I recently received James Franco’s latest short film, entitled La Passione, which he filmed for Vice. The description of which describes it thusly:
The VICE premiere of “La Passione” provides you lucky viewers with a decadent and beautifully shot trip that riffs on Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (if The Passion of Joan of Arc was shot on acid and starred the ATL Twins as demons). The film features Franco himself, alongside the beautiful Natalia Bonifacci.
I considered a review, or even an attempt to describe it, but I soon realized that the kind of art James Franco strives to create exists at such a basic, sub-verbal, or perhaps even sub-molecular level, that to review it would be akin to trying to give a “thumbs up, thumbs down” grade to the big bang; an attempt to define the wings of a butterfly. Like existence itself, there is no message, no lesson beyond that which you create from it. It simply “is.” So instead, I offer a real-time account of the film, which you can watch below, in the hopes that my attempt to understand James Franco’s art will mirror every organism’s quest to come to terms with own existence. Eez poetry. Eez beautiful.
Black and white. Slow motion. A gently-blowing breeze. Two model-esque women share a kiss and some yearning set to Sigur Ros (I think?) music. The yearning far outweighs the kissing. So much yearning. The passions.
Fade to Title.
Day of the Dead figurine. Still slow motion. A crowd lays the figurine on the ground and place flowers on it. A funeral for a day of the dead figurine? James Franco walks in in a tuxedo with a model on his arm. She’s wearing an extremely low-cut shirt. Sigur Ros or whatever is still playing.
Franco greets the guests – a black girl with an afro and her face painted like a raccoon. A bald white guy with a grill and lots of rings. Ooh, he has a twin brother. Some other girls’ boob. No apparent context, but it’s a nice boob.
Now they’re dancing. James Franco kisses another model. The first model with the low-cut shirt looks on, yearning. She yearns hard, for… something. Perhaps more shirt material.
Cleavage model girl dances with a square-looking guy. The grill twins and Franco look on, jealous, yearning. Suddenly they beat him up. Cleavage model looks upset about this. They’ve made a scene. Everyone is staring, yearning. Cleavage girl is all upset now, strands of her hair blowing around, cinematically. Franco frowns. He’s acting. Franco still frown-acting. He frown-acts for a long few seconds.
Cleavage girl lays on the ground, playing with her hair some more. A shirtless dude with stripes on his chest enters the picture. The crowd starts pointing at cleavage girl. What’s happening? What will happen to poor cleavage girl? Lots of cross-dissolves now, you can tell something is about to happen.
The crowd parts. James Franco approaches cleavage girl, now lying on the ground surrounded by people in chest and face paint. He grasps her. She’s still on the ground, but he kisses her, yearningly, as if to say “five-second rule, dude.”
They kiss for a very long time, yearning. Cross dissolve. Now everyone’s gone except cleavage girl. Was it all in her head? The make-up? The Franco? The yearning? The music changes to something more rave-y and beat heavy. There’s a guy with a whip behind some fog. Oops, Franco’s back, and he’s with the grill twins again. Where are they? A closeup of some red fabric somewhere, billowing. Yearning.
Wait, no, James Franco is holding the fabric. He’s a bull fighter, and a guy in short shorts is the bull. Cleavage girl is topless now. Whip guy is back, and now we can see he’s wearing chaps, or some kind of buttless leather pants. Franco yells at the bull now, while the topless girl yearns, toplessly.
The leather guy is whipping the bull-mask guy in the shorts. Wait, no! He’s whipping cleavage girl! She falls to the floor. James Franco screams, a scream of yearning, yearning to break free. Topless girl is still there. Hard to tell if she and cleavage girl are the same person.
Franco looks dead now, or unconscious. His body simply could not take the yearning. The boob girls try to revive him. They cry. More crying, more fabric, more cross dissolves, more billowing.
Now there’s a blonde girl in some lingerie. She keeps putting her flowy fabric in front of the camera. Dissolve back to cleavage girl, who’s looking extra broody now. She dips her hands into a bowl of rose petals cinematically, symbolically. Its imbued with emotional evocation, the petals, the hands, the soul. The script tattoos.
Cleavage girl and lingerie girl begin to caress each other. They anoint each other’s gently-parted thighs with rose-petal water. Their faces express the highest level of yearning seen yet. Cleavage girl smiles. CROSS DISSOLVE. The crowd is back, shirtless and painted, approaching the two lovers. Cleavage girl seems to be wearing a fancy swimsuit now. The crowd lifts her on their shoulders. Will they sacrifice her to the Gods of yearning?
They continue to carry her. More fabric. Candle light. Fog. Lens flares. Lingerie girl has crucified herself. Cross dissolve back to lingerie girl, who the crowd has tied to a pole, as if to burn her at the stake. Her boobs look really good.
Her face, superimposed behind flames. She IS burning! But her face… still yearning. The crowd looks on, tearful, yearning, painted, shirtless. Burning girl cross-dissolved over the crucified blonde lingerie girl, fading back and forth now. Has the burned swimsuit girl died and gone to heaven where she becomes a blonde girl in lingerie? It’s a little unclear.
Back to cleavage/swimsuit girl. Slow-motion flames. More slow-motion flames. She’s burning. Yearning. Cross dissolve to… Title card. “JAMES FRANCO, director.”
More credits. Apparently the music wasn’t Sigur Ros, but something called <tfo>. I don’t know if they’re a band, a person, or an HTML command. Fin. I am spent.