A week after defending “The Great Gatsby” in a written review, James Franco has continued his aspirations to add film critic to his seemingly endless list of hyphenates, this time offering up his take on Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s “Leviathan” (which actually has been in theaters since early March, but I guess Franco has the power to pretty much review whatever he wants, whenever he wants).
Once again writing for VICE Magazine, Franco makes clear from the get-go that he’s in love with the documentary — which focuses on the commercial fishing industry of the North Atlantic — titling the review “‘Leviathan,’ I Love You: A Few Impressions.” After a few paragraphs detailing the context of the evening he saw the film (including, somewhat needlessly, the fact that he’s currently listening to Daft Punk and reading “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter”), Franco officially begins his love letter to Castaing-Taylor and Paravel’s film (and to “Moby Dick”):
I’m the biggest “Moby Dick” fan ever, and here was a movie that relies on biblical-level pretensions while capturing the fishing life with an unblinking gaze. It’s modern-day Melville, at least the nonnarrative chapters that relate the whaling life through nonfictional accounts and facts… We see the haul. It’s enormous and grotesque and beautiful. And the precision and routinized ease with which the fishermen start arranging and slicing and beheading the fish is mesmerizing. This is a slaughterhouse of the sea, but strangely not as instant-vegetarian-inducing as watching a cattle abattoir or sausage factory in action; it’s less “The Jungle” and more the mesmeric presentation of Ahab and his mythical crew.
You can read the rest of it here, which continues to make clear how floored Franco is with all aspects of the film (his greatest compliment perhaps saying it’s “where documentary filmmaking can go if they aspire to art”). It’s overall a thoughtful piece, and it’s admirable that Franco took the time not to defend a film or television show already finding audiences, but to bring attention to a film that’s only grossed $58,691 since opening in early March. While one might be inclined to think the self-serving purpose of the review is for Franco to be all “look at me, I watch arty documentaries,” it seems more likely that he simply wanted to raise his voice for a film he felt deserved it.