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.
A series of hazy 8mm vignettes, accompanied by a soft, lilting voice over, in which girls skulk around schoolyards, spray graffiti, drink, smoke, pose and embrace, evoking the loneliness, confusion and overwhelming wonder of growing up.
When Harmony Korine was asked about the violent characters in the film, he said, "It's kind of like an ode to vandalism. There can be a creative beauty in their mayhem and destruction. You could say these characters are poets or mystics of mayhem and murder, bubbling up to the surface. They do horrible things, but I never viewed them as sad characters. They're comedic, with a vaudevillian horror element to what they do. They dance as they smash things and set them on fire. They're having a great time." See more »
Here's a film where a bunch of old people literally hump trash and lampposts, masturbate plants, throw firecrackers as they recite verse, tapdance in a parking lot and smash TVs. There is no story. There is no cinematic beauty to speak of, it's shot on ugly VHS and the artifact shows. It is, at first and possibly second and third glance, a pointless film designed to grate.
But what do we learn about ourselves if we shy away from the confrontation? Watching this, a self that criticizes comes to the fore for whom all of this has no point, he might not be altogether wrong, but let's surprise ourselves, pipe that self down and, not giving him final say in our view, see what else may pop up. Let's engage our own limits of sense.
What grates here seems to be this: old people do unnatural things, babies are dragged behind bicycles, elsewhere a kid hammers a baby's head or a man dressed as a french maid lies murdered in a pool of blood in a kitchen floor with a hammer next to him. Korine himself partly labors under the concept of a media satire, giving us bare sketches without the framework of story or visually dressed of the same violent inanity we consume elsewhere, not much interesting in itself.
The beauty comes once you start to see through that uptight self that can only settle for these things as part of a story. The men only wear masks of old people, the baby is a doll, we plainly know that the man in the french maid costume is playing dead and that is maple syrup on the floor. Unlike other films where the illusion sweeps us into belief, here we know it is all make believe, know this as we watch.
So why be struck by a sense of desolation?
It seems only because we are anxiously prepared to engage a world where the objects (a man lying murdered) are enlivened by their significance, supplying that horizon is what we're made to do. But here plainly they don't, there is no murder, no baby being savaged and only the form, the context of their significance. A man lies naked in the mud, the image carries a sense of something wrong. The assumption is why would he do that if something wasn't wrong? But how uptight is that? He's just a dude told to lie there.
Having peeled through this, what's left?
'Make it, don't fake it'. A dude lying there, faking it and yet not. The vivid reality of this being a play. The playing itself. Not just an ode to destruction, there's no value to that, but the joy of tapdancing in a parking lot. No mistake, it's one of the great films on the illusion of story and the real life beyond that, but you'll have to be still until that nagging old self exhausts his critique and you become the wandering eye finding unexpected happenings among unremarkable America.
It pays off with more evident value in Spring Breakers. There the partying figures pushing against the limits of sense become desirable young girls, the landscape is similarly inversed from drab middle America to alluring Florida, the humping becomes twerking, but the journey is the same marvelous one: finding in the standard perception of something being empty of value, a deeper one which is the capacity for immersion.
There are plenty of films about a staid beauty, like Baraka. This is for those who want to get dirty living it through.
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