You may not be aware of this, but James Franco likes to do lots of things. The fact that he likes to do lots of things has sort of become a "thing" in and of itself, and people now make all sorts of hilarious jokes about it. He's nominated for Best Actor at this year's Oscars, he's co-hosting the ceremony, he's teaching a graduate class about himself, and now he's completed work on two movies for an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills.
The show is called 'Unfinished,' and it features two fillms that Franco made in collaboration with director Gus Van Sant -- both of which spring from an enduring interest in Van Sant's 1991 opus 'My Own Private Idaho,' and one of them clocks in at a whopping 12 hours in length.
According to the Gagosian Gallery's website, the project took root when Van Sant cast Franco in 'Milk,' and prepared the actor for the role by showing him dailies and behind-the-scenes footage from 'My Own Private Idaho,' perhaps in the hopes that the actor might channel something from the shaggy performances of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. As Criterion's DVD of the film might suggest, there's a wealth of interesting material floating around from that particular production, and it seems as if Franco was quite taken with what he saw. He's re-purposed the copious amount of footage into two films, calling one 'My Own Private River,' and the other 'Endless Idaho.'
The folks over at Gagosian rather ambiguously describe 'My Own Private River' as "Shots of Phoenix 's character, Mike, woven into a compelling portrait... That captures the gifted actor at his most emotionally expressive and physically dynamic." Sounds like people who love staring at River Phoenix's face have just found their 'Citizen Kane.' The gallery site notes that 'My Own Private River' is scored by REM frontman Michael Stipe, "who is an art school drop-out."
But it's Franco's other offering that sounds like the real story: "For Endless Idaho, Franco edited outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes footage from My Own Private Idaho into a 12-hour film. Endless Idaho provides an unprecedented look into the workaday process of making a movie, from location scouting to repeated takes. Like many of the films of Andy Warhol, a major influence on Van Sant's own auteur style, it is a provocative, often riveting blend of documentary and fiction. Interviews with actual hustlers who played secondary characters in My Own Private Idaho are inter-cut with shots of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves improvising and refining their performances under the direction of Van Sant and his crew. The music for Endless Idaho was composed by Luke Paquin and Tim O'Keefe."
It's hard to say how judicious Franco might have been in deciding which footage to include -- if he found the time to meticulously layer the droves of material on top of one another or if it's more of a loosely ordered hodgepodge that his growing army of assistants may or may not have assembled for him -- but take that, Warhol and your comparatively scrawny 8-hour 'Empire!'
Of course, films of such unwieldy lengths are hardly uncommon so far as installations go, but Franco's has the benefit of being accompanied by eight of Van Sant's watercolor paintings. The gallery elaborates that "With the same subtle powers of observation that distinguish his filmmaking, [Van Sant] has created portraits of young men who recall characters in 'My Own Private Idaho' -- defiant, circumspect, and devil-may-care insouciants. Working from photographic images found on the internet, Van Sant has created vivid impressions of his incidental icons, employing brushwork that alternates broad, limpid strokes with an assiduous attention to detail and a varied palette of both washed out tones and dense, electric hues."
Curious. Very curious. The exhibit will be up at the Gagosian Gallery from February 26th until April 9, so you can expect detailed reports of the show to start trickling out over the Oscar weekend.
What do you guys make of all this? Does this sort of thing intrigue you and force you to take Franco a bit more seriously, or do you think guy is wantonly spreading himself a bit too thin? Most importantly, who else out there is totally psyched for the Franco's inevitable 12-hour montage of 'Finding Forrester' outtakes?