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As I Lay Dying: Filming the ‘Unfilmable’

laydying


As I Lay Dying (2013)
Directed by James Franco
Screenplay by James Franco and Matt Rager
Based on the novel by William Faulkner

Spoiler-free.

As I Lay Dying is James Franco’s seventh feature-length film as a director, but only his second to receive much of a release. The first was The Broken Tower, a biography of the poet Hart Crane, which was completed as his MFA thesis for NYU. Despite the fact that Focus picked it up and it starred Franco and Michael Shannon, that film felt like a student film through and through, and Franco received the critical berating he earned. Two years later, he’s back with another difficult work of American Modernism.

James Franco kind of stepped into a minefield with this one. The literary crowd is unimpressed with his famoused-my-way-into-a-book-deal poetry and prose, and his more mainstream fans are turned off by his occasional excursions into ‘pretentious shit’. Here, then, is a way to alienate two distinct fan bases at once.

I must just be a contrarian, because these are the sorts of films that interest me most.
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