by Jeff Niesel
Inaugurating a contemporary art series designed to promote the opening of its new East Wing, the Cleveland Museum of Art hosted a screening of Erased James Franco yesterday at its Lecture Hall. Attended by actor James Franco and the director who simply calls himself Carter, the sold out event included a screening of the movie followed by a discussion about it and a brief question-and-answer period. “This film is about how absence replaces presence and becomes a work of art,” said CMA director Timothy Rub in introducing the film, which has only screened previously at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The movie itself was like a bit of performance art as it featured a pastiche of different parts Franco has played in films like Spiderman and James Dean. Without much rhyme or reason, it paired those roles with ones Franco hasn’t played (Rock Hudson’s character in Seconds and Julianne Moore’s character in Safe). Filmed during a single 13- hour session (though the finished product only clocked in at 65 minutes), the film didn’t have any significant narrative structure. Rather, it was a series of short, almost-schizophrenic scenes during Franco acted alone. Sometimes, he answered a series of telephone calls. Other times, he drank from a glass of water. More impressionistic than anything, the film worked on such an abstract level it was nearly incomprehensible.
So afterward, Rub sat with Franco and Carter and tried to make some sense of the film, first asking Carter what kind of performance he tried to elicit from Franco. The answer: “I wanted him to act in a restrained way.” Alternately, Rub asked Franco what kind of performance he tried to deliver. The answer: “a performance that is aware of itself.” Fortunately, the conversation became more concrete as Carter talked about the role of his sculpture Constant (James Franco as inanimate object as Robert Gober sculpture) (a sculpture itself that is a play on a famous Gober sculpture that’s actually now on display at the museum), and Franco spoke about his interest in visual art and film. The discussion concluded with Franco telling stories about spending summers in Shaker Heights with his art gallery owner grandmother Mitzie Verne, who was present at the event. During the question-and-answer session, Franco and Carter both spoke about their various influences and projects that are in the works. While Erased James Franco is so avant-garde it isn't likely to ever have a theatrical release (and we're guess a DVD release isn't in the works, either), the discussion about film and art was generally illuminating and interesting.