Saturday, February 26, 2011

James Franco and The Environment of Celebrity

James Franco recently made this experimental film with Anne Hathaway to promote the Oscars:

I think it's fair to say that in style it resembles the work of Jonas Mekas:

He also recently starred in this Gucci commercial:

The latter most video is the most appropriate venue for James Franco: the world of complete artifice and admiration of his beauty. There is something seriously worthwhile in the reoccurring shot of Franco's head slick with water, held back in a white sky slowly falling towards us. His angular features have never looked better or carried their real meaning in anything else I've seen him in. In a commercial that could go either way between being art and just a commercial this is the moment that redeems it, a meaning that the director seems to realize giving it enough care to find the right image to collide with it: a white, broken statue whose form is obscured by the frame - all we see are shadows and muscles. From every other angle with James Franco we're waiting for something more. He's a man of many promises. But here is the man - when you can't see his eyes, when time is too slow for a sly smile to form, when you take away his voice and ideas...the angles of this man's face - just the lines - complemented perfectly by light and shadow in HD.

The former most video is the other side of James Franco. Not the physical fact but the end of the expression of perfect will. I don't know what Franco's actual intention was. It looks like he thought it would be fun to take a movie like Grease and restage it as if it were shot by a bunch of kids with a Super 8 camera and those kids just happen to be Hollywood stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Part of the joke is probably also that this film is not actually going to help promote the Oscars. Mekas is a different animal with a different sense of humor but the basic approach is the same: shooting like amateurs with amateur equipment from the 60's and finding the poetry that usually belongs to nonprofessionals and children.

This works great for Mekas especially given that all he needed was a Bolex and a circus ticket to make a poetic film. Indeed a lot of Mekas's charm is how cheap his method was especially with his use of fast motion. While I don't necessarily begrudge Franco for starting out with an amateur medium that belongs to another era, his own or the Oscar's millions to spend on actors, an amusement park set, and probably some sort of crew or creature comforts for Anne Hathaway at least, we're starting to approach what the problem is - that James Franco can't be whoever he wants to be.

The film at the top of this post is a denial of the hyper real environment that is James Franco's world. The last video is him completely in sync with that world. One resonates and the other is the worst kind of counterfeit. James Franco is the place in which we see the forces of our society toward a will that conquers all and ideal of fine art for everyone produce a human being we should all be warry of. A man who seems most alive with his eyes closed. Not a man but a line drawing.

It seems like we're all being asked to pay attention to James Franco and I think we should obey that directive. There is something about our moment in him, his face, his acting, his artwork, and probably his fall from grace.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting observation of James Franco. Please say you'll try submitting this to his representatives.