Video: James Franco Talks ‘Palo Alto’ and River Phoenix

Series: New Releases at the Film Society

 

 

 

Palo Alto
Gia Coppola, 2013
USA | Format: DCP | 98 minutes

Artistic Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val) cannot articulate his feelings for April (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia), who fills the void left by her distracted parents via a relationship with her soccer coach (James Franco.) Meanwhile, the erratic behavior of Fred (Nat Wolff), Teddy’s best friend with father issues of his own, spirals increasingly out of control when faced with the prospect of being left behind, as school “slut” Emily (Zoe Levin) searches for love the only way she knows how.

Adapted from the short story collection by James Franco, writer-director Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis, niece of Sofia) connects the lives of these affluent but troubled teens in this mesmerizingly assured debut. Combating listlessness and uncertainty with sex, drugs, and acts of self-destruction, the kids of Palo Alto exist beyond the film’s titular California city—they’re in every high school in America.

Venice Film Festival, 2013
Telluride Film Festival, 2013
Toronto International Film Festival, 2013
Tribeca Film Festival, 2014

“A formidable debut that shows amazing promise, and care.” —Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment

“One of the best movies ever made about high school life in America.” —David Ehrlich, Film.com

“Luminous… Coppola is a talent to watch.” —Jon Frosch, The Atlantic

Venue: Walter Reade Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

 

 

James Franco recently stopped by the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a Q&A following a screening of Palo Alto, the debut feature by Gia Coppola based on his book of short stories. The movie also stars Franco, along with Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, and Jack Kilmer (son of Val, who also makes an appearance).

April (Roberts) deals with her parents’ neglect by entertaining advances from her soccer coach (Franco). Meanwhile, troubled teen Teddy (Jack Kilmer) can’t bring himself to confess his feelings for April, and constantly gets into trouble with erratic best friend Fred (Wolff).  Each teen deals with coming-of-age in Palo Alto the best way they know how—which isn’t always best. The film, which screened at the Venice, Telluride, Toronto International, and Tribeca Film Festivals, gained attention with its show of promise from first-time director Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford).

Franco discussed the inspiration for his book, based on stories from his own upbringing in the affluent title city in Northern California. He also talked about the process of collaborating with Coppola to adapt the book into a film. Of course, this wouldn’t be a James Franco interview if it didn’t touch upon any of his other ambitious projects. But you’ll have to watch for yourself to hear about those…

Why Actors Act Out – James Franco on Shia LaBeouf’s Recent Antics

Singer and actor Shia LaBeouf

American actor and director Shia LaBeouf

Excellent piece by James Franco!

The New York Times
By JAMES FRANCO, FEB. 19, 2014

THE recent erratic behavior of Shia LaBeouf, the 27-year-old actor best known as the star of the “Transformers” movies, has sent the press into a feeding frenzy. Though the wisdom of some of his actions may seem questionable, as an actor and artist I’m inclined to take an empathetic view of his conduct.

Let’s review the facts. First, in December, Mr. LaBeouf was accused of plagiarism after critics noted similarities between “Howard Cantour.com,” a short film he created, and a story by the graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. Though Mr. LaBeouf apologized on Twitter, conceding that he had “neglected to follow proper accreditation,” it turned out that the apology itself appropriated someone else’s writing. Was that clever or pathological?

Then, earlier this month, with these actions focusing the tabloid gaze on him, he wore a paper bag over his head that read “I am not famous anymore” at the red-carpet premiere of his latest movie, “Nymphomaniac.” And last week he staged an art show called “#IAmSorry” that involved having him sit opposite visitors to a Los Angeles gallery while he wore a similar bag over his head and stared at them through cutout eye holes.

This behavior could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness. For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious. Indeed I hope — and, yes, I know that this idea has pretentious or just plain ridiculous overtones — that his actions are intended as a piece of performance art, one in which a young man in a very public profession tries to reclaim his public persona.

Actors have been lashing out against their profession and its grip on their public images since at least Marlon Brando. Brando’s performances revolutionized American acting precisely because he didn’t seem to be “performing,” in the sense that he wasn’t putting something on as much as he was being. Off-screen he defied the studio system’s control over his image, allowing his weight to fluctuate, choosing roles that were considered beneath him and turning down the Oscar for best actor in 1973. These were acts of rebellion against an industry that practically forces an actor to identify with his persona while at the same time repeatedly wresting it from him.

At times I have felt the need to dissociate myself from my work and public image. In 2009, when I joined the soap opera “General Hospital” at the same time as I was working on films that would receive Oscar nominations and other critical acclaim, my decision was in part an effort to jar expectations of what a film actor does and to undermine the tacit — or not so tacit — hierarchy of entertainment.

As an actor, you are often in the uncomfortable position of being the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form. In one of the most striking scenes in “I’m Still Here,” a 2010 film co-written by Joaquin Phoenix that purported to document his life as he retired from acting and became a hip-hop artist, Mr. Phoenix paced around his yard at night, ranting about the submissiveness of being an actor. Even if the conceit was ultimately a joke (and initially it wasn’t clear that it was, for Mr. Phoenix stayed in character in public throughout the filming), the movie was nonetheless earnest about an actor’s need to take back a little bit of power over his image by making such a film.

Any artist, regardless of his field, can experience distance between his true self and his public persona. But because film actors typically experience fame in greater measure, our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control. Our rebellion against the hand that feeds us can instigate a frenzy of commentary that sets in motion a feedback loop: acting out, followed by negative publicity, followed by acting out in response to that publicity, followed by more publicity, and so on.

Participating in this call and response is a kind of critique, a way to show up the media by allowing their oversize responses to essentially trivial actions to reveal the emptiness of their raison d’être. Believe me, this game of peek-a-boo can be very addictive.

Mr. LaBeouf has been acting since he was a child, and often an actor’s need to tear down the public creation that constrains him occurs during the transition from young man to adult. I think Mr. LaBeouf’s project, if it is a project, is a worthy one. I just hope that he is careful not to use up all the good will he has gained as an actor in order to show us that he is an artist.

James Franco is an actor.

My Bloody Valentine concert @ Hammerstein Ballroom w/ Opening Act Dumb Numbers

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Live review for My Bloody Valentine first concert in NYC this month.

My Bloody Valentine famously end their sets with 1988 single “You Made Me Realise,” with its jet engine, tinnitus-inducing “holocaust” section. Like when James Franco cuts his arm off in 127 Hours, you know it’s coming, and people prepare themselves for it. When they launched into it last night (11/11) at Hammerstein, people held up their arms, wiggling their fingers, like they were about to go over the first big drop on a rollercoaster. It is, admittedly, a hell of a ride. Some people throw up!

We’ll back up a bit first. This was the first show the shoegaze legends had played in Manhattan since 2008, and first since releasing new album mbv earlier this year. While generally adverse to big rooms like this (I hadn’t been to Hammerstein since New Order in 2006), I thought the sound was pretty good, with Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher’s vocals reaching above the miasma just enough. Shields, who greeted the crowd with a perfunctory but cheerful “Hi,” took up at least a third of the stage with his wall of amps and the same could be said of the sonic real estate.

That tremelo’d “glide guitar” is what a lot of people were there to see (or hear, a lot of tall dudes were in the crowd), but I spent a lot of time watching bassist Debi Goodge and, especially, drummer Colm O’Ciosoig who played with a ferocity that matched the volume of Shield’s amps. (O’Ciosoig is MBV’s not-so-secret weapon.) Butcher stayed still for most of the show, with more time holding than playing her guitar, but her voice is still honey sweet.

It was hard to argue with the setlist, which gave us the lion’s share of Loveless, three cuts from Isn’t Anything (but no “Soft As Snow,” which they haven’t played in eons), choice EP cuts (“Honey Power” from Tremelo was very welcome), and four tracks from mbv. As much as I liked hearing “Soon,” “To Here Knows When,” and “Feed Me With Your Kiss,” the new tracks were the real surprises of the night, taking on extra gravity live, especially “Only Tomorrow” which was one of the night’s highlights. The intense (occasionally stroboscopic) light show and very cool projections added to the sensory overload experience.

Then of course “You Made Me Realize” where the volume went up to 13 and you could feel it in your chest. Don’t know whether it’s age or the need to accommodate new material, but the “holocaust” only lasted about six minutes. But it was long enough for me.

I missed openers Dumb Numbers that featured old tourmate Murph (from Dinosaur Jr.) on drums, as I didn’t get to Hammerstein till about 8:15 PM and had to deal with a line that went all the way to 9th Ave, thanks to some serious security. Arrive early for that coveted sonic sweet spot. (But I did see Dumb Numbers on Sunday night for their surprise show at The Flat where their sludgy doom went over pretty good.) East Village fixture BP Fallon kept the Hammerstein crowd entertained between sets with a DJ set of rock standards. Pictures from the show are in this post.

Tonight (11/12), My Bloody Valentine do it again at Hammerstein with DIIV opening. This is MBV’s last show of their 2013 tour and tickets are still available.

SETLIST: My Bloody Valentine @ Hammerstein Ballroom, 11/11/13
Sometimes
I Only Said
When You Sleep
New You
You Never Should
Honey Power
Cigarette in Your Bed
Only Tomorrow
Come in Alone
Only Shallow
Nothing Much to Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Wonder 2
Soon
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realise