Mar 9, 2014


By: Diana Ritter

From March 5th through March 13th, IFC is presenting Francofest, a “not-even-mid-career survey” of James Franco’s “most notable performances and a sampling of features he has directed.”  On Friday, I attended a TimesTalks with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, who will be starring in the Broadway play, Of Mice and Men, later this month. When it got time for the Q&A portion,  I had one question in mind for James Franco: With Francofest in full swing, how much input did you provide for the program lineup and was there an argument behind it?  

I have been watching James Franco for nearly 15 years since his days as Daniel Desario on the cult classic Freaks and Geeks, but the only information I had any interest in on Friday night revolved around curating.  Amongst his many “hats” as writer, director, and actor, Franco can now add curator to the list as I would have to guess he played a part in selecting the works that are being shown this week at IFC.  Why put your name behind something and schedule guest appearances for pieces of work that you were not proud or fond of?  

My reason for questioning the argument behind the movie selections, beside our class discussion on curatorial arguments, comes from the impression I got after reading the lineup online a couple weeks ago.   Though more than half the movies have nothing to do with sex or sexual orientation, the vibe I got from the event page was very homoerotic.  Interior. Leather Bar., a movie Franco and Travis Matthews directed with respect to the supposed lost footage from the 1980 film Cruising, has multiple, daily showings and two special appearance viewings with the directors.  Cruising, Sal, and My Own Private Idaho were a few of the others that caught my eye.  Was Franco trying to attract a male, homosexual crowd or formulate an argument around homoeroticism?  Or was it simply, as one of my coworkers put it, Franco exhibiting the works he was most proud of revolving around the subject he has the most interest in?

I decided to check it out for myself.  I attended two showings last night.  Interior. Leather Bar. at 5:30 and My Own Private Idaho, 35mm screening, at 7:15.  I was one of seven women at the earlier show in a theater that seats 114.  At the second screening, there was a greater mix of women and men.  And to divulge for a second, the 35mm screening was amazing.  I doubt I have seen film projected in a long time and right before I left for the movie theater, I read David Bordwell’s conclusion in Pandora’s Digital Box where he lists off the ways in which 35mm film is visually superior to digital format.  After the digital previews, the screen went black and I swear I could hear the projector start rolling.  I looked for that “film shimmer” Bordwell mentioned and the greater color range.  Then I remembered that for the first half of my life, I probably had been watching film.  However, my eyes are now used to digital and the only real way I was certain I was watching a film was because of those spots you can see while watching.  

Though I do believe the intended audience for last night’s showings was male-oriented, I can not go so far as to say Franco was arguing for homoeroticism at Francofest.  He does relay a message in Interior. Leather Bar. that sex should be shown freely and graphically in mainstream Hollywood films, but he clearly means sex of any kind, not just between homosexual men.  From the articles I have read, it appears as though Franco included Interior. Leather Bar. because it was a hit at the Berlin and Sundance film festivals.  And the decision to include My Own Private Idaho was because Franco created two new movies based off of it, My Own Private River and Idaho, with Brand Renfro Forever, that will be presented during Francofest.  

In retrospect, I would say Franco’s argument was more or less self-centered in terms of presenting work he was proud of and wanting to share with others.  I should have gotten up during the Q&A on Friday to ask.  I did walk away from this experience with the realization that curatorial work is happening all over the place and just because one may not be in a curatorial position at work, that does not mean he or she will not be given the opportunity to perform curatorial duties.  I also realize that movie theaters such as the IFC or Lincoln Center that have these mini-film festivals could be potential places of employment for me should I choose to focus my career in curating.  My eyes and ears are much more open and aware today of curating’s vast reach and I find it very promising for my future.  

---- Diana Ritter

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