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Tribeca Review: Shouted, Not Stirred: The Imperturbable James Franco

Thompson on Hollywood By David D'Arcy | Thompson on Hollywood April 25, 2012 at 3:05PM

James Franco is inescapable. The actor/writer/student/etc. is to movies what the recently deceased NY Met Gary Carter was to paid endorsements. He’s everywhere.

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.

This article is related to: James Franco, James Franco, Francophrenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), Documentary

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.