James Franco must have had a free hour a month ago. Somehow —between graduate studies, acting in a few big budget films, completing his own “homo-sex-art-film,” and chilling with Marina Abramovic — he found time to design the fall 2012 campaign for high-end denim line Seven For All Mankind. He last worked with the jeans company in February, when he shot the spring 2012 campaign, which he titled “The Death of Natalie Wood.”
The fall shoot moves from the Hollywood Cemetery to a classic Los Angeles Art Deco-style movie theater to a field where the models cavort around in the grass. Among the lucky few selected as Franco’s muses are Victoria’s Secret model Lily Donaldson, actor Henry Hopper (son of Hollywood royalty Dennis Hopper), “Magic Mike” star Cody Horn, and French actress/singer Lou Doillon. Unlike some of Franco’s darker work, everyone is clearly having a good time.
But he’s also falling on old habits: as with much of his work, he deconstructs the Hollywood mythos here by using his own stardom to break the fourth wall. Our favorite instance of this was last summer, at Asia Song Society — Terence Koh’s space on Canal Street — when we stood next to James Franco as James Franco watched a video of James Franco reading from “The Wizard of Oz,” the inspiration for the upcoming film “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” in which James Franco stars as Oz.
Anyway. In the behind-the-scene film Franco made to accompany the shoot — called “Hollywood Resurrection” — he’s a bit less omnipresent. You see the actor chasing the cameras with a cell phone camera, or a flip phone, or an old-fashioned hand-held camera run on film. Or sometimes he’s just in the shot, waving his arms or splattering fake blood on the models. Is Franco ripping off Tyler Shields, now?
Shooting a glossy fashion campaign could strike some as a departure for the budding auteur, who in the past two years has gone to great lengths to make sure his installation work, short fiction, solo shows, and short films are taken with the utmost seriousness. But filming a bunch of pretty young things in little more than cut-offs plays into the Franco performance art oeuvre, somewhere between dressing in drag for Terry Richardson and guest starring as “Franco” on “General Hospital.”
Whether Franco’s ongoing dalliances with the art world will help sell blue jeans, well, that’s another question.
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