A Hard Read


INT. ACTOR'S MIND. DAY

INT. ACTOR’S MIND. DAY

James Franco teaches a production class at USC.

Last semester (possibly last year- I think it might have been a two part class) this was dedicated to developing Cervantes’ “Don Quioxte” for the screen in a series of chapters, each produced by a different student team. This coming year, it was announced, the class would be developing chapters from James Franco’s own book “Actors Anonymous” for the screen.

I didn’t sign up for the class. To be honest, I didn’t even try- this was a class that was going to be in high demand and by students with much greater experience than myself. I was curious, but only casually, so I thought it wise to stay out of the way of other students who were likely to be much more dedicated to it than I would be.

I wasn’t familiar with the material, but I’m always looking for new book suggestions so I added it to my reading list for the summer. The local library had a copy and I picked it up (when I, at last, conceded defeat in my attempt to read a biography of Robert Oppenheimer). What would an actor have to say on the subject of actors in a novelized format that would soon be translated into film? I was eager to find out; doubly so because it was written by someone that seemed pretty interesting and that I might get to meet sometime down the line.

I had high hopes but I am finding it to be a hard read.

I’m only about halfway through. I’ve completed the “Twelve Steps” and I’m partway through the “Twelve Traditions” and I still can’t tell what the point is. Except maybe to explore the subject of Men With Boundary Issues. Each chapter is different. A different boundary being crossed. A different narrative voice.

Or is it the same narrative voice? It’s difficult to tell. It’s a book about actors, written by an actor, after all. Each chapter feels like a character being played by the narrator. It is an anonymous narrator- perhaps it is James Franco himself trying to see himself from the inside and the outside at the same time. Some chapters are written as articles written by a character with footnotes written by a second character. Sometimes the footnotes take over. Some chapters are just a series of one or two line narrative observations like a chapter made up of authorly fortune cookies.

Perhaps it is meant to be a meta exercise: a glimpse into the actor’s mind peopled with both the characters that he or she has played or characters that he or she met in real life and collected as reference material or characters that he or she aspires to. Who am I to say? I’m just glad I’m not trying to figure out how to make a film out of it.  There’s no room for any other narrative voice than James Franco’s.

Perhaps that is the point?

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 10, 2014.

One Response to “A Hard Read”

  1. […] with reading James Franco’s “Actors Anonymous” (which I wrote a post about because I didn’t get it), and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″ (which I […]

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