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Harmony Korine (#110 of 24)

Harmony Korine Directs Rihanna in Spring Breakers-Style “Needed Me” Video

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Harmony Korine Directs Rihanna in Spring Breakers-Style “Needed Me” Video
Harmony Korine Directs Rihanna in Spring Breakers-Style “Needed Me” Video

There was so much pomp and circumstance surrounding the impending release of Rihanna’s Anti—false-starter singles, months-long Samsung campaigns, a freaking global treasure hunt for fans—that the small, intimate, and insular nature of the eventual album took some getting used to. The music videos, then, have been helping that acceptance along: “Work” was just two clips of her and Drake, whining first in a club and second in someone’s pink-hued living room, while “Kiss It Better” went even more minimal, and traded up: Drake for a sheer white sheet. The brand new “Needed Me,” directed by Harmony Korine, injects some of the Oldboy-accented revenge verve of last year’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” spiked with Korine’s own Spring Breakers, but that only comes to a head in the last minute or so. Mostly the clip is concerned with how a topless Rihanna looks glowering into windows and strolling, emotionless, through a strip club thick with gyrating naked bodies. It works, in much the same way “Work” and “Kiss It Better” do: by representing the body as the most direct visual expression of the self.

SXSW 2015: Manglehorn and Fresno

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SXSW 2015: Manglehorn and Fresno
SXSW 2015: Manglehorn and Fresno

In David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, Al Pacino turns in his third performance of the last year as a man in the grips of a post-midlife crisis. This time he’s Angelo Manglehorn, a locksmith whose obsession with a lost love is preventing him from fully inhabiting his own life. Dreamily kind for the most part, but given to fits of furniture-hurling rage and truth-telling so blunt it borders on sadism, Manglehorn drifts through his own life, observing the often quirky people around him as if from a great, sad distance. In one emblematic scene, he happens upon a multiple-car pileup and strides down the line of automobiles as the slow-motion, blurred sound, and the bright red watermelon guts strewn over the cars (one of the vehicles was carrying a load of melons) give the whole thing a surrealistic vibe. His house looks depressed too: dimly lit and all dark, metallic colors, even the wood paneling tinted a faint, sickly green. His only hope of connection with another living being, aside from his beloved cat, appears to be Dawn (Holly Hunter), a demure bank teller with whom he plays out a painfully awkward, lurching courtship.

True/False Film Fest 2014 Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, Private Violence, & More

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True/False Film Fest 2014: Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, Private Violence, & Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart

True/False Film Fest

True/False Film Fest 2014: Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, Private Violence, & Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart

The final three films I saw at the 2014 True/False Film Fest all deal with images of women—images created by themselves, through media outlets, and even using such images as key evidence in court cases. Kitty Green’s Ukraine Is Not a Brothel examines the exhibitionist feminist group Femen, whose members often go topless and paint messages on their bodies in protest of sex trafficking and sexist politics. Green’s approach is to probe within the movement, interviewing women like Sasha or Inna (the film only identifies them by first name), who explain their devotion to Femen as a desire to turn the very objectification tactics used by patriarchy against itself: “No one wants to listen to a woman, but everyone wants to look.” Thus, Femen only accepts/uses women who fit more conventional notions of beauty, which one member admits has “lost us a lot of good women.”

Ukraine Is Not a Brothel initially looks to be a fairly standard explanatory documentary, but Green’s interests, combined with Michael Latham’s striking, often low-key cinematography, veer the film toward darkly comedic terrain as it’s revealed that Victor Svyatski masterminded the whole operation—a patriarchy within a movement against patriarchy, and a paradox that Victor doesn’t find altogether troublesome, even as he admits that he likely had a “subconscious” interest in forming the group because he thought it might get him laid. Victor isn’t a sharp guy; in fact, the film opens with him wearing a rabbit mask, laughing goofily, and stating, “I am fucking rabbit.” Green’s critical eye replaces what initially appears as unwavering support to questioning the group’s inherent motivations and how such a dubious leader could have lured so many women in—an answer which the women themselves don’t reach a consensus on.

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions Director

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Director
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Director

The most pleasant surprise of this awards season has been the widespread embrace of Her, a film that seemed a bit like a bland “Oscar movie” in its marketing, didn’t feel like one at all amid the actual experience of watching it, then wound up something of a guild darling with a heap of critical support. Both the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild have shown their love for this swoony, very-near-future heartbreaker, and it’s wildly admired by everyone from the National Board of Review to the Hollywood Foreign Press, who tossed it a Best Screenplay trophy at Sunday’s Golden Globes. But what of its adorably odd director, Spike Jonze? Having been snubbed by the Directors Guild, whose members nominated Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), can Jonze still sneak into Oscar’s final five? He’s done it once before, with 1999’s Being John Malkovich, and if he is indeed this category’s spoiler, he has the benefit of statistics behind him: Director nods from the DGA and Oscar have only matched up three times in the last 15 years, thanks to overlapping, but differing, voting bodies that number more than 10,000 and fewer than 400, respectively. A work of personal, consummate vision, Her may be the film whose maker shakes up this race come Thursday morning.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin

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Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Under the Skin
Toronto International Film Festival 2013: Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s first film since 2004’s Birth, Under the Skin has discernible reference points (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Chris Cunningham’s Rubber Johnny), and yet, this peculiar film is the most original feature at Toronto, and possibly of this year. It operates within a sublime netherworld immediately recognizable as being sprung from Glazer’s imagination, where, previously, the soul of a man was reborn in a 10-year-old boy and caused woman to nearly lose her mind, and before that, where a frightening, oft-hilarious psychopath wreaked havoc on the sanity of a man suffering an existential crisis over his former life as a criminal.

Now, in the gray, desolate coldness of Scotland, an extraterrestrial played by Scarlett Johansson seduces young Scottish men into a black hole where they meet a most unusual death. Given her pouty, coral-pink lips, chic black bob, alluring friendliness, and voluptuous breasts, the alien siren has little difficulty luring men back to “her place,” a decrepit building that, once inside, resembles the blanketing black nothingness of a virtual training game from The Matrix. Here, she walks into the darkness while slowly disrobing, the men following suit, unaware that the closer they reach her, the deeper they step into a never-ending inky ocean that swallows them whole.

Poster Lab: The Bling Ring

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Poster Lab: <em>The Bling Ring</em>
Poster Lab: <em>The Bling Ring</em>

First and foremost, the teaser poster for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring exhibits the director’s bouncy, rebellious verve, which she’s always managed to balance with a good bit of melancholy. From The Virgin Suicides to Somewhere, Coppola has keenly mixed the dour with the glamorous, and rarely ever conveyed shallowness in the process. All of which bodes well for her latest, which recounts the real-life story of a band of adolescent thieves, who robbed the homes of Paris Hilton and her ilk, and sported their booty as if they themselves were rich socialites.

Many will acknowledge that this poster speaks to Coppola’s consistent interest and influence in the world of fashion, which is very much accurate. If not stylish enough in its own right, Marie Antoinette yielded an epic, in-character photo spread in the pages of Vogue, and Somewhere is essentially shaped around the goings-on of the Chateau Marmont, L.A.’s über-chic and legendary celebrity-friendly hotel. But one should suspect that fashion is just the veneer here. Like Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, which also teased an accessory-laden one-sheet, The Bling Ring looks primed to dig well beneath the stylish, stylistic duds, and expose a similarly provocative tale of our times, rife with youthful hedonism and its consequences.