Is It Party Porn?

It’s time to play that crazy game! Is that movie with all the boobs and drugs and partying and excessive ridiculousness just a voyeurism vehicle for your inner-hedonist? Or is it film? We are inspired today and begin with the work of Harmony Korine.

Spring Breakers (2012) // The Beach Bum (2019)

Is It Party Porn?: These films should perhaps be considered party homage, a Squilliamesque, sophisticated cousin of party porn. In the same way that Terence Malick draws extravagant beauty from common life in The Tree of Life, Korine gives orgies and blackouts just the right color and sound treatment to make you tilt your head to the side as if you were at a museum. Important also is that you can sense the auteur’s devotion to the lifestyle in the poetry with which he brings it to life. For that comparison, see James Murphy.

What Are You Potentially Missing: What the experts are missing, certainly with The Beach Bum, is that these aren’t hedonist message movies about having a “good time” and addressing all consequences with “cartoonish insouciance” (OoOoh…). Korine simply chooses to shoot from the perspective of his characters. The best example among these two titles is Moondog’s daughter’s wedding in Beach Bum. Before making a speech at the altar, Moondog wildly rushes a woman in a wheelchair around as a gag. The camera focuses mostly on the laughs and amusement of Moondog and some members of the congregation. During the subsequent speech, what’s captured in the frame almost as an afterthought is the injured crippled woman sliding herself along the ground hopelessly.

Craziest Part: As far as Spring Breakers goes just stick to James Franco out of for this award — be it his threesome, song, or death. In Beach Bum, it’s not the most excessive scene by a long shot, but my mind keeps returning to the beach bar kitchen shag. Matthew McConaughey oiling up that old woman’s ass and slapping it with a spatula amidst the full awareness of the other bar patrons represented a level of depravity that both of these films force you to consider.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Is It Party Porn?: Purposefully, excess to the Nth degree is what this movie is ‘about’. In most promotional and awards circuit interviews back in ‘13, Scorsese and DiCaprio regularly referred to the fact that their guiding principal during filming was a sort of Yes Culture or a “How far can we take this?”

What Are You Potentially Missing?: Instead of thinking “Wow, 80s Wall Street really was wild” you are supposed to be reacting with “Wow, those guys in 80s Wall Street really were pieces of shit.” All of the hootenanny was, after all, funded by people like you and your parents. It sure is fun to vicariously watch though; maybe Scorsese should have made the villainy more apparent.

Craziest Part: Everybody loves the quaaludes, of course. For me the moments that struck most were the ones that were most unnecessary. Fuck session on top of the cash? I’d be down. Marching band? I’ve been trying to make that happen at my office party for years. But when even the butler is having a mass orgy and even Jordan Belfort’s mother-in-law is on the slam radar? Those were the “Geeze movie, get it together” bits in my head.

Caligula (1979)

Is It Party Porn?: Yes! Actually it’s closer to just regular porn. But this was an era when film and porn weren’t mutually exclusive.

What Are You Potentially Missing?: Not a thing! This is a fuck movie and is proud of it!

Craziest Part?: Any one with a penis. It’s amazing that, as much as every sexual social norm has been tossed into the incinerator in the 40 years since this film’s debut, you still don’t typically see wangs on the big screen.

Trainspotting (1996)

Is It Party Porn?: Trainspotting hopes to use the party porn formula to demonstrate the very real draw of heroin, which is crucial to comprehending the film. When most people think of shooting up they go “ooh, yuck, sad”, but if that were true then everything that takes place in the movie would be pure lunacy. The point is, it’s that awesome, critically so in fact.

What Are You Potentially Missing?: Hopefully in this one the consequence messaging — the ‘but’s if you will — are not lost. A horrifyingly defiled damn baby crawls around on the ceiling for Queen Elizabeth’s sake.

Craziest Part: A side observation Trainspotting offers is that heavy drinking might be normalized whereas intravenous narcotics are illegal, but that doesn’t mean boozing is all that much healthier. This is brought to life in the character of Begby, who entertainingly polishes off a pint and then tosses the glass over his shoulder. Since he is sitting on the bar’s second floor with his back to the balcony this is particularly unappreciated.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Is It Party Porn?: Because our narrator and guide is committed so fundamentally to a drug-infused existence and rejection of all structure, it’s like party porn but from an inside perspective, thus defeating any presumed taboo on the filmmaker’s part or gratuitousness on the viewer’s part. To make a regular porn comparison, imagine reading the autobiography of a well-hung pizza guy.

What Are You Potentially Missing?: The debauchery and brilliance here are completely separate, so you can appreciate both at their surface level. Revel in the breezy bender tales while keeping an eye out for casual nuggets of groundbreaking insight on the human condition like you would do reading Hemingway.

Craziest Part: At one point the rapscallions in this movie ingest adrenaline sourced from a living human. As Benicio Del Toro’s Dr. Gonzo says:

“That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You’ll go completely crazy if you take too much.”

Pair this with the scene in Oliver Stone’s The Doors in which Jim Morrison and a lover get high by drinking each other’s blood.

Project X (2012)

Is It Party Porn?: That’s exactly what it is!

What Are You Potentially Missing?: Not a goddamn thing.

Craziest Part: That it still works somehow. It’s actually an enjoyable movie — which means maybe party porn has a home in the theater and doesn’t have to be lazily paired with comedy, exquisitely paired with art, nor completely exiled to the internet.