Hello! I'm so so sorry that I'm only replying now, I've been really busy moving house so again, I'm sorry!
I did actually post the original message a week before the event, in the hope that others from here would be able to attend, but one of the moderators has told me there's been a bug on the site and it didn't send until after the event! I'm really sorry. It was an incredible experience, seeing the film. I'm gutted no-one saw my post in time and didn't get word of the screening. It was actually screened AGAIN at the ICA, a week later, it's so bad no-one else from ATW got to see it.
If it's any comfort, I wrote quite an in-depth review of it on my tumblr page. Here it is;
The opening shots of My Own Private River show one of the final scenes of My Own Private Idaho. It starts at the end. It starts with all the gang at Bob?s funeral, shouting and dancing around the gravesite area. REM?s son Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter plays over images of River running around, screaming, shouting, hugging Flea.
From the very start, River feels so alive! He?s so energetic, so vibrant, so beautiful and loud and crazy! Franco has done an incredible job of capturing the essence of him and bringing his presence back to life on the screen, and for that, I am truly grateful. Thank you, James Franco!
The film then follows the same storyline as MOPI, as expected. The footage is totally raw, there?s no image correction or colour grading, nothing like that. It?s grainy and dirty as hell for most parts. Now, if you?re not used to seeing films in this state, in the editing process or at test screenings, then this can be quite challenging and while it was a little distracting at times, I think that for this film, it adds to the nature, the authenticity of the thing. It feels like something secret, something hidden, undiscovered, it?s like we?ve been included in this secret world of River and his performance, we have been given this amazing gift of seeing his outtakes. I loved it!
There were several stand out scenes for me. Firstly, the scene with Mike and his brother, when River?s character confronts him about being his real father. I?m shocked to say that I felt it was far more powerful in Franco?s version than the original and it was as though I was seeing the scene for the first time. In the take that Franco has chosen, it was more heartbreaking and emotional than in the original film.
Secondly, there?s a subplot that?s not included in Idaho, it involves Mike, River?s character, and a girlfriend, Denise, I think her name was. There?s a scene of them making love in the park, and then a conversation they share afterwards, which in essence in quite juvenile and silly and has this great juxtaposition with the adult nature of the sex scene before it. I liked this placing of the two scenes.
And lastly, there?s amazing additional shots of River and Keanu on the motorbike, riding through Idaho. I thought the song used here was the REM song Uberlin (remember that Aaron Taylor-Johnson video for the song?!), it?s definitely in the film somewhere but I actually think now it was something more upbeat in this scene from REM, like That Someone Is You? I?m not sure. Anyway, the whole sequence on the bike looks so, so cool! It was so iconic at the time, and it remains so today. These shots are then followed by the famous campfire scene. It doesn?t included any of the original dialogue from Idaho, in which Mike confesses his love for Scott, but only shows the hug that they share afterwards. Again, it felt more powerful, visceral and heartbreaking than in Gus?s version. I know this is quite a claim, but the scene really lingers on this hug. I know that Franco?s style tends to involve minimal dialogue, and while I don?t think it?s been very effective in some of his other films, it really is in this scene. He?s done a fantastic job on this campfire scene in particular. He?s used this stylistic choice to great effect and there is a great deal of longing, of desire, of hurt, and ultimately rejection in that hug alone, it?s stunning to watch. Immense performances from both River and Keanu. I?m so glad that this take has seen the light of day!
In general, the film is an homage to River and his performance in Idaho. It includes lots of unscripted scenes, that really are wonderful to watch. It proves River to be one of the greatest actors of his time and demonstrates how skilful he was. And, it also shows that he was a really playful, funny person! I felt that Franco focused on this a little more that Van Sant. For example, the bath scene in the hotel with Hans, when Mike is ordering room service, it?s really funny and got a lot of laughs. River is really comedic and it was brilliant to see this! There were some parts of Idaho not included, namely the Henry IV storyline and therefore Bob?s character and the Shakespearen dialogue. Keanu?s role was also quite reduced. Because of this, I think the first third of the film lacks narrative and it focuses on the street hustlers in the restaurants, their anecdotes, a little too much and becomes a bit repetitive. The story really kicks in when Mike?s journey to find his mother begins.
It?s safe to say that River truly is the star of this film, and again, I am so grateful to Franco for creating this piece of work. I must admit though, while I am a fan of James Franco and I have a huge amount of respect for what he does and stands for, for him as an actor, a writer, a poet and an artist, I find it very difficult to watch most of his own film projects. I?m not talking about his mainstream films, but his own ones like Broken Tower, The Letter, etc. I have yet to make it through to the end of these films, I just don?t like them, and I was quite apprehensive about what My Own Private River would be like. I was really worried that Franco would somehow ruin Idaho for me. But, thank goodness, I think he?s done an incredible job! My only negative would be that what was truly innovative in Van Sant?s film becomes boring and repetitive in Franco?s version. Namely, I am talking about the transitional shots of landscapes and city scenes. I think this was really over-used in My Own Private River, but it?s a minor fault.
What I took from the film tonight was that River lives! I swear that his presence was so real and so tangible in the cinema tonight, I honestly felt that River was in the room with us. I had visions of River walking up on stage as the film ended to thank us all for coming along. He felt so real and so alive tonight. Seriously, thank you James Franco, and Gus Van Sant, for this amazing film!!! When I asked Franco at the ICA in June about this film and whether it would get a wider release, I never thought that 6 months later I would be sitting in the same building, actually watching the film! I?m so happy and grateful right now!
I?ll finish by mentioning the final shots of the film. It really was a beautiful statement from Franco. It showed a series of close up shots of a furiosuly flowing river, and I couln?t help but think that was Franco drawing parallels to River. It was as though he was saying, River lives on. Like the gushing, energetic waters of the river, the actor lives on! We are not left with the tragic shot of Mike laying on the sidewalk as Scott drives by him, ignoring him. We are left with the images of the vibrant, throbbing river. Beautiful.