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James Franco’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ Gets Critics’ Nod

“James Franco has pulled off a devilishly difficult literary adaptation with this faithful yet cinematically vibrant version of William Faulkner’s novel,” applauds The Hollywood Reporter, while Time Magazine praises, “The effort is honorable, a mixture of mannerism and earned emotion.”

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These are just a couple of rave reviews among the many that Millenium Films’ poignant drama, “As I Lay Dying” has received from U.S. Critics, following its successful premiere last May at the Cannes Film Festival under the Un Certain Regard section.

Directed by James Franco from a screenplay by Franco and Matt Rager, “As I Lay Dying” is adapted from the 1930 classic American novel by William Faulkner. The story chronicles the Bundren family as they traverse the Mississippi countryside to bring the body of their deceased mother Addie to her hometown for burial.

Addie’s husband Anse and their children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and the youngest one Vardaman, leave the farm on a carriage with her coffin – each affected by Addie’s death in a profound and different way. Their road trip to Jefferson, some forty miles away, is disrupted by every antagonistic force of nature or man: flooded rivers, injury and accident, a raging barn fire, and not least of all — each individual character’s personal turmoil and inner commotion which at times threaten the fabric of the family more than any outside force.

In his review of “As I Lay Dying” in The New York Times, highly regarded film critic A.O. Scott writes, “[The film] is certainly ambitious, but it is also admirably modest. The script tries to pare Faulkner’s multivoiced narrative to a manageable essence…[conveying] some of Faulkner’s themes, and the details of the Bundren family story, with clarity and concision. All the children pay a terrible price as they obey their father and honor their mother, and their composite story is a catalog of material and moral losses.

Scott adds,“Mr. Franco’s tour, as actor and filmmaker, through some of the thickets of 20th-century American history — he has recently tackled Allen Ginsberg, Hart Crane and Cormac McCarthy in addition to Faulkner — has been worth following, not least because he makes his enthusiasm for these writers contagious.”

Meanwhile, influential reviewer Mary Corliss of Time Magazine, writes “[In] many respects this is a faithful and intelligent synopsis of the book. The cast shows similar fidelity to the inflections of these backwoods folk; at times the accents were so thick that the English-speaking audience at Cannes had to consult the French subtitles for clarity. It is an impressive ensemble…But Franco is stronger directing his fellow actors, achieving poignancy in small moments.”

“[This] is by a long way the best of the eight features the mind-bogglingly prolific actor-director-writer has made and is, as such, a big surprise,” declares famed critic Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter. It’s a strange and loaded tale, one that never had the makings of a popular film for a wide public but which, for connoisseurs of literary adaptations and cinematic challenges, poses significant interest.
Franco’s storytelling is confident and sure-handed, both with the camera, which roams around to capture privileged moments, and the actors, who all seem to have seized their characters with their entire beings.”

Finally, Catherine Bray of Time Out, assures, “Faulkner fans need not be up in arms about this version of his Nobel Prize winner. More experienced directors than Franco have come to stickier ends adapting ‘unfilmable’ classics…but it’s satisfying to see the novel’s set pieces come alive in often visceral sequences.”

“As I Lay Dying” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide starting Nov. 27.

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