Thank God, the joke is finally over. On Sunday, the Tribeca Film Festival premiered Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), actor/artist/writer/student/whatever James Franco’s look at his stint on General Hospital, as seen through a prism of navel-gazing and self-conscious artiness. It’s a bad film, pretentious and irritating, mistaking preening for candor and self-indulgence for insight. But it’s more than that. Arriving when it does — a good year-plus after our Franco saturation point — it’s like looking at a shameful old yearbook, where you can’t believe that you used to do your hair like that, or wear that sweater-vest. We used to care about this?
The film was shot entirely on the evening of June 24, 2010, as Franco made the final episode of his General Hospital arc at a staged event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. “The episode was never completed,” the opening crawl insists, ominously. (That’s false, by the way.) On the show, he was playing a deranged artist named “Franco” (presumably so he could adopt the habit, in interviews, of referring to himself in the third person); the episode concerned the opening of “Franco”’s big art show, which was happening simultaneously with a kidnapping or something back at the GH. Roughly the first half of the film is comprised of Franco going to the shoot, getting into hair and makeup, having awkward conversations with fans (“I love your signature!”), and wandering around in his tux. It’s all walking and waiting; the camera holds on Franco’s face, often in dead silence, looking intense. It’s a voyeur’s dream — the movie basically consists of the opportunity to stare at a celebrity for 78 minutes.
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