Threesomes at the Toronto Film Festival: James Franco + Vanessa Hudgens + Ashley Benson vs. Asia Argento + Charlotte Gainsbourg + François Cluzet

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This is a blog post about two movies that were screened for the press within the first 24 hours of the Toronto Film Festival, both of which feature three-way sex scenes. In Spring Breakers, characters played by James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson "do it" in a swimming pool; in Do Not Disturb, a French remake of the 2009 American indie Humpday, a bisexual couple played by Asia Argento and Charlotte Gainsbourg seduce a drifter played by François Cluzet.

I am mentioning these facts at the beginning of this blog posts in order to attract people who search the internet for information about movie sex scenes -- a segment of the human population which, Google Analytics suggests, far outnumber the segment which actually, like, cares about cinema. To the sex scene searchers, I say, welcome! We will get to what you came here looking for in a moment. But first, a brief primer on French cultural theory.

In the middle of the last century, Situationist International figurehead Guy Debord coined the term "detournement" to refer to the practice of -- to quote, er, Wikipedia -- "turning expressions of the capitalist system and its media culture against itself." In a literal sense, this describes what writer/director Harmony Korine has done with Spring Breakers, his surprisingly moody, savagely satiric and surreal new film starring a trio of barely-legal current and former stars of tween TV (Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens) as refugees from an unimpressive college looking to "find themselves" in Florida amidst the annual ritualistic bacchanal, who fall in with a white gangster rapper named Alien, played by James Franco in deep performance (as) art mode.

Reports documenting Breakers' paparazzi-plagued shoot against the backdrop of actual Spring Break 2012 gave the impression that Korine -- the sometime-infant terrible who wrote Kids and last directed the analog video faux-document Trash Humpers - might have been "detourning" the culture that made his stars the bankable names they are by playing it poker-faced, letting the fact that this guy was making a traditional teen party movie serve as some kind of critique in itself of a culture in which, as Franco's character says, Britney Spears "is one of the greatest singers of all time and an angel if there ever was one on earth." Early footage of Franco in character as Alien -- who was inspired by real life rapper Riff Raff, and whose rival is played in the film by Gucci Mane -- suggested Korine might be going the other way, plumbing the artifacts of our moment of easy media opportunism for even easier parody.

The wonderful surprise of Spring Breakers is that, while the film essentially delivers what you might expect from these stars (all of them basically trying to do the Drew Barrymore-in-Poison Ivy vault into adult stardom) and this filmmaker independently of one another, their talents and assets in combination creates something much weirder, deeper, harder to pin down and impossible to write off as "just" a goof, "just" the result of an art filmmaker exploiting stars to skewer the culture they represent, "just" anything.

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