That's why I really enjoyed Richard Brody's article for The New Yorker about the "life lessons" of "Spring Breakers," and how the film's messages and meanings are inextricably tied to its depictions of race, a theory I had overlooked during my own viewing of the film at SXSW, but which now intrigues me greatly:
"Above all, Korine emphasizes the story’s racial aspect with a strange twist of visual invention that occurs at the story’s climax. When the two women -- wearing bikinis and pink ski masks -- arrive, armed and ready, with Alien for their raid... they cross a narrow bridge through a field of blacklight that turns their bathing suits fluorescent, makes their masks glow blue, and -- most remarkably -- greatly darkens their skin, in a cinematographic version of blackface, with light bulbs (or digital effects) taking the place of minstrels’ cork... The director’s ultimate spring-break fantasy is a vision of murder camp—and of “black camp” -- and he doesn’t make any effort to distinguish the two. The very mainspring of the movie is his stereotypical and reductive view of black life as one of drug dealing and gang violence."
I didn't love "Spring Breakers" at first blush (although I did love every moment with Franco) but the movie keeps lingering in my mind. It's a strange film, at once so superficial -- nudity, violence, flashy camera tricks -- and so complex -- unusual editing rhythms, poetic voiceovers, statements about gender, violence, and, yes, even race. It's going for this seduction of the innocent angle, playing up its formerly wholesome stars and their bikini-bearing mayhem (and why not? It's putting butts in the seats so far), but Korine's always proven himself a guy who's interested in more than simple provocation. There's something going on there, but what that something is (beyond, y'know, "Spring break, forevah!") proves mighty elusive.
So I guess I need to go see "Spring Breakers" again. Maybe I can tie the whole tanning oil run into Brody's theory somewhere.
Read more of "The Life Lessons of 'Spring Breakers.'"