Shocker! James Franco Is Set to Star In Yet Another Porn Drama

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Here’s some shocking and altogether unprecedented casting: James Franco is starring in a drama about the porn industry. Oh, wait… he’s absolutely done that already. But history aside, this new HBO series, The Deuce, sounds pretty good. And it doesn’t hurt that his co-star is the goddess Maggie Gyllenhaal, who’s playing a prostitute-turned-porn-entrepreneur fittingly named ‘Candy.’

The series comes from the mind of David Simon, the writer and producer perhaps best known for creating the HBO hit The Wire. He’s also worked with everyone’s favorite Home Box Office on the series Treme and the Oscar Isaac-led miniseries Show Me A Hero. Simon co-wrote The Deuce with the help of George Pelecanos, a detective fiction novelist who also contributed to both The Wire and Treme. Breaking Bad’s Michelle MacLaren executive produced and directed the pilot.

The Deuce is set in New York City from the early 70s through the mid 80s, and tracks the rise of the porn industry after its legalization, as well as HIV/ AIDS epidemic and the widespread use of cocaine in New York at its most gritty, before the city was cleaned up and its rents rose to astronomical new heights.

Franco plays two twin brothers, Vincent and Frankie Martino, who became prominent figures in the Times Square sex industry and served as fronts for mob control of prostitution and pornography.

We do certainly find it interesting and disappointing that the central figure of a series set in AIDS-era New York is a straight white man. But putting out criticisms aside, here’s the trailer and first look at HBO’s upcoming The Deuce, set to premiere on September 10:

James Franco Talks to Director Justin Kelly About Sundance Hit, I Am Michael

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Photo by Eric Ray Davidson. James wears shirt, jacket, jeans, and boots by Gucci. Justin wears jeans by Levi’s, jacket and shirt by Anzevino Getty. Styled by Rachel Pincus.

James Franco, the megastar, multi-hyphenate actor just blew Sundance away with his turn in I Am Michael, a film by first-time director Justin Kelly. For BlackBook, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, the writer of the magazine story that inspired the film, interviews the pair about their creative process.

ON THE EVENING of June 19, 2011, I received an email from prolific emailer James Franco: “Gus Van Sant and I read your piece in today’s NYT Magazine. Has anyone
optioned the rights to that story? Peace.”

If any actor is crazy enough — or interested in sexual identity enough — to try to make a movie about an ex-gay pastor living in Wyoming, it’s probably the sexually ambiguous Franco, who has said “I’m … gay in my life up to the point of intercourse,” and “I like that it’s so hard to define me.”

I Am Michael, the resulting fi lm by first-time director Justin Kelly — who also wrote the script — premiered at Sundance in January, and it is, in many ways, a reverse coming out story. It tells the complicated life story of Michael Glatze, an old friend and colleague of mine whose outspoken advocacy inspired a generation of gay youth before he rejected his homo-sexuality and urged others to do the same. “Homosexuality, delivered to young minds, is by its very nature pornographic,” he claimed, shocking those who knew him.

Recently, I sat down with Franco and Kelly to talk about why Michael’s story appealed to them, their innovative approach to telling it, and whether I Am Michael might be difficult to watch for those coming at the film from a political perspective.

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BENOIT: You’ve both spent a lot of time talking publicly about this movie since it premiered at Sundance, but I trust you saved your best stuff for this conversation. Let’s do our best not to be boring.

JAMES: Well, this is the insider conversation. We were all part of making this movie happen.

JUSTIN: I’m bored already.

BENOIT: I’d like to begin by talking about intentions. When I decided to write about Michael, I had two intentions. First, I wanted — I needed — to figure out what happened to my former friend and colleague at XY magazine. How does a guy go from being a proud gay man who inspires young LGBT people to an ex-gay fundamentalist? Secondly, as a magazine writer, I sensed that Michael might make for a fascinating profile. I’m interested in both of your intentions for turning the
story into a film.

JAMES: For me, this all started with Gus [Van Sant]. Gus told me to read an article in The New York Times Magazine, and when I did I saw you wrote it. I thought that was cool, because I really liked the time you interviewed me for The Advocate in the poetry room at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

BENOIT: Yeah, our talk that day happened to coincide with the Pride celebration in the city. While everyone was out partying, you
whispered gay poetry to me.

JAMES: Did I?

JUSTIN: Obviously, this was more memorable for Benoit.

JAMES: No, I totally remember the interview! So when Gus told me to read this article, at first I didn’t know what my intentions were. I just knew that Gus — one of my heroes — thought this could make a good movie.

BENOIT: You told me on set last summer that you were unsure at first, but that you got excited because of the innovative way Justin wanted to tell this story.

JAMES: Well it’s such an unusual story, and the trajectory of the character is so strange. But that’s also what made it interesting. If you watch different kinds of subject matter portrayed in movies, many have their own little predictable arcs. Take films about drug use: For a long time, the characters would always need to be punished or have some dark demise. That changed with Drugstore Cowboy and Trainspotting. Suddenly you’re finding humor in a movie about drug addicts. Now on so many TV shows, you can portray drug dealers as fully rounded people — they don’t need to be cut-out villains. I don’t know how much progress we’ve made in movies about sex. Take a movie like Shame, which is an incredibly well-made movie in many ways, but the main character — because he’s supposed to be a sex addict, even though he actually doesn’t seem like that much of a sex addict to me — needed to be kind of punished in the end. I had my qualms about showing his bottom as an addict in this seedy gay bar that’s depicted as kind of like hell, and then getting blown by a guy, as if that’s the lowest a person can go.

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BENOIT: What are some common arcs for LGBT films?

JAMES: There’s the coming out narrative, the fighting for rights narrative, the closeted secret affair narrative, like we saw in Brokeback Mountain. All of these films are
very important, but not every movie needs to be like that. Once those stories are told, we can tell unexpected ones that might challenge us or make us uncomfortable in some ways. What I think is so innovative about I Am Michael is that we’re watching a man go in an unexpected direction, and that direction brings up a lot of questions about identity, and what identity consists of, and how it’s defined, and who gets to decide. And this film tackles faith versus sexuality, and the tensions there, in an important way. But what’s innovative here is not only the trajectory of the main character, but the fact that Justin made this movie about a person’s inner life, about a person’s beliefs and how they shift over time. To track that is also so fresh. You don’t really track a person’s belief step by step in most movies. Usually
it’s enough for a character to have one main need, or one defining obstacle. To have a character where you see all the gradations of his beliefs is really unusual.

BENOIT: James, in the recent issue of FourTwoNine, you wrote that you considered yourself “queer” in your art and that you like “destabilizing engrained ways of thinking” and challenging “hegemonic thinking.” I’m curious about engrained ways of thinking in the LGBT community, and whether this movie challenges any of those. Something that really struck me as I was researching my article about Michael was the visceral reaction that so many gay and lesbian people have to ex-gay people, or to people who question the idea that sexual attraction and identity — especially among gay men — can be fluid.

JAMES: There’s clearly a prejudice against people who say, “I was gay and now I’m straight,” or, “I was gay and that didn’t really fit for me so now I’m something different.” We don’t really want to believe them, and we think they’re in denial.

BENOIT: And many ex-gays clearly are in denial, including leaders in the movement who have had high-profile public slips — or who have returned to their gay identity. And in many ways it’s understandable that gays and lesbians have such a hard time believing that a gay person can go straight. For many of us, before we came out we spent years trying to be straight. We tried, but we couldn’t do it. So here comes a group of people who insist they have done it, and that maybe you should do it, too. Their stories are then used by the Christian right as supposed proof that homosexuality is a “choice.” Which, of course, is then used by some to fight against equal
rights for LGBT people.

JUSTIN: Before I met Michael, part of me really hated him. So much of what he wrote and said was so hateful. But the best films about people who are easy to dislike are the ones where they really try to figure out what happened. In the first meeting I had with James about this film, he said to me, “Wouldn’t it be cool to try to understand what happened to Michael instead of vilifying
him?”

BENOIT: I think Michael really trusted you both when you told him what kind of movie you wanted to make. He had trusted me, too, by letting me visit him and write a profile. But I had no interest in writing a takedown of Michael — in a lot of ways, I wanted to show him more compassion than he was showing gay people when he wrote awful things about us. I also felt like he deserved some compassion, because he seemed lost and in need of help — plus, there’s no denying the good he did for gay youth back when he worked at XY and YGA. Though the film doesn’t condone his behavior, it has compassion and fairness, which I really appreciate. But, certainly, not everyone will.

JUSTIN: I will admit I was surprised at how I’ve had to occasionally defend the movie to some gay critics who think that telling Michael’s story supports the anti-gay right. I don’t think that’s fair. We all have the right to tell our stories, and telling Michael’s story by no means seeks to condone his beliefs. No one involved in the making of this film supports ex-gay conversation therapy or believes that gay people can choose to be straight. Maybe I just have a balanced view on what it means to be gay. I mean, for me, being gay just hasn’t been this huge issue. I just so happen to be attracted to men. So what? Who cares? I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive family and friends, and even in high school I wasn’t tormented for being gay. Then I moved to San Francisco for close to ten years and hung out with both older gay men (those who fought for people like me to be comfortable) and radical queers (those who don’t support gay marriage because it’s “assimilating into heteronormative culture”). I never sided with either group because I feel like…to each their own. We can learn from both schools of thought. So coming from this background, I’ve been surprised at the negative critics, as though we’re pushing some agenda…we’re not. We’re telling one person’s story, and I think there’s a lot to learn and discuss from that. Some people see the ending to the film as Michael being trapped and sad, while others think the film shows that Michael has been “saved.” When we screened the film in Berlin, there was one person at each Q&A who would say, “This film is dangerous.” But then after, I’d have at least 20 gay people come up to me after to say: “That’s bullshit. This film isn’t dangerous. It’s complicated, and fascinating, and makes you think.”

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BENOIT: Were you at all worried that the Christian right might try to use this film as evidence that conversion therapy can work? After all, the film ends with Michael married to a woman and pastor of his own church.

JUSTIN: I don’t want to be so naive to say that the balanced approach we tried for wouldn’t mean that some anti-gay Christians would like the film — there is that possibility. But I still think that you can make a balanced film that has a point of view. This is not a film celebrating conversion therapy, nor does it blindly buy into the
idea that Michael is fully comfortable and happy in his new life.

JAMES: I think the vast majority of people who see the film recognize that.

JUSTIN: Part of the reaction from some LGBT people, I think, is that people are used to the idea that gay films, or films with gay content, are meant to send out this message to the world that gay people are just like everyone else. So many films that we all love are like that, and I think some people came to this film expecting a message at the end. When they didn’t see that, it kind of freaked them out. I think James said it best in Berlin when he said that this isn’t a propaganda film. It’s a film about one man’s interesting and controversial and confusing story.

JAMES: The film reminded me a little bit of the way that Gus [Van Sant] presented the characters in his movie Elephant, where there was so much discussion about what pushed the Columbine kids. Was it because they wore black? Was it bullying, violent movies? He kind of put it all in there and let people make up their own mind. For our movie, we see a lot of the possible things that could make Michael do what he did. But in the end, there are no easy answers. The audience gets to struggle with them.

BENOIT: I want to switch gears and talk about the process of adapting a film from written material. What was it like to have me there with you through this process? Was it helpful, distracting? I feel like we really helped support each other, especially before the film got financing and we weren’t sure if
the movie would even get made.

JUSTIN: I got so much out of talking to everyone who knew Michael, including you. You knew him at a time when I didn’t. And because you’ve written so much, I feel
like you understand the need to restructure things, or leave things out, for the greater good of the story. Part of me sort of expected you to read the script and sort of want to change all of your dialogue. I was fortunate that you understood that your character sometimes had to say something to get a point across that we needed in a particular scene, even if it wasn’t exactly when or how you would have said it.

BENOIT: How important was it to you to have LGBT actors in this film? I remember a picture from Sundance of you, me, James, Zachary Quinto, and Michael Glatze, who came to see the film with his wife. I posted the picture to Facebook and wrote “Three gays, an ex-gay, and a James Franco.”

JAMES: I didn’t hear that last part. Three gays, an ex-gay, and a what?

BENOIT: A James Franco.

JAMES: Oh, I see.

JUSTIN: It was important to have out gay actors, but it’s tricky to talk about. I don’t think it’s the best use of energy to go out of your way to find a gay actor for a part when maybe there’s someone else who is better for the part regardless of their sexual orientation. Even though I know it’s progressive and the right thing to do to have gay actors, it’s almost oddly against some of the things we’re exploring and saying in the film, that someone should be picked based on their sexual identity. It’s really tricky. For me, you try it first and see what happens. We ended up getting Zachary Quinto, and a lot of the smaller roles are played by out gay actors.

BENOIT: It must be great to have an ambassador like Quinto, who can reassure LGBT people who might be a little wary of the subject matter, “It’s okay, guys, you can go see this movie.”

JUSTIN: I feel like it’s the same way with James, because people know that James wouldn’t be involved with an anti-gay movie. Not that James needs anyone to come
to his defense, but I think it’s progressive that James takes on a character because it’s a great character and a great story, where sexuality is secondary. That’s so much of what the film is about. People should be judged on who they are, not who they sleep with.

JAMES: Hey guys, I’m sorry to do this, but I have to go.

BENOIT: Perfect. Now I can ask Justin what it was like to work with you.

JUSTIN: James was great. He was a producer on this film, too, so he was committed to the project and the role. Without his support the film wouldn’t have happened. It was of course a little intimidating at first, because this is my first feature, and James is such a known, phenomenal actor, but he’s very respectful of new directors. A bit of a mentor even. So as soon as the second day I really felt at ease and completely comfortable directing him.

Hair by Tony Chavez, grooming by Jo Strettell.

Move Over Julia, Emma Roberts Might Have Your Smile Beat

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Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

Julia Roberts‘ smile is basically an institution. Sure she’s known for her acting and Oscar wins, but let’s face it, without that signature million dollar grin she’d just be another Hathaway. Can you believe Emma Roberts’ luck, to be swimming in the same gene pool? News flash: You don’t even have to be Julia’s daughter to steal the wide set kisser. Emma Roberts was born into a Hollywood family and the chick’s taking full advantage of it. She’s stolen her aunt’s smile and making an attempt to steal her career! See below the 10 times Emma #SmileSnatched Julia.

1. When Emma smiled all Julia in front of a pair of shoes she designed. 4th Annual VANS Custom Culture, Hosted at THE WHITNEYPhoto: Benjamin Lozovsky/bfanyc.com

2. The time her grin was super close to Jame Franco’s face. US Premiere of GIA COPPOLAS PaloPhoto: Benjamin Lozovsky/bfanyc.com

3. When her smile was the only one posing for a photo. Benjamin-Lozovsky-3Photo: Benjamin Lozovsky/bfanyc.com

4. When she smiled next to her boyfriend that she *allegedly* once beat. CHANEL Dinner for NRDC APhoto: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

5. When Fendi made her smile like Julia. FENDI and ELLE Toast COVETEUR Feature on ELIZABETH STEWART - [EXCLUSIVE CONTENT]Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

6. The red lip emphasizes the Julia smile. billy-Farrell-2Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

7. Valentino obviously makes the Emma’s mouth turn to a Julia. I don’t know about Nicky’s though. VALENTINO SALA BIANCA 945Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.ocm

8. That’s a wide smile. VALENTINO SALA BIANCA 945Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFAnyc.com

9. The time she went Julia at a Persol event but didn’t actually wear any Persols. PERSOL MAGNIFICENT OBSESSIONS: 30 STORIES OF CRAFTSMANSHIP IN FILM CELEBRATES THE FINAL YEAR AT THE MUSEUM OF MOVING IMAGEPhoto: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com

10. And that time she didn’t want to do a Julia smile and went edgy in honor of her role in a Coppola film. US Premiere of GIA COPPOLA's PaloPhoto: Benjamin Lozovsky/bfanyc.com

Emma Roberts, Gia Coppola, and Dev Hynes at James Franco’s ‘Palo Alto’ After Party

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Up & Down hosted the after party for Ms. Gia Coppolas film ‘Palo Alto’.

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Nat Wolff

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Performance by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) who also did a few songs on the soundtrack

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Gia Coppola

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Evan Peters

STYLE SCOOP: André Leon Talley Moves On from Numéro, James Franco Covers It

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Editor-at-large no longer — André Leon Talley has departed from Numéro Russia, only one year after he decamped for the glossy, leaving the same post at Vogue. So what’s next for the fabulously caped? Perhaps putting his ideas and vision into effect at a luxury brand or two… He’ll maintain his position of artistic director at Zappos Couture.

Speaking of Numéro, James Franco covers Numéro Homme‘s latest issue, x2. The actor does his best nature enthusiast impression, gently caressing a budding branch, and in the second, cradling a rabbit. At least he doesn’t take himself too seriously?

James Franco Has Shia LaBeouf’s Back

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With his recent streak of bizarre behavior, including last week’s weepy stint at an L.A. art gallery, Shia LaBeouf has done everything in his power to alienate himself from his straighter-edged Hollywood counterparts. However, James Franco isn’t one of them.

In a New York Times op-ed piece published earlier today, our leading meta-celebrity came to LaBeouf’s defense, writing that the actor’s behavior “could be a sign of many things, from a nervous breakdown to mere youthful recklessness.” Showing genuine concern, he added: “For Mr. LaBeouf’s sake I hope it is nothing serious.”

Franco has long been exploring his own identity as a celebrity and relationship to the media through a dizzying array of self-reflexive visual art projects, so it’s no wonder that he sympathizes with LaBeouf’s creative plight.

Click here to read the rest on Refinery29.

 

Harmony Korine’s ‘A Crack Up At The Race Riots’ May Be Getting Its Film Adaptation

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Last spring, we were thrilled to learn that after more than a decade and a half off the shelf, surrealist the absurd realist filmmaker, writer, photographer, and artist Harmony Korine was releasing his 1998 novel A Crack Up at the Race Riots—”just in time for all those sixteen year old kids who went to see Spring Breakers and walked out of the theater clutching their smart phones, faces permanently frozen in an expression of, ‘What the hell, man, that wasn’t like The Hangover but with chicks?!’

And what you’ll get from A Crack Up is an unhinged and fragmented multimedia portrait told through slices of conversations, frantic drawings, news clippings, hypothetical lists, suicide notes, letters from Tupac, and much more, giving you a glimpse inside the mind of one of our generations most radical and bizarre voices. ‘It’s about a race war and it happens in Florida. And the Jewish people sit in trees. And the black people are run by M.C. Hammer. And the whites are run by Vanilla Ice,’  Korine once said on Letterman and well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out what that all means.”

So now, without any word from Harmony on the project, it appears that the  ATL Twins have told the New York Post that they’ll be working on a film adaptation of the A Crack Up alongside, none other than, James Franco. “[Franco’s] going to be like a KKK leader and we’re gonna be his goons. It’s really strange, in a good way,” they’ve said. And let’s be real, this is little to go on, but if Korine is indeed transforming his bizarrely brilliant work of early hyperreal fiction into a film, there’s no doubt Franco would be at the center of it. Speaking the book, Korine told me:

It’s hard for me to remember exactly how it happened because it was a long time ago and I was tripping out really, and some of the pages are even just like hallucinating or something. I just had all these ideas and I was seeing all these connections in things—micro-movements and  ideas about authorship and anti-authorship. So I was trying to write a novel that existed in the margins that had as much to do with what was undefined as what was written, that had as much to do with the whiteness around the ink, you know? And so I’d walk around and hear someone like on a bus talking to themselves or ranting to themselves or hitting themselves in the head or singing some type of opera or something and I would just write what I saw. And then I would imagine like, what if Woody Harrelson said that? Or what if that conversation those two gay vagrants on the corner were having was between John Ford and his wife? And I liked how it would transform it and turn it into something so hilarious that so much of it was about context and the shifting humor and the re-contextualizing of things. I love those Sherrie Levine photos of all the Walker Evans pictures that she re-photgraphs and I remember wanting to do that but in words, in a way that was not just an experiment or just an exercise in craft but had a heartbeat and told a story. So I did that and the process was more abstract and I started writing a lot of that stuff in my early 20s and it took place over a couple years. I would just write notes and ideas and fragments on paper and crayon on the side of my wall. And then after I felt like there was enough of that stuff around me, I tried to make sense of it and re-collage it and re-contexualize it and give it some narrative in its own way to tell a story.

So in the meantime, if you haven’t read A Crack Up At the Race Riots, I’d recommend you do that immediately, and of course check out what Korine had to tell us about it HERE.

Nightlife That Makes You Feel Like A Good Person

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On Wednesday night we dressed like Eskimos and attended a private screening of director Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman at the Bryant Park Hotel’s screening room. Club legend Danny A. Abeckaser invited me and mine to the show. Danny plays a pivotal role in the flick as the best friend to leading man Michael Shannon. Michael plays hit man Richard Leonard "The Iceman" Kuklinski who had somewhere between 100 and 250 successful whacks before they caught him in 1986. The film is filled with familiar faces, from Ray Liotta, James Franco, Chris Evans, Stephen Dorff, David Schwimmer, and Winona Ryder. Winona ruled. Danny A. had his usual crowd of models and the folks that hang with them, and a good time was had by all. It’s good to see one of the good guys in the club world breaking out and living his dreams on the silver screen. The movie is chilling and captivating. It will come out in a couple of months.

Advance tickets are on sale for The 4th Annual Two Boots Mardi Gras Ball Benefit for The Lower East Side Girls Club happening at Le Poisson Rouge on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 12th. They have Cyndi Lauper and ?UESTLOVE doing the King and Queen of the Mardi Gras thing, and performances by Pitchblack, EMEFE, The Ambitious Orchestra and powerhouse DJs Roxy Cottontail and Beverly Bond. All sorts of other acts and stilt walkers and body painters will be part of this for such a great cause. The Lower East Side Girls Club helps young girls climb out of bad places, giving them guidance and support as they try to make their dreams come true. My pal Jenny Dembrow is a honcho over there working tirelessly to make it work. Tickets are $25 or $125 for the dinner, booze, and reserved seating. Get them here.

Just a word to all: it’s real cold out there, even for those who can afford warm clothes and shelter from the elements. Be aware that around us there are people who don’t have the ability to get by on their own. If you have stuff you’re not wearing that can help another, this is a good time to make room in your closet. Donate your goods to one of Goodwill’s NYC locations here and feel like a good person instantly.

James Franco And Seth Rogen Spoof Kimye’s ‘Bound 2’ Video

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Uh Huh, Honey.

It was only a matter of time before Kanye West’s bizarre video for “Bound 2” caught the eye of American pop culture’s other favorite overachiever. James Franco wore his finest plaid-on-plaid look for his shot-for-shot remake of the clip, and naturally, Seth Rogen is the Kim to his Kanye. Rogen does a pretty good job of mimicking the Kardashian smolder, but he also brings a lot of back hair to the table.

Watch the two longtime collaborators get cozy on a motorcycle below:

James Franco is probably working on about 12 different art installations while also getting a degree from the Sorbonne right now.

Here’s the trailer for the upcoming film Palo Alto: