By Don Simpson | April 28, 2012
Directors: James Franco, Ian Olds
Writers: Ian Olds, Paul Felten
Starring: James Franco, Steve Burton, Julie Marie Berman, Vince Jolivette, Roger Newcomb
Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is) would probably be described as a making-of featurette for General Hospital if it was not so damn wacked out and insane. The story goes that James Franco had a team of assistants shoot footage on the set of his well-publicized General Hospital episode at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Why? Who knows? But then the 40-odd hours of material was handed over to documentary filmmaker Ian Olds — and that is when the fucked up, hallucinogenic magic happened.
Olds did more than just assemble the footage, he created an experimental art piece out of it. Olds processed certain scenes through strange video filters and manipulated the sync sound; then Olds added his own voiceovers, some are inner-monologues for Franco, others are for two “commentators” critiquing the on screen events. It is this later piece — the additional voices added by Olds — that alters the meaning of the images and strings the loose narrative of an actor on the verge of a breakdown together. Sometimes Franco’s inserted thoughts are purely existential; other times he expresses his basic needs for sleep, coffee or food. Oh, and there are various allusions that Franco is really becoming “Franco” the fictional General Hospital serial killer.
This sounds like a pretentious graduate school thesis project that is way too meta for its own good, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, Francophrenia is quite the opposite. Franco and Olds do not take themselves seriously at all. Most of the content that would typically be described as meta is merely self-mockery. Francophrenia is like an inside joke for Franco’s friends; and even though we are being let in on the joke, Franco and Olds could care less if we get it. Whatever the heck Francophrenia really is, I think Franco and Olds deserve a lot of credit for having the audacity to screen this strange project for the general public.