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Sunday 24 September 2017

Declan Cashin: Reel Life

Declan Cashin

Reel Life likes to think of itself as a patron of the arts – particularly when those patronised arts are being produced by handsome actor-types on whom we have restraining order-baiting crushes.

It was in that spirit that this columnist made his way to the Pace Gallery in London's Soho to check out James Franco's exhibit, Psycho Nacirema.

My reaction? I can't think of anything else to say except: he's a strange boy, is our James.

The exhibit – a collaboration with Scottish artist Douglas Gordon – is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, mashed-up with the 1920s Fatty Arbuckle murder scandal, and is set in a remodelled Bates Motel.

There are a few rooms – the hotel check-in cabin, a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom – which all resemble murder scenes, daubed liberally in bloody red paint.

There's a wall projection of scenes from Psycho in one room featuring Franco in drag as the Janet Leigh character, and there are other portraits and paintings of Franco as Leigh hung throughout the space.

One nice touch is a peephole, through which you can channel Norman Bates to see Franco/ Leigh preparing for his/her fateful ablutions, while the bathroom set itself is sufficiently weird, with 'Help' scrawled in red over the shower curtain (and, curiously, in the toilet bowl). The bathtub behind that shower curtain, meanwhile, is full of bloody yellow rubber duckies.

What does it all mean? Well, according to the accompanying notes: "Franco's installations heighten the psychological entrapment set out by Hitchcock, beckoning the audience to become a participating character within the plot".

There's also stuff about "trans-historical juxtapositions" and forcing observers to "recognise their own neurosis and psychological inadequacies generated by the silver-screen".

If you're at a loose end in London before July 27, the exhibit only takes a few minutes to take in. See pacegallery.com

Q Here's a random one for you. M Night Shyamalan – director of The Sixth Sense and Will Smith's recent epic flop After Earth – revealed in an interview last week that he worked as a ghost writer on the 1999 teen Ugly Duckling romcom She's All That, starring Freddie Prinze Jnr.

Most so-called script doctors tend to be more discreet about their contributions to screenplays, but we do know of several others who had a secret hand in some famous movie scripts.

For instance, Joss Whedon brushed up the screenplays for Speed, Twister and X-Men, while Quentin Tarantino ghost-wrote the 1995 actioner Crimson Tide. Aaron Sorkin polished the scripts for Schindler's List, The Rock and the (suddenly topical post-Prism revelations) surveillance thriller Enemy of the State, while Carrie Fisher had a go at Sister Act, The River Wild and The Wedding Singer.

Q Finally, did you catch Room 237 earlier this year, the wonderfully bonkers documentary packed with some out-there interpretations of and theories about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining?

Well, it seemed for a while last week that 1984 classic Ghostbusters would be the latest movie to get the Room 237 treatment when a two-minute promo surfaced online for a subtext-reading documentary entitled Spook Central.

It argued that Ghostbusters is really "about", among other themes, sex, obesity and the ostracism of smokers. Alas, the trailer appears to be a hoax. Still, it's worth hunting down on YouTube.

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