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HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – ChickFlicking – Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is) Review (Nadia Sandhu)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is)

Directed by James Franco and Ian Olds

James Franco.  General Hospital.  James Franco. Three reasons that experimental doc Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is) requires closer examination on ChickFlicking (Full disclosure – I have in fact met James Franco and I have been completely charmed).

Franco is famously busy: film star, soap star, post-graduate student, and artist.  The list goes on and on, so it is no surprise that while filming a stint on General Hospital as the villainous artist and serial killer “Franco”, James Franco thought it would be a great idea to foray into the world of documentary filmmaking.  He hired a three camera crew to follow him on set as he filmed a climactic showdown scene for the soap at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (a setting that was incidentally his own idea).

Everyone has an opinion about James Franco since his memorable stint as Oscar co-host in 2011, and this film goes a long way towards redeeming him in my eyes.  Handing over the raw footage to filmmaker Ian Olds, Franco gave him carte blanche to assemble a story.  Apparently Franco is fascinated by how others perceive and project onto his celebrity persona, whether it is the producers of GH or Ian Olds, and project Olds does.  As Franco stands around looking handsomely intense, Olds creates a narrative using a whispered voice over.  Paranoia. Drugs. Insecurity. Megalomania.  James Franco as Franco as Ian Old’s whispered internal monologue.  It is all here and it is impressive just how far James Franco lets the filmmaker go.

Francophrenia is playing in Toronto as part of Hot Docs, Canadian International Documentary Festival and I counted 11 walk outs before the third chapter had even begun.  This is not a film for everyone, but it is a fascinating look at a  celebrity and marketing genius.

And make no mistake, a marketing machine is what James Franco really is. I have followed his career with great interest, having begun my own foray into showbiz as an entertainment publicist.  Of course James Franco starred in this documentary and of course it is avant garde, and bizarre, and over achieving.

I left the film charmed by James Franco yet again. He can laugh at himself!  He doesn’t take his celebrity seriously!  Another branding coup in a long line of coups that have catapulted James Franco, actor, onto the A-list.

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