James Franco is inescapable. The actor/writer/student/director is to movies what the recently deceased NY Met Gary Carter was to paid endorsements. He’s everywhere.
The most recent sighting (and that could change at any moment) is “Francophrenia (or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)” an experimental film by Franco and director Ian Olds that’s at the Tribeca Film Festival.
For his only appearance on the soap opera “General Hospital,” Franco brought a film crew along, and the reconstitution of footage from that un-aired show tells a tale of a man overcome by paranoia. It’s real paranoia – as opposed to the real dread of being trapped in a mountain crevice in “127 Hours.”
Franco did shoot an episode of “General Hospital,” which never aired. What better frisson to lure his daytime fans to a screening at Tribeca? But his marginal role in that episode has been expanded into a cocky entrance in a tuxedo, a few cryptic lines (some of them shouted), a tense ascent to a place of high profile, an act that becomes a crescendo, and lots of mystery around what any of this means. If Franco weren’t already a student, he could be writing a PhD. thesis on his own movie.
Francophrenia has the over-the-shoulder look of many “making of” docs, and the sense of peering into something that the ordinary audience isn’t supposed to see – until a filmmaker puts it in front them. If you ever doubted that editing was at the core of filmmaking, you might not after seeing this experiment.
Sampling the Franco footage, and reconfiguring everything about the images, is a sleight of hand that can fool your emotions as much as it fools your eyes. Franco and Olds draw you in, even though you know the whole thing’s a game. No one said the man wasn’t seductive. This caprice of a film, hard to release theatrically, will be a VOD success.