school there were no mass exoduses to the seaside to get drunk and have sex with strangers (you had to go abroad for that) - but the events depicted in the film seemed as alien to me as James Franco's character. It doesn't help that the protagonists are so thinly drawn; the girls' actions seem to be driven largely by their desire to get 'fucked up', but their motivations for said debauchery are never fully explored; they're caricatures, engaging lawless behaviour seemingly just for the sake of doing so.
In spite of this I still found things to enjoy in Spring Breakers. Its visuals are undeniably striking and I liked the non sequitur, repetitious, dreamlike editing style employed by Korine, which appears designed to emulate the fractured memory that can accompany the use of certain drugs. I've never been a recreational drug user myself, but I've imbibed enough alcohol to know that non-linear recollection and even blackouts are not unheard of, so there was a certain resonance to the stylistic choices. I'll also admit to being shamelessly attracted to all four of the girls, particularly the magnificent Benson and Hudgens. Still, the absolute star of the show is James Franco, who turns in the most memorable characterisation of a white, goateed, cornrow-wearing, silver-toothed, gangster since Gary Oldman's Drexl Spivey. I've seen Franco in a bunch of stuff, from Spider-Man to This is the End by way of Pineapple Express and Your Highness, and this is perhaps his most memorable (and best) performance. I have to agree with Korine's assertion that he sees Franco as a character actor, because he's a lot more interesting and entertaining here than he is in the majority of his films ( Oz the Great and Powerful anyone?). He'd also make a pretty good Britney Spears tribute act if the acting work ever dries up.
While spotty (at best) with their catalogue titles, Universal's new releases almost always look the part. Spring Breakers is no different, delivering a strong 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer that more than does justice to the film's bold aesthetic. The highly stylised palette mainly utilises warm colours for the exterior party sequences, reserving the cooler tones for the interior scenes at the beginning of the film. There is also plenty of neon to illuminate the darkness of the night. Contrast is intentionally pushed too far, resulting in blown whites and crushed blacks that help define the grittier aspects of Korine's world. Detail is consistently good throughout, although there are a number of handheld shots that obviously aren't up to the standard of the rest of the film. There are no obvious film or digital artefacts to spoil the party either, so all in all this is a visually impressive disc befitting of a recently released feature film.
I don't have to say too much about the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. It's generally well-balanced, with plenty of subtle discrete effects and centred dialogue that remains largely intelligible throughout. The Cliff Martinez/Skrillex soundtrack is full of appropriately hedonistic party cues - what I believe the young 'uns call 'dubstep' - which spread to the surrounds and elicit some terrific bass from the LFE channel, while the quieter tracks possess similar traits to the trippy visuals, complementing their dreamy qualities (and those of the film itself). Fidelity is excellent, dynamic range is wide and immersion is good despite the lack of showy effects. Basically it's a decent sound mix that provides a solid accompaniment to the visuals, even if it isn't 'top-tier' stuff.
Universal has assembled a respectable collection of bonus material for this release; one that offers an entertaining mixture of lightweight fluff and in-depth content across two discs, the second of which is a standard-definition DVD. We don't get everything from the US release, but it's not far off.
- Audio Commentary: Director Harmony Korine provides a fairly interesting solo track that covers a lot of the technical aspects, along with some of the anecdotal events (apparently the actors got really into the threesome scene). There's quite a lot of dead air, but when he does speak it's usually to say something worthwhile and I was pleasantly surprised by the track as a whole.
- Behind the Scenes: I wasn't sure that ninety-one seconds was really enough time to offer an insightful look behind the scenes of a film production. It turns out I was right.
- Harmony Korine Featurette: Featurette in name, ninety seconds of the director talking to cast and crew during pauses in filming by nature.
- AVPs: A short (sub-two minute) video reel of the girls' public appearances at various world premieres.
- The Girls: This runs for a little over a minute and shows the female cast larking around in their bikinis between scenes (purely for science of course).
- Making of: The only featurette of any real worth on the first disc, this piece runs for a little under twenty six minutes and features on-set interviews with the cast and crew. It's still not particularly good, but compared to the featurettes that came before...
- Theatrical Trailer: Um, the film's theatrical trailer. Hard to believe, right?
- Breaking it Down: Behind Spring Breakers: A three-part making of featurette that runs for a little over twenty-two minutes. Korine discusses his early ideas for the film, its aesthetic, characters and casting, and there is a fair amount of on-set/interview footage. It's not a hugely in-depth look at film production, but it's a step up from the usual promotional fluff.
- Deleted Scene: A very short scene in which the girls rob a chubby nerd at gunpoint.
- Outtakes: A little under eight minutes of various behind-the-scenes footage, showing the actors riffing on their lines, offering multiple readings and mugging for he camera.
- Harmony's Ear Candy: This feturette concentrates on the film's music and includes interview footage with Randall Poster and Cliff Martinez.
My wife and I walked of out of the theatrical screening of Spring Breakers with a 'what the hell did we just watch?' look on our faces. After a second viewing I'm still not entirely sure, but I think I kind of liked it. I'm still not convinced about every aspect of the picture, but it's one of the more memorable films I've seen this year and if nothing else it's a pretty stylish flick. If anything the film probably plays better to a younger crowd, rather than an older guy who wishes he was younger. Having said that, it was written and directed by a guy pushing forty, so perhaps it's really just a representation of what the older generation thinks the kids of today get up to... (Or even a projection of what the director himself wishes he'd been doing at that age.) Anyway, enough of my ramblings; if you're a fan the Blu-ray should more than satisfy you with its strong audio-visual presentation and reasonably entertaining selection of bonus material. I'd even go so far as to recommend it sight unseen if you're in the mood for something a little bit different.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 12th August 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Portuguese
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scene, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens,Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Gucci Mane
Length: 94 minutes
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