Saturday, August 2, 2014

James Franco wants to shock you with his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God


Child of God, the James Franco adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel, is now playing in theaters. I shared the trailer back in June

Caryn Smith, the former NY Times critic, now writing for IndieWire, is a fan if the headline to the piece is to be believed - "James Franco's Smart, Stunning Child of God"

Smith says 
"If "Child of God" had been made by James Franco instead of "James Franco,"  by just another filmmaker instead of the public figure whose career and self-consciously created image seem like one hydra-headed piece of performance art  -- actor in blockbusters and indies, fiction-writer, student at too many schools, the guy slyly asked by Stephen Colbert, "Are you a fraud?" -- it's unlikely anyone would question why it's in the New York Film Festival. The film is a powerful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 1973 novel, directed  -- and written by Franco and Vince Jolivette -- with such discipline and intelligence that it captures the mordant darkness of McCarthy's world. 
Franco friend, fellow actor and frequent collaborator, Scott Haze, is Lester Ballad

That doesn't mean it is pleasant or easy to watch. Set in the isolated backwoods of Tennessee and shot in bleak brown tones, "Child of God" is about a serial necrophiliac named Lester Ballard, repulsive, violent, barely civilized. Does a movie's main character shit in the woods? This one does, then wipes his butt with a stick. (The scene is straight from McCarthy's novel.)  Next to "Child of God, " "No Country for Old Men" plays like a lighthearted comedy."

But. Other critics aren't as kind. The headline to Jordan Hoffman's review in The Guardian sums up his no vote - "Child of God: James Franco Misfires with This Punishing Thriller"
"James Franco has taken Cormac McCarthy’s stylistic prose and replaced it with grunts, whelps and whinnies. His motives are pure. In a recently published piece in The Daily Beast, Franco – actor, director, author, walking performance-art piece – professes his admiration for McCarthy’s dark and timeless books. Indeed, a half-hour test reel/student film based on a section of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian recently surfaced online. There’s little doubt that Franco groks the octogenarian novelist in ways the common man does not. But that’s not reason enough to subject yourself to his punishing, ultra low-budget adaptation of the McCarthy’s 1973 work Child of God."

I suppose you'll have to see if for yourself to know what you think, as will I. And while I suspect the material may be too violent, veer too far into gross territory for my taste, I do respect Franco's unrelenting desire to give audiences something to think about. In a NY Times piece on Franco and his friend Haze - the pair are rooming in Brooklyn this summer - Franco told Jacob Bernstein ...
 “I do want to shock the audience,” he said. “I do want to shake them out of their normal viewing experience.”
Congratulations James. From where I sit, that mission seems to be accomplished. 


Franco not only directed, he cowrote the script with Vince Jolivette, another friend and colleague Franco turns to time and time again.

Let's watch the trailer for Child of God again, shall we?



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