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Celebrity Summer School


Inspired by Van Sant’s unreleased footage of River Phoenix, James Franco 12 DM made it into the new film MY OWN PRIVATE RIVER.

It’s like a mini RISD reunion at MoMA PS1 this month, where Gus Van Sant 75 FAV, James Franco 12 DM,media critic and theoristFrancisco Ricardoof RISD’s Digital + Media department and guest artist Ryan Trecartin 04 FAVare avoiding the beach in favor of a series of master classes collectively billed as Summer School.

Modeled after European summer academies, the new initiative makes use of MoMA PS1 – which is, the organizers point out, suitably housed in what was once a school itself – as a setting for “candid conversation, experimentation and practice” centered on the art and intricacies of filmmaking.

Based on a recent collaborative project, Franco and Van Sant were invited to go to the head of the class as teachers at this ephemeral school for the soul. The two got to know each other several years ago when Van Sant cast Franco in Milk (2008), the most recent of such better known films of his as Finding Forester (2000) and Good Will Hunting (1997).

Franco, the multitalented actor (127 Hours, Howl, Pineapple Express, the Spider Man series), filmmaker, writer and artist who’s now also a RISD student, was moved and inspired by the unreleased footage and dailies Van Sant had shown him from his 1991 classic My Own Private Idaho, starring Keanu Reeves and late great River Phoenix. Mesmerized by Phoenix’s “uninhibited acting,” Franco edited a 100-minute alternative film that captures the young actor at his most physically dynamic and emotionally expressive.

The new film, called My Own Private River, made its debut earlier this year in Unfinished, Van Sant’s and Franco’s two-man show at Gagosian Gallery. It’s currently being shown at MoMA PS1, running continuously in the main theater through September 5.

Since Trecartin’s solo show, Any Ever, is also at MoMA PS1 through September 3, he’s taking part in some of the Summer School discussions this month, too. And the discourse will be informed by several other films on view there, too, including Satantango (1994) and Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) by Bêla Tarr, Jeanne Dielman (1975) by Chantal Akerman, Stroszek (1977) by Werner Herzog and a few other Van Sant favorites.

Given the celebrity teachers and free tuition, it’s not surprising that Summer School filled to capacity a nano-second after enrollment opened. But for anyone who considers August to be open season on seaside vapidity, maybe that’s not so bad. As it turns out these RISD guys are serious, assigning heady “homework” – replete with probing, no-nonsense questions about morality, metaphor, psychology, cinematography and more – before the first class even met.

related links:
MoMA PS1’s Summer School
James Franco brings River Phoenix back to life (The Guardian)
Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever

tags: alumni, Digital + Media, Film-Animation-Video, entertainment, graduate, partnerships + collaborations, students

At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.