“Spring Breakers” director Harmony Korine made a rambunctious, daring debut at age 22 with his screenplay for the notorious 1995 movie “Kids.”
Two years later, he directed his first feature, the astounding “Gummo.” Although The New York Times called it “the worst film of the year,” it is considered a masterpiece by many others.
Sixteen years and a handful of films later, Korine, 40, hasn’t lost his edge.
“Spring Breakers” originated with a simple image: girls in bikinis with guns. From there, Korine adopted a form he calls “liquid narrative.” The movie flows in different directions, bits and pieces flash forward and backward in time, and audio tracks play over disassociated scenes.
“I wanted the movie to work like electronic music, or sample-based music,” he said during a recent phone conversation. “I wanted this immersive quality with the sound, with the image hitting full-on throughout the entire film. I never wanted the audience to feel comfortable.”
Though the movie’s images and story line — about four college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Korine’s wife, Rachel) who rob a diner to raise money to go to spring break in Florida — may seem familiar from decades of exploitation cinema, Korine never intended for the film to be taken at face value.
“It’s an impressionistic reinterpretation of that world and those characters,” he says. “I wanted to make a film that can’t be talked away. ... It’s more like a feeling, or a drug experience, some kind of transcendence like a peak moment that dissolves into blackness.”
His goal was to dismantle the idea of high culture and low culture, to assert that there’s no such thing as either one anymore.
Korine imagined the movie’s technique from the start, but didn’t have a guide until he had finished a few minutes of edited footage. Then, he says, “We just stayed the course.”
A thoroughly modern filmmaker, Korine is nonetheless been fascinated by the 1970s, casting icons from the era (Werner Herzog, Linda Manz, etc.) in his movies.
“That was such an incredible period,” he says. “The movies were based on characters wanting to get lost and disappear. Now people want to be found and share their experiences. The tone has shifted. I’m not sure that anything can ever go back.”
Starring From left, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, James Franco, Selena Gomez, ?Rachel Korine
Written, directed by?Harmony Korine, right
Running time ?1 hour, 34 minutes