What You Get When Harmony Korine Tackles a Topic Like Spring Break

I can’t help but be reminded of the film Havoc when I watch this trailer. Not sure why, but I also keep thinking Larry Clark must be involved somehow… must remember to look that up… Anyway, here’s a trailer for Harmony Korine’s latest anomaly, Spring Breakers. Conveniently hitting theaters (somewhere) right around, um, spring break.

Mister Lonely

What makes someone want to be an impersonator? Well, director Harmony Korine doesn’t actually ever answer that question, but instead paints his usual tableau of paper-thin characters, playing deeply-affected characters. Korine’s collage of personalities on film is best depicted through his earlier work like Gummo and Julian Donkey-Boy, but he does get a few things right in his latest addition to his absurdist dramedy series.

Told in four “parts,” all named after Michael Jackson songs:

Man In The Mirror
Beat It
You Are Not Alone

the film follows the life of a Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who living in France is struggling to find himself and at the same time find work. One day while performing (not Michael Jackson songs, mind you) at an assisted living home, another impersonator, Marilyn Monroe (played rather unconvincingly by the usually fabulous Samantha Morton), spots him and later she tells him about a retreat her and her family have created in Scotland where celebrity impersonators can live in peace and tranquility.

All is not as good as it seems though when Monroe returns home with the new friend. Soon the sheep on the land have all become infectious and must be put down, which quickly sours the mood of life and escapism. Along with that, Monroe’s husband Charlie Chaplin (channeling Adolf Hitler at times, and played by the TOKYO! deviant Denis Levant), indulges his jealous fantasies of his wife and Jacko cheating on him behind his back.

Other impersonators at the retreat include:

The Three Stooges
Queen Elizabeth
The Pope (no idea which one)
Abe Lincoln (if Abe Lincoln had a foul-mouth)
Sammy Davis, Jr.
James Dean
Shirley Temple
Little Red Riding Hood
Buckwheat (who has a fetish with chickens, this I could have done without); and,

Eventually, in a sort of celebration for the lives of their slain sheep, the gang builds a performance hall on the property and stages a variety show of sorts for which they tout “the greatest show on Earth.” It’s anything but, but is also the only time we see them becoming something that they are really not: comfortable in themselves.

Specifically, for me, I was more affected by the separate story line involving a (not-surprisingly) wonderful Werner Herzog as a priest. When one of his nuns accidentally falls out of a plane, while dropping food rations over an impoverished village, she frantically prays to God to save her and give her the ability to fly on her way down. Well, God doesn’t grant her wish to fly, but when she plummets into the ground below, she does jump right back up again without merely a scratch.

Korine comes back to this separate story line intermittently, but there appears to be little cohesion between the two competing stories. True to life, Marilyn Monroe commits suicide (by hanging herself, albeit), much to the dismay of her husband Chaplin and her wanna-be lover Jackson. Chaplin seemed to become more an impersonation of Hitler when alone with Marilyn on the retreat, but then really none of the characters ever truly seem to inhabit their celebrity doppelgangers. Instead, they seem more comfortable in the disguises while remaining their own individual selves.

What to Hope for in 2008…

So, I know I’ve been slacking on the reviews lately here, but there’s been a lot going on (including finishing up production on my own latest film) and not much time to leave for watching/reviewing films. But, I thought I’d take a moment to spill some of this wonderful news to anyone who cares.

So here goes…

The Gospel According to Janis — Penelope Spheeris [Update: The film has been delayed till 2012]

More than anything, I’m just so excited that Zooey Deschanel is set to portray the inimitable Janis Joplin in her heyday. The film is supposedly set around the late singer’s peak as a musician and rockstar, and seems to be structured very similar to Almost Famous where a young Rolling Stone music writer gets the time of their life entering the world of a depraved, drug-addicted demi-God. I think only Penelope will be able to tell this story with just the right amount of meaningful sleaze.

Funny Games — Michael Haneke

It beats the hell out of me why Haneke would choose to remake his own (rather famous and even critically lauded) film about a family which gets pretty much tortured (sometimes more mentally than physically) by two sadistic men who’ve surprised them in their vacation home. I mean I guess what director wouldn’t love the opportunity to re-work a film for a larger audience? I just loved the original one, and maybe it’s because Hollywood is stuck on these “torror” films, (as I call them; “torror” standing for torture/horror), and this film fits that category to the fullest. I look forward to the torture of knowing the ending (or do I?), and I’ll definitely be awaiting this remake.

Jumper — Doug Liman

Even though Liman has recently gone from indie cool to Hollywood pimp, he still can make a quality film. He always tends to maintain a strong visual framework, and never holds back in good, palpable storytelling. But all his films are so straight forward, honest feeling renditions of his insights on relationships (and men and women in general), that it surprises me and excites me that his next feature is about a young man who can “teleport.” I had to look this word up to make sure I was delusional, since sci fi is not my strong suit in film and literature. Upon discovering that he has this supernatural (?) ability, he sets out find his estranged father employing his new powers.

Red State — Kevin Smith [Update: This film has been delayed. Latest release date is October 19, 2012]

A horror movie with politicians? In a film by Kevin Smith? Need I say more? I only can hope Buddy Jesus makes a cameo.

Mister Lonely — Harmony Korine

First of all, I never miss a Korine pic. But I also never miss movies by Werner Herzog, and never miss movies with Samantha Morton. So, a film with all three individuals involved?? Too good to be true. Plus, Korine as always, draws my attention with his oddball plots, like this one which I can only do justice by copying the synopsis from IMDB: “In Paris, a young American who works as a Michael Jackson lookalike meets Marilyn Monroe, who invites him to her commune in Scotland, where she lives with Charlie Chaplin and her daughter, Shirley Temple.”

The Countess — Julie Delpy

Believe it or not there once was a woman (from Hungary, of course) who believed that bathing in the blood of virgins would keep her beautiful forever. So, she killed as many as she could sometime in the 1700s. Or, at least, that’s what Julie Delpy wants us to think. Her film is not even shot yet, and I’m already excited! Now, I don’t always approve of these indie actor-turned-indie director type ventures, but with this premise and Vincent Gallo and Radha Mitchell, I’ll acquiesce.