Here’s further fuel to fire up those beliefs that James Franco has succeeded in cloning himself. Beginning on Saturday, the actor together with director Gus Van Sant are debuting an exhibition titled “Unfinished” at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. It consists of two films based on My Own Private Idaho which Van Sant directed but Franco did not star in. (It co-starred Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix as street hustlers.) But after casting Franco in 2008’s Milk, Van Sant showed him the dailies and other footage that he had shot many years before for the 1991’s My Own Private Idaho but which did not make it into the final cut. So Franco decided to fashion it into two new films, riffing off the original title: Endless Idaho and My Own Private River.
According to the official descriptions, Franco “edited outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes footage from My Own Private Idaho into the 12-hour film Endless Idaho which circa Andy Warhol provides an unprecedented look into the workaday process of making a movie, from location scouting to repeated takes. In a blend of documentary and fiction, interviews with actual hustlers who played secondary characters in My Own Private Idaho are intercut with shots of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves improvising and refining their performances under the direction of Van Sant and his crew”. By contrast, My Own Private River “consists largely of shots of Phoenix’s character woven into a compelling portrait. Franco describes being mesmerized by Phoenix ‘s ‘uninhibited acting’ in this unreleased footage, and his edit captures the gifted actor at his most emotionally expressive and physically dynamic”.
The films are accompanied by 8 works on paper by Van Sant, “which translate his acute directorial sensitivity with regard to human nuance and gesture in film into the immediacy of watercolor. 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”.
How Franco found time to do this I don’t know, but he is currently enrolled in the Digital Media Department at the Rhode Island School of Design and has been actively engaged in performance art, painting, video, and installation art. He has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Clocktower Gallery, New York, and Peres Projects, Berlin. “Unfinished” at Gagosian G allery begins Saturday and continues through April 9th. Daily screenings are at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM.