Today, James Franco and American poet Frank Bidart premiered the cinematic translation of the poem Herbert White. And it was good. It was a well thought out film that managed to complement the poem without being an imitation. The movie was more about the outward signs of the internal struggle that necrophiliac killer Herbert dealt with while the poem gave the listener an inside look at Herbert’s inner monologue. The poem was about the hell of his thoughts and deeds – the movie is about the horrifying fact that it’s hidden. Both Bidart and Franco collaborated amazingly well on the short film. Overall the experience was enriching. And surprising.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t really think the film would be about such a difficult,and potentially controversial piece. Like his other fans, I’ve heard about Franco’s academic explorations (and numerous degrees). But still – I can’t help but look at him and momentarily think of Pineapple Express‘s Saul Silver. From the contrast with the poem, you can tell how much thought that Franco put into his film. And from Bidart’s compliments, it reflected the work well. It wasn’t an amazing big budget film – Franco is a student. While I don’t think his peers may have the chance to have campus wide premieres, the fact that it didn’t look endlessly edited and pristine was almost humbling. He’s one of us!!
But what was less surprising, and more saddening, are the actions of his fans. Like everyone else, Stanford students get giggly and weird when there’s a star in their midst. Once the movie started playing it made me a little sad that a large portion of the students were there not because of his work, but because of who Franco is. The end of presentation made some of our aims clear. A few fans rushed the stage to have a short chat and a quick photo before the event coordinators could stop them. They were starry-eyed and awestruck – one even asked me to take a picture of her with Franco as she wizzed by (seeing that I wasn’t 100% behind her on this action, she moved on just as quickly as she took me by surprise).
Ever graceful, Franco turned away from the students on stage to shake hands with and have a few photos with the crowd milling in front of the stage. People were civil. Some were insistent. But for the most part it was a nice moment where he was meeting his fans. The moments turned into 15 minutes of photos and people shoving their way forward. Eventually people climbed on stage and stood around him, wanting a picture with him regardless of if he was looking or not. At one moment, I think I even saw a girl, (politely, of course) push Bidart out of the way. Ouch.
Admittedly, I stayed for the chance for photo opportunity but in the end I was a little too creeped out by the obsessive intent of some of the other fans still waiting. I didn’t get a picture with him. I don’t regret it. I’m mostly glad that I went because of what I learned about the relation between original writings and films. As Franco said, “The medium is no longer primary. Its about the idea, the concept.” Bidart and Franco tackled the same subject in very different ways and it worked. I got something educational out of the experience – I hope that for everyone else, it was worth more than a picture of Franco. Honestly, there’s a ton out there. This premiere should have meant more.