May 6, 2011: James Franco

By the Chicago Bureau Chief
Here’s the interview.  Here’s where we unpack it:

1) Charlie in front of an audience.  Charlie is such an easy read.  Any tiny little shift from the comfort zone of his studio is observable in every aspect of the man’s physicality.  He looks older, wrinklier, droopier.  Even though we see nothing of the auditorium space, we know that the scale is off.  We usually see Charlie shrouded by black paneling.  Is he in a cramped studio space, or is he in a cosmic infinity?  Is an auditorium too large or too small for him?

2) Charlie in front of a College Audience.  Maybe that’s why he did “The Colbert Report”.  You know, as a warm-up.  The thing is, he just doesn’t play.  He tries, and he fails.  His questions elicit unintentional laughs left and right from these young people, no doubt unfamiliar with his work, and more importantly, his style.

Charlie is, crucially, an adult.  He knows what Twitter is because he’s interviewed the CEO of Twitter.  And that guy’s hardly even worth his time.  Charlie belongs at an oak table talking with other adults.  It could be the one in his studio, or the one at Michael’s where he’ goes for lunch.  Other than that, he should simply be transported via the ether to the golf course with Mayor Bloomberg and their dogs, and promptly back again.

3) Charlie in front of a College Audience interviewing James Franco.  Charlie asks very few questions in this interview.  James Franco talks A LOT.  Which is fine.  But for Charlie’s very few questions, an inordinately high proportion of them are in the form of “trailing off sentence for you to fill…”  As far as entertaining a college audience with an ironic sense of humor (who probably thinks that Charlie is, in fact, an administrator at their school) is concerned, Charlie is pitching underhand.  Franco barely has to bunt to get a pop-up fly hit.

4) James Franco himself.  I find simultaneously compelling and repelling.  For somebody with all that damned schooling, you’d think he could answer questions a little bit more intelligently.  That being said, it’s hard not to agree with a lot of what he says.  His meta-discussion about how he is, currently, while being interviewed on Charlie Rose, giving a performance, becomes an even more performative performance while he’s doing it.  Enough already.

I admire an artist who is unwilling to be bound by medium and professional boundaries.  I liked it a lot when Franco said that he feels certain material is best served by film, other material or by poetry, etc. and that it’s a mistake to force material into a certain form.  I agree with that big time.  So perhaps that’s actually why he’s pursuing so many different avenues.  But if you want to go do those other things, why not just do them?  Why enroll in several degree-seeking programs simultaneously if not to garner attention.  Guess what, James, if you really want to learn to be a film director, you’re in luck: you have ample access to the greatest practitioners in the field today.  I’m sure that you could do a lot of observing on set.

The same goes for reading Yeats, drawing pictures, and writing books.  Why not apprentice yourself?  You’ve got the resources.  Obviously you’re willing to commit the time.  Something’s just a little off about pursuing your interests and your stardom in this peculiar way.

N.B. The direct appeal to James Franco above is not merely a rhetorical device.  Of all Charlie’s guests that have been written about on this blog, I presume James Franco to be the Most Likely to Actually Read His Post.

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2 Responses to May 6, 2011: James Franco

  1. LA Bureau Chief says:

    what a punchline. well done, CBC.

    PS someone at my office brought up this episode of Charlie the other day. with a halting, “wait, you watch charlie rose, right?”

  2. NY Bureau Chief says:

    “Is he in a cramped studio space, or is he in a cosmic infinity? Is an auditorium too large or too small for him?”

    I think those may be the two most profound question this blog has asked to date. Seriously. This is a brilliant fucking post.

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