The latest from actor-turned-filmmaker James Franco is adapted from characteristically tough and violent Cormac McCarthy novel that draws the director’s ambitions into disturbing terrain as it explores the rituals and desperation of the Southern US’s rural poor.
Child of God
The remarkably prolific James Franco's recent projects have addressed, in various forms, the idea of the American outsider. From the street hustlers in his My Own Private River installation, through the fetishists of his experimental film Interior Leather Bar to performative seances of unsung heroes and heroines with visual artist Laurel Nakadate, his artistic practice seeks to archive marginal cultural figures, rich threads in a national fabric so often aggressively reduced to its "winners."
Child of God, adapted from a characteristically tough and violent Cormac McCarthy novel, extends Franco's ambitions into considerably more dangerous and disturbing terrain. The film is a dark mirror to his recent adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, both exploring the rituals and desperation of the Southern rural poor.
Lester Ballard (Scott Haze, spitting and scratching at himself) is an abandoned soul, unable to fit into the established social order. As he increasingly withdraws into his own mind, he turns to violence and, ultimately, necrophilic relationships, looking for solace in a world that continually rejects him. The town sheriff (indelibly portrayed by Jim Parrack), both sympathetic to and fearful of the man, slowly closes the net around him — but a mob of townfolk have ideas of their own. Here the frame of the film turns, exposing a society where politesse is only a fingernail scratch away from pure hate and greed.
Franco (also at the Festival in Palo Alto)
hits an impressive new stride as a filmmaker
with Child of God. He lays bare his
characters against a beautifully textured
palette of grey and beige, proposing unusual
camera angles to destabilize our expectations.
And as the film reaches its surprising
climax, he undertakes several experiments
with lighting that result in some of the most
striking images in cinema this year.