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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is James Franco too deliciously clever, or totally full of crap?

As you may have heard, James Franco is in the midst of a guest stint on the ABC soap General Hospital. You may be thinking something like, Well, an actor’s gotta work…, but Franco’s got bigger, more significant things in mind than a mere paycheck. He published a piece recently in The Wall Street Journal, of all places, explaining the rationale behind his taking the job:

I have been obsessed with performance art for over a decade—ever since the Mexican performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña came to visit my class at Cal Arts summer school. I finally took the plunge and experimented with the form myself when I signed on to appear on 20 episodes of “General Hospital” as the bad-boy artist “Franco, just Franco.” I disrupted the audience’s suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn’t belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world. In performance art, the outcome is uncertain—and this was no exception. My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate. Whether they did was out of my hands.

As Ms. Abramović told me over our dessert tasting, performance art is all about context. “If you bake some bread in a museum space it becomes art, but if you do it at home you’re a baker.” Likewise, when I wear green makeup and fly across a rooftop in “Spider-Man 3,” I’m working as an actor, but were I to do the same thing on the subway platform, a host of possibilities would open up. Playing the Green Goblin in the subway would no longer be about creating the illusion that I am flying. It would be about inserting myself in a familiar space in such a way that it becomes stranger than fiction, along the lines of what I’m doing on “General Hospital.”

Is James Franco too deliciously clever, or totally full of crap?

For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of Franco’s: I think he’s a smart, thoughtful actor, and hearing him say something this intriguing and weird and complicated doesn’t really surprise me. And I don’t even particularly want to fuck him!

What do you think?

In case you need some more context, a moderately awesome clip of his debut on the show:

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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