Saturday, December 6, 2014

James Franco is back, along with a number of other writers/directors/actors, in the two-year-old group project, THE COLOR OF TIME

Has it ever occurred to you, not to mention to the peripatetic fellow himself, that actor/ writer/director/ occasional-cinematog-rapher/editor/boom-operator James Franco is spreading his wares a tad thin? In 2012 alone (Trust-Movies chooses this year because 2012 was when the film in question, THE COLOR OF TIME, was made), Mr. Franco appeared in nine movies (plus a number of episodes of two TV series), directed three projects himself and then did appearances as himself in seven other films. Breathtaking, huh?

That's a lot of  ground to cover, and we're not even going into Mr. Franco's various art projects. I raise this question because, while this new-age Renaissance Man, pictured at right, excels in certain roles and activities (over this past year or two in Third Person, This Is the End and even in Oz the Great and Powerful), he often comes up short, particularly on projects that he himself has brought to fruition: The Broken Tower, for instance, and now this newer one. Both of the later films deal with the life of a poet, a subject to which Franco seems quite strongly drawn.

In his earlier film, that poet was Hart Crane; here it's C.K. Williams. For whatever reason (perhaps because it was some kind of class project), Franco -- who was a producer on this new film and also stars, shown above, in the role of poet Williams -- has divided up the writing and direction chores amongst some dozen people. To somebody's credit (maybe the editors', Jennifer Ruff and Bruce Thierry Cheung) the movie -- even if it not finally very edifying -- holds together fairly well. If you did not know this film came into being via the efforts of a large group (you can find them all credited here), I doubt you'd guess this.

The Color of Time -- originally named Tar, and then, for its British opening, Forever Love -- at the rate it is going may end up with as many names as it is has creators. It tackles Mr. Williams' life in a fractured style that splinters into past and present, hopping around loosely between the two, as well as between people important to the poet. Therefore we get our guy as both adult (Franco) and as an adolescent (a well-chosen Henry Hopper, above, who looks a good deal like a young Franco).

The always on-the-mark Jessica Chastain (above) plays Williams' mom, in her best Tree-of-Life-ish look and style (the periods certainly match), while Mila Kunis (below, right) does another go-round (as in Third Person) playing Franco's wife -- but this time the two get along much better. (Come to think of it, the two played together in the Oz movie, too.)

We get snippets of Williams' poetry ("I breathe it still, that breeze" is offered up numerous times throughout), though what we hear and see may not send a lot of us rushing to read the poet's further work. (The Hart Crane movie did send me off to read a bit further, mostly to learn if Crane's poetry was really as purple and florid as what we heard in The Broken Tower.)

Zach Braff (above, right) makes an appearance or two as William's good friend, and we also get a scene (below) with a dead or maybe-just-dying horse. It seems that the natural world is primary to our poet, and his love for this does come through in the movie.

Overall, though, the film is too fractured and splintered to give us enough solidity to feel or even understand much about Williams and his work. We know there was an earlier relationship that didn't pan out, and a certain sexual experience in which the young man and his friend visit a black couple, during which the husband has his dinner while his wife sexually services Williams' friend -- much to the young poet's distress.

It is commendable that Franco would like to introduce us to these poets. I just wish that the films in which he does this didn't feel and look more like class-room exercises than actual, committed and creative movie-making.

Meanwhile, The Color of Time -- from Starz Digital and running only 73 minutes -- opens in theaters this coming Friday, December 12, after making its debut on iTunes and all digital platforms this past Tuesday, December 2. This coming Tuesday, December 9, the film will be available on all VOD platforms, as well.

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