James Franco’s ‘My Own Private River’

James Franco Says 'My Own Private River' Probably Won't Be Released On DVD, But He Did Seek Joaquin Phoenix's Approval | The Playlist.

James Franco has edited together un-used footage from Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho” to tell a story that follows River Phoenix’s character, Mike, more closely. This sounds like a huge undertaking. Franco went so far as to shoot two earlier script drafts as a way to get a sense of the location and to better understand the characters.

This sounds quite fantastic. James Franco accomplishes a lot!

“I edited the film as I imagined Gus might have if he made ‘My Own Private Idaho’ today,” Franco said. He called ” Idaho” one of his favorite movies and praised River Phoenix’s performance as the late actor’s best. Franco then skittishly explained how he used conversations with Van Sant, with whom he had previously collaborated on “Milk,” to determine how to edit the footage Van Sant didn’t put into the theatrical cut of ‘Idaho.’ “Since Gus likes longer takes now, I tried to match that style,” Franco said, citing newly-retired Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr as a key influence on both Franco’s editing of ‘River’ and Van Sant’s own recent films.

But that’s not all Franco did to get into Van Sant’s head. To get a better idea of what his mentor was thinking, Franco shot 8mm adaptations of two of the three scripts that Van Sant combined to form the one that he eventually used as the basis for “My Own Private Idaho.” To do this, Franco enlisted the help of actor Henry Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s son and the star of Van Sant’s most recent film, “Restless.” Hopper played Phoenix’s role in an adaptation of a script that was also tentatively titled “My Own Private Idaho.” Franco also got character actor Udo Kier, who starred in the original “My Own Private Idaho,” to help film his two 8mm test-run adaptations. “It was fascinating to see him play this role that he played 20 years ago,” Franco confessed. Unfortunately, Kier could only participate in one of the two practice-run 8mm films Franco shot before making “My Own Private River.” “He kept giving us excuses,” Franco laughed, saying that Kier was concerned about learning lines his lines for the upcoming “Scooby Doo 3.”

What is your favorite River Phoenix performance?

Simon Killer Review (Sundance 2012) – UPDATE

Sundance 2012 Screenings, Premieres and Reviews

In the Q&A after the screening I asked the director why he wanted to tell this story (because it’s a dark one that really doesn’t have much meaning).

The ‘meaning’ is supposed to be that the protagonist crosses a boundary (by roughing up his last girlfriend, which we learn via her letter to him) and is then unable to get back to the more innocent person he was before. This ends in a slippery slope of increasingly poor decisions.

Except, it really doesn’t. He’s violent. It sounds like he was always violent. In the beginning he is hyper-sexual, then at one point he turns his girl down for sex. Very little character arc. He already had these traits from scene one.

Kudos to Brady Corbet for being able to handle those unending masturbation and sex scenes. That seems tough. I liked his acting as a whole. The main actress, Mati Diop, almost never changed expression or had any intonation in her voice. Flat.

This entire idea about Simon having studied eyes has very little relation to the story but it comes up probably 5 times. It’s a gimmick.

I found the entire film has no arc. The interesting idea would have been to follow this blackmail scam and leave the second Parisian love interest out of the story. Let’s follow Simon’s darkness somewhere new. Or possibly learn more about which people are dark enough to let Simon into their lives and learn the stories of their lives and understand how people so depraved and immoral tend to find each other and how that cycle keeps a constant, dark underbelly to the world.

Obviously these are all just my opinions but my opinion is that ‘shocking,’ sexual films like this have been done so much better; “American Psycho” and “Requiem for a Dream” being two, superior stories and films. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” would be a third.

If they wanted to tell the story of a Joran Van Der Sloot type I think they missed the mark. This film, as-is, will definitely not be winning the Sundance audience award this year. I would start with a severe re-edit. They have what could be an intriguing film on their hands; Someone, somewhere seems to have missed that vision.

On a positive note, great song selections!

Update — here is a much better film writer and his positive take.

I too loved Martha Marcy May Marlene, my favorite film from the 2011 program. Different strokes.

Update 2 — This guy argues that the divisiveness is a positive.

Tree of Life

The Thin Red Line is up there with Pi and Lost in Translation for me as my favorite films of all time. Tree of Life looks unmistakenly Malick-y with it’s sharp imagery and tension building ease.

Every time the weather gets warm I get the feeling I want to write a movie. Does anyone have any experience in script or story writing in a similar way?

Maybe we could kick some ideas around…