Everyone should know by now that Charlie Kaufman projects not only tend to be very strange – they also tend to boast the most multi-layered and symbolism-heavy storylines this side of pure experimental cinema.
However – even bearing in mind that Kaufman was the man responsible for scripting films like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – more than a few eyebrows were raised when word got out about his new project: Frank or Francis, a satirical semi-musical that features (among other things) Kevin Kline as an animatronic head designed to come up with lucrative ideas completely devoid of artistic value.
Many an entertainment news site has referred to Frank or Francis as a movie about bloggers – and, to a degree that’s correct, seeing how “Francis” refers to Jack Black’s character in the film: an angry Internet troll who delights in ridiculing the professional movie industry (especially Hollywood).
Here is how The Playlist describes the film, in its review/analysis of Kaufman’s script (which he will direct from):
“Frank or Francis,” in our estimation, feels like a deliciously good and contemptuous (though self-aware) screed/send-up of the film industry, not only, the graffiti-with-punctuation bloggers, but the entire machine: fatuous filmmakers, vapid PR people, self-absorbed writers, blowhard actors, and last but not least it serves up a jiujitsu-like takedown on the ego-driven, vacuous meat-parade that is the Academy Awards. No stone is left unturned nor is there much of any kind of hero in the story as everyone is as equally moronic and narcissistic as the other. Still, as Kaufman denotes, it also says a lot of things about society, culture, human nature (and race) and human behavior—albeit some of it in his patently strange and sometimes baffling way.
In other words – don’t expect Frank or Francis to just unfairly villainize members of the movie blogosphere (or play out as a fake documentary about Screen Rant, for that matter ;-)).
The Playlist confirms that Kaufman’s script revolves primarily around three characters:
- Frank Arder (Steve Carrell) a “pretentious, self important screenwriter-turned-filmmaker” whose film “You” is nominated for 29 Academy Awards. That movie-within-the-movie features Arder playing every character – including a homeless man, women, children, and even African-Americans.
- Francis Deems (Jack Black) a highly-intelligent, but enraged film blog commentator who has earned something in the way of a following – and still lives with his parents (specifically, in their attic).
- Alan Modell (Nicolas Cage), a.k.a. Emcee, a formerly-successful comedian known for his roles in lowbrow comedies with titles like “Fat Dad”. Think Black’s character in Tropic Thunder - or (if we’re being honest) a caricature of Eddie Murphy - and you’ll get the gist.
Kaufman’s directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, was not universally-beloved. However, most everyone seems to agree that it is one of the more successful pieces of overly-ambitious cinema ever created – considering that it touches on heady topics such as mortality, the relationship between life and art, the purpose of existence, and more, in a very surreal and often darkly comical fashion. Frank or Francis, it seems, will be no exception, and looks to fascinate/infuriate film buffs of all shades, in equal measure.
On that note: here is how Kaufman described Frank or Francis to Time Out London:
“In the broadest possible sense, ['Frank or Francis' is] about online film criticism, but as usual, the world that I’m writing about is not necessarily the world that I’m writing about. It’s just a place to set it. There’s a lot in there about the internet and anger: cultural, societal and individual anger. And isolation in this particular age we live in. And competition: it’s about the idea of people in this world wanting to be seen. I hate to use the word ‘about,’ as it implies that what I’m doing is an analogy and that I’m trying to say something. I’m not. That’s for the audience to do.”
For more about just how much of an exercise in meta storytelling Frank or Francis really is, head on over to read the full Playlist article.
Frank or Francis is scheduled to begin principal photography in Jaunary 2012. We will keep you posted on the status of the project, in the meantime.