Starring Sam Dillon, Thomas Mann, Teo Halm, James Franco
Look out there is a new project from the mind of James Franco (127 Hours, Wild Horses) hitting the screen. The Oscar nominated actor has become such a polarizing figure in the world of all media, it’s impossible to predict what he will do next (which honestly is part of the fun). It’s really hard to keep track of what he is doing, for example just in 2015, Franco has 16 projects completed; either released or ready for release. Memoria had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival, which has become a yearly event for the actor. Based on a short story penned by Franco, Memoria also finds the actor in a small supporting role in a film based on someone he knew growing up. Of course Franco’s attachment to the project and presence at the festival would guarantee attention to an otherwise overlooked narrative.
As a child Ivan was told his father had returned to Russia to fight in the military. He said people only talked to him about three things: His blond hair, pale skin, and father’s military jacket, which he wore on a regular basis. In his middle school years Ivan became more distant from piers, finding it difficult to relate to others, accepting that his father had abandoned him. His Palo Alto neighborhood a feeding ground for neglected children who hung out at skate parks, experimenting with drugs. In high school Ivan (Dillon) has become a former shell of himself, unequipped to face adulthood or responsibility. Mr. Wyckoff (Franco) one of his teachers, constantly reaches out as someone he can talk to about his problems, but Ivan is unreachable.
Memoria is exclusively a festival film and unequipped to capture the interest of mainstream audiences.
French documentarian and short film director Vladimir de Fontenay takes the lead in adapting Franco’s short story with co-director Nina Ljeti, who also attended the same school with Franco. Ljeti and Franco admitted some of the characters in the film were composites of people they both knew. Local Austin actor Sam Dillon has previous worked with Franco on his film Palto Alto. Dillon and the entire production feels like an interpretation of a Larry Clark film, especially with the skater boy culture. Running at a mere 77 minutes, Fontenay’s experience with shorts certainly come into play here, often feeling that this simplistic story is even stretched, at under an hour and a half, to make feature status.
Memoria is shot in 4:3 Letterbox format which doesn’t feel as jarring as you might think. Rising stars Thomas Man (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Teo Halm (Earth to Echo) play prominently among the slew of newcomers, many film students of Franco who teaches courses through his school Studio4. Perhaps Memoria’s biggest detractor is the familiarity with subject matter. While Franco himself says kids similar to Ivan go unrepresented in film, there are a slew of coming of age dramas that focus on the withdrawn urban teenager. Memoria is exclusively a festival film and unequipped to capture the interest of mainstream audiences, like many projects of Franco’s, this one too exists only because his tireless dedication to the art of storytelling.
James Franco’s short story gets the moody indie feature adaptation.