James Franco Is All Over the Place in New York
I’ve seen a few things lately. They’re all mixed up in my mind. So I figured I should just try to get them all down on paper and share them with you:
Up until last weekend, Paul McCarthy and his son Damon had a show about Snow White called WS on display at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. It was only a portion of the McCarthys’ hostile takeover of the New York art world. Their recent oeuvre has also included a huge Koons-style dog balloon at Frieze, two shows at Hauser & Wirth—one with gorgeous sculptures continuing to mine the story of Snow White—and their portion of the Rebel show we did in 2011 at MOCA in LA in which Paul played a version of Nicholas Ray, and I played a version of James Dean (and then Paul got the porn star James Deen to play me playing James Dean, which I didn’t know about until later when I finally met James Deen at a party for the show and he told me three times that it was an honor playing my dick double… but more about him later).
While the WS at the Armory closed on Sunday, the McCarthys are never done with their work and have decided to take the massive project back to their Los Angeles studio and continue to work on it. If you didn’t get to see it, you lost out. It’s a wonderful immersion into a fantasy world of Snow White of our collective imagination, but twisted so that all the sexual and formative experiences of youth and familial upbringings are brought to the forefront with the type of grotesqueness indicative of Paul McCarthy’s work, in which Paul plays a composite character based on Walt Disney and his own father, and Snow White becomes a version of the Disney character mixed with McCarthy’s mother. The characters have parties with appropriations of the dwarves (dressed in UCLA and Yale sweatshirts), get drunk, frolic, and do strange sexual things to each other. At the center of the exhibition is the immense forest the cast performed in that is now presented as a sculpture.
Living Inside ‘The Canyons’
For an unreleased, unseen film with a tiny budget,The Canyons has attracted an enormous amount of publicity. It’s reportedly a sex-filled noir-ish melodrama set in LA, but that’s about all we know, since it hasn’t come out yet—in fact, it hasn’t even been shown at any festivals. Sundance rejected it, and South by Southwest not only rejected it, a “festival insider” told the Hollywood Reporter that the film had “an ugliness and a deadness to it.” Ouch. I haven’t seen it. You haven’t seen it. So why has so much been written about it?
Well for one thing, The Canyons was directed by the legendary Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver, co-wroteRaging Bull, and directed movies like American Gigolo and Affliciton, both of which he also wrote. The film also garnered headlines for being written by iconic American Psycho and Less than Zero author Bret Easton Ellis, known more recently as one of the most cantankerous bastards on Twitter. And Ellis took great pains to make sure the film featured pornographic movie star James Deen in his first “mainstream” (for lack of a better word) role.
VICE: Before working on The Canyons, you two had another project on deck, a shark thriller. I am a sucker for shark movies—even shitty ones—so a Bret Easton Ellis-penned shark flick sounds like a dream.
Braxton Pope: It was called Bait, and it was a revenge movie about a disaffected kid, a sociopath who endures a kind of humiliation on the beach and through a series of events, and in a very cunning way, he ends up on this charter boat with the kids who humiliated him. They’re in the open water and he pulls up the ladder and prevents them from coming back on the boat, and he chums the water. It was a Lionsgate movie and there was a Spanish financier. We were very close to shooting it, then the finances imploded at the last minute. It was an exercise in total frustration and wasted time. That’s what sparked the idea to create something that we could self-finance.
Bret Easton Ellis: Part of the reason we made The Canyons was the frustration of working for a studio like Lionsgate and trying to get the shark movie made and having that fall through. Everyone from Ed Burns to the Polish brothers are rethinking the model these days.
Is that what Paul Schrader meant when he said, in the Times article, “The American market is just tapped out”?
Pope: The types of movie Schrader was known for in the 70s and 80s wouldn’t get financed by the studios. Dramas or character pieces—those movies are nearly extinct at the studio level today. There’s been a transition toward spectacle movies with budgets of $100-million-plus, Michael Bay and superhero movies, heavy CG movies. Lionsgate is looking for big franchise properties that will generate huge revenue, mass-market films. And typically the movies I put together tend to be smaller, with filmmakers like Schrader, or Gaspar Noé.
Read the whole interview