There’s a new piece by James Franco on HuffPo. This is the opening paragraph:
“I was in New York for a week and saw a few things and read a few things that got me thinking about the ways different art forms use fantasy and reality. As summer closes, I thought I'd write a few pieces about these different relationships. Part One is just the reprinting of a letter I wrote to a writer friend.”
Given my limited intellectual abilities, I *think* that he’s supposed to be exploring the relationship between fantasy and reality in different artforms...? But I’m not sure. I’m too stupid to be considered capable of appreciating a James Franco dissertation. Which is why all I’m reading here is an essay by James Franco about James Franco’s favourite subject: James Franco.
He starts by telling his friend that he just sold his first collection of poems. And how, while most people know him as an actor, his poetry reflects his evolution as an artist. And then he posits that all artists are unique even if the art follows from outside inspiration because we all attach our own experiences to interpretation and in filtering the work through that personal prism, the resultant product becomes entirely individual. Well that is profound sh-t, James Franco. And entirely original too.
There follows a lot of “I” talk. I am this and that. I do this and that. And when the “I” is James Franco, this and that means everything. Because you cannot contain the artistic expression of the James Franco. But at least he’s responsible about it, you know? James Franco acknowledges that his accomplishments as an actor can advance the passion projects that may otherwise go overlooked. He makes the big movies so that he can devote himself - and sometimes direct! - the small movies. The way he’s managed his career, meticulously, over the last 16 years has put him in a position where his involvement can make fledgling productions happen. And he is discerning about this influence -- he only picks the parts that he truly cares about, and, oh yeah, he also throws the occasional favour bone over to a friend if they need him. This approach ensures that what he creates is “pure”. Pure... James Franco genius.
No doubt, James Franco is an outstanding actor. And if all this poncy cerebral justification was limited to the acting, there’s really not much to debate. But his assertion that his influence can now make the difference in whether or not an idea goes forward is incomplete without analysis of how his influence makes the difference in realising his other artistic disciplines. Would James Franco be an accomplished poet without James Franco the actor? How honest, how “pure”, is the work without truly confronting how it came to exist?
It’s an eye-rolly and pretentious thing to say but true nonetheless that writing is only good, really good, when the writer is at his most vulnerable, especially when that vulnerability means exposing the parts of himself that make him uncomfortable. James Franco’s writing then would be infinitely more interesting if he could bring himself to a place where he can address the relationship not between - as he puts it -fantasy and reality in different art forms but the relationship his acting fame has had on his own various art forms. Without it... without the James Franco-ness of it... is it any good??? This is what’s missing from Franco’s writing. This is what would elevate his words:
Some actual doubt.
Not that all writers have to be plagued by it but without it there would be no drive.
But that is what is most interesting about James Franco, isn’t it? The effect of Insecurity on James Franco, the actor and writer. Insecurity is the weakness of the actor. Insecurity is the lifeblood of the writer. Franco’s ability to control his insecurity has made him a fine actor. But I wonder if that same approach hasn’t limited his writing.
Maybe that’s coming in Part 2.
But that would be optimistic. Because, as he writes at the end of Part 1:
“Anyway, I like critics -- at school all we do is criticize and analyze -- but I don't like superficial critics, and those tend to be the ones that my work attracts. I guess because I was in Spiderman.”
And I suppose that’s fair. Just because James Franco is an actor doesn’t mean he can’t be a fine poet. But you reading gossip blogs and caring about him because he was in Spiderman, that precludes you from being considered a worthy critic.
Attached - Franco in New York last week.
Click here to read him at Huffington Post.