As North Korea threatens retaliation for The Interview, man-of-the-arts James Franco should probably know better.
James Franco is an artist. That’s what he’d have you believe, anyway. Not content with merely acting and directing, the star also likes to turn his hand to prose and art; to writing classes and journalism. When he does act, he likes to portray Allen Ginsberg (Howl) and Hart Crane (The Broken Tower); when he directs, he likes to tackle William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) and Charles Bukowski (the upcoming Bukowski). And that’s fine, so be it. He may have his limitations but Franco certainly can act when he wants to, and there’s the suggestion that if he just calmed down a bit, then his directorial career might take off just as well. He may wear his influences on his sleeve a bit too heavily, but the fact remains that Franco, on celluloid at least, is sterling in his attempts to gain credibility as an artist – his writing, on the other hand, is better left unmentioned. But still, on screen, at the cinema, an artist.
If we leave Rogen and Goldberg out of the argument (neither claims to be an “artist”), one has to wonder what Franco is thinking
Now to The Interview, then. As you’ll probably have heard, the latest collaboration between James Franco, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg has sparked threats of “merciless retaliation” (from North Korea) if the film – which depicts the (fictional) assassination attempt of Kim Jong-un by two US journalists (Franco and Rogen) – is allowed to be released. If we leave Rogen and Goldberg out of the argument (neither claims to be an “artist”) then one has to wonder what the fuck Franco is thinking.
Whilst it’s true that he only acts in the film (Goldberg directs and he and Rogen share the writing credit), the question is still valid – Franco is the star, the face of the film, the artist attached to it. That he can be so stupid surely diminishes his artistic merit. Any real artist must know that art can, to an extent, be dangerous. If Franco is the artist he claims to be, then he should’ve had the artistic integrity to realise this. And, if all of this seems a little too stern, like I’m berating Franco for simply making a comedy with his mates, then consider the fact that North Korea, probably the most dangerous nation on earth right now, has said that the film’s release would be considered “an act of war”. This comedy is no laughing matter.
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That’s no laughing matter, twofold, because a) there could be some serious ramifications if the film is indeed released, and b) the trailer just isn’t funny. Obviously, said trailer shouldn’t be used as a strictly accurate barometer of how the actual film may turn out, but you get the gist – the words pee and poop are used, for example. Satire this ain’t. What it is, instead, is James Franco, actor, director, novelist; James Franco, lover of poetry and the Beats and Bukowski; James Franco, self-referential expert and all round chin stroking artist, acting like, well, James Franco, circa This Is The End. And that would be all well and good if Franco was, like Rogen, an actor and writer for the screen. But no, Franco must be the poet, too; the writer, the artist, the all-round-man-of-the-arts dedicated to proving to everybody he’s an all-round-man-of-the-arts.
In a trailer which seems to play on all the tired clichés of attitudes towards communist states, it would appear that satire this ain’t
Maybe Franco thinks that The Interview is some sort of socio-political commentary on the age of a dawning nuclear war, that by fronting the film he is somehow saying something veritable about the US’s relationship with North Korea and disguising it as comedy. Again though, that would fall into the realm of satire, and, in a trailer which seems to play on all the tired clichés of attitudes towards communist states, it would appear that satire this ain’t. (Unlike the brilliant Team America: World Police, which tackles similar subject matter but does so in satire’s true vein – berating the US just as much as it does North Korea – the highlight coming in the form of America, Fuck Yeah!, a satirical song for the ages.)
If The Interview has anything even half as original as that song, then the impending war might just be worth it, but – and call me presumptuous here – it’s just not going to, is it. There’s a sense that the This Is The End lot, great as they can be and have been, peaked with that film, and that the self-referential nature of the picture might serve to weaken any future attempt at artistic credibility, especially on Franco’s part. This is the end indeed, then. Maybe not of the world, but potentially of James Franco the artist.
All images: Columbia