Celebrity Summer School

Celebrity Summer School

It’s like a mini RISD reunion at MoMA PS1 this month, whereGus Van Sant 75 FAV, James Franco 12 DM,media critic and theoristFrancisco Ricardoof RISD’s Digital + Media department and guest artistRyan Trecartin 04 FAVare avoiding the beach in favor of a series of master classes collectively billed asSummer 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 inMilk (2008), the most recent of such better known films of his asFinding Forester (2000) andGood Will Hunting (1997).

Franco, the multitalented actor (127 Hours, Howl, Pineapple Express, theSpider 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 classicMy 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 theSummer School discussions this month, too. And the discourse will be informed by several other films on view there, too, includingSatantango (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.

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