James Franco’s appearance at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood last Friday was his latest achievement in unusual mash-ups (which includes spinning an art installation from a guest-stint on long-running soap opera General Hospital). The actor-director exhibited his special brand of movie star-meets-cultural experimentalist for the screening of his latest directorial effort, Child of God.
Franco’s film, which he adapted from the 1973 Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, deals in human horror (including a depiction of necrophilia).The story follows Lester Ballard — a feral loner cast out by society — as he is driven to violence and murder. Played by newcomer Scott Haze, the mumbling and socially defective Ballard is a woodsman living in ’60s rural Tennessee. While the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score is a low 35 percent, it has received high marks from a few influential outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Child of God has “a bleak integrity,” wrote New York magazine’s David Edelstein.
With its horrifying story line and almost irredeemable protagonist, the film is difficult to watch. Certainly not the kind of fare normally enjoyed by the young females that made up the majority of the audience at this Arclight screening. Of course they were there to see the movie’s director. The crowd was chatty before the film, hooting when the usher uttered Franco’s name as part of the evening introduction. But when the movie played, and Haze (as Ballard) had a bowel movement in the thickets, you could almost see the hairspray melt off their heads. (There were audible “ews” and “grosses.”) Franco, now 36-year-old and a bona fide sex symbol, has more than 2.4 million followers on Instagram and almost that many on Twitter — whom he informed of the night’s event earlier that week.
Pineapple Express is 19-year-old Jasmine Duran’s favorite Franco film. Though the self-described “big fan” of the multi-hyphenate artist set herself apart from the surrounding giggly crowd when she told Yahoo Movies, “I have read Cormac McCarthy, so this is really interesting to me.”
By the time the end-credits rolled and Franco entered the room (with a hearty “What’s up?”), the energy was noticeably confused. There was no roar of approval, but instead, polite clapping. During the question-and-answer session, Franco shared his passion for McCarthy and his longtime desire to adapt Child of God into a movie. One young man in the audience confessed he had a “serious question” for Franco that was not really serious at all: He wanted to know how much input the director had in the presentation of Haze’s (sometimes over-abundant) nasal mucus. “There were a lot of body fluids in the movie,” Franco reminded the crowd, not that they needed it. “I did not do any snot directing although it’s funny — in the New York Times review there’s a lot of snot talk,” he said, pointing out that Ballard’s nose gunk is faithful to the book.
Fashionable, bubbly, and running in groups of three or more, the multitude of L.A.-area fans at the event passed for characters from a reboot of Clueless. As they made their way out, one young woman informed her friends with a laugh, “Now I’m going to go hang myself!”
Photo credit: James Franco/Instagram