James Franco has been the muse of Gucci men's wear since 2008. But unlike typical brand ambassadors, he's proven himself more than just a pretty face.
Before walking the red carpet for Child of God last night, the artistic polymath stopped by the Thompson Hotel to introduce The Director, a film he produced that was screened outside the TIFF schedule. Under the direction of documentary filmmaker Christina Voros, the full-length feature follows Frida Giannini, who has been with the company since 2002 (and was promoted to creative director of the company four years later). Three acts – past, future and present – zoom in on her role as a detail-oriented decision maker par excellence.
Before the screening, Franco explained in a short interview that the idea to shadow Giannini came on the heels of two documentaries he had already shot with Voros through his Rabbit Bandini production company. One explored the world Saturday Night Live; the other, a bondage porn website called Kink.com. Not exactly the high-fashion material.
"It kind of made sense to do a third piece that was a look into the creative process behind the fashion industry. It also made sense that while Gucci was supporting all these other projects, why don't we make it a project about Gucci," he said. "I'm interested in all kind of creative enterprises."
But even as Franco (who also appears at TIFF in Third Person and Palo Alto, which is based on his book of short stories) grew friendlier with the Gucci team, he noted that they were not necessarily prepared for Voros filming their goings on – which might be a visit from Anna Wintour one day and a model casting the next.
"They are a fashion brand. And if anything, they are used to controlling their image," he said. "So it was a gradual process – and this happens with a lot of documentaries – where your subject needs to get used to you and get used to the camera there. Christina is the absolute best person I know for following subjects, disappearing into the walls, making people feel comfortable and getting great material. But at the beginning, as much as I reassured them this is not a documentary where we're trying to expose the dark side of Gucci; it's really to explore the creative process and we're not going to put anything in there that is bad."
As it turns out, The Director manages to shed light on the sort of technical details not common in other fashion docs. While the glamour is inescapable – it's at the heart of the brand – Voros allows us to understand the brand image is the sum total of minutiae decided with near-obsessive compulsive intensity.
Voros, who was not at the screening, spent 16 months shooting the film and apparently, she gradually transitioned to wearing all black as a way of blending in. Or maybe Giannini's influence had simply worn off on her.