Francophrenia is a brilliant, cutting-edge collaboration between famed actor and avant-garde artist James Franco and award-winning filmmaker and editor Ian Olds. When Franco signed up for an acting gig on the soap opera General Hospital, he brought along a crew to film behind-the-scenes action on set at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, creating a glimpse into the strange world of celebrity in both its public and private moments.
Working with this "found footage," director Ian Olds repurposes Franco's material into an experimental psychological thriller focusing on the actor's escalating paranoia. It is a mind-bending meditation on identity—of the individual human being whose name is James Franco, the performance artist Franco that he plays in the television soap opera, and the movie star James Franco. Added to these multiple personae, Olds and fellow screenwriter Paul Felten add a subjective interior monologue (spoken by Olds playing the voice of Franco, in fact) that underscores the conflicted relationship between these various facets of the same being. The fragile psychology of "Franco," teetering on the edge (both literally and figuratively), is enhanced by the introduction of experimental tropes throughout the film, including reverse action, abstraction, animation, and multiple-screen imagery, all set within the context of a dramatic suspense narrative.