“Unfinished” features two films, Endless Idaho and My Own Private River, which are collaborations between Van Sant and Franco. After casting Franco in the award-winning film Milk (2008), Van Sant showed him the dailies and other footage that he had shot many years before for My Own Private Idaho (1991), which starred River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers in Portland, Oregon. Much of this material did not make it into the final cut, and so Franco decided to fashion it into two new films, riffing off the original title.
For Endless Idaho, Franco edited outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate takes, and behind-the-scenes footage from My Own Private Idaho into a 12-hour film. Endless Idaho provides an unprecedented look into the workaday process of making a movie, from location scouting to repeated takes. Like many of the films of Andy Warhol, a major influence on Van Sant’s own auteur style, it is a provocative, often riveting blend of documentary and fiction. Interviews with actual hustlers who played secondary characters in My Own Private Idaho are intercut with shots of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves improvising and refining their performances under the direction of Van Sant and his crew. The music for Endless Idaho was composed by Luke Paquin and Tim O’Keefe. By contrast, My Own Private River consists largely of shots of Phoenix ‘s character, Mike, woven into a compelling portrait. Franco describes being mesmerized by Phoenix ‘s “uninhibited acting” in this unreleased footage, and his edit captures the gifted actor at his most emotionally expressive and physically dynamic. The score is by Michael Stipe, who is an art school drop-out.
The films are accompanied by eight works on paper by Van Sant, which translate his acute directorial sensitivity with regard to human nuance and gesture in film into the immediacy of watercolor. With the same subtle powers of observation that distinguish his filmmaking, he has created portraits of young men who recall characters in My Own Private Idaho — defiant, circumspect, and devil-may-care insouciants. Working from photographic images found on the internet, Van Sant has created vivid impressions of his incidental icons, employing brushwork that alternates broad, limpid strokes with an assiduous attention to detail and a varied palette of both washed out tones and dense, electric hues.
Gus Van Sant was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1952. He obtained a BA from the Rhode Island School of Design where he studied painting and cinema. Best known for his work as an award-winning director, he has also exhibited his art at galleries and public institutions including Jamison-Thomas Gallery, Portland, PDX Gallery, Portland, and The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.
James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California in 1978. He obtained a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. He is currently enrolled in the Digital Media Department at the Rhode Island School of Design. An acclaimed actor, Franco is also actively engaged in performance art, painting, video, and installation art. He has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Clocktower Gallery, New York, and Peres Projects, Berlin.