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The Broken Tower

January 15, 2012

Hart Crane: We all know life is a dance of death, but we can still make something of it.

The Broken Tower had a noble premise surrounding the short life of American poet Hart Crane, who is played by James Franco. Not only that, the film was written and directed by Franco, and while that may sound worthy on paper, The Broken Tower fails to work on nearly any level. There are a handful of risqué scenes that furthermore adds to the longstanding rumor of James Franco’s sexual orientation, and he delivers a fifteen minute long poetry monologue. Yawn. If that is not terrible enough, the film is shot as a “docudrama” and features some of the most scattershot editing ever to be featured on film; all presented in black and white. The Broken Tower is the first 2012-released film I have seen, and will most likely make it on my worst of the year list.

The film starts off with Dave Franco portraying young, self-destructive poet Harold Crane, who attempts a suicide at a very young age. His attempt turned out unsuccessful, resulting in a career of poetry. Cut to the present day; James Franco is the now an all grown-up Harold Crane, who goes by Hart now. Hart is an openly gay man in a relationship with his partner Emile (Michael Shannon). Hart’s unabridged love for poetry has him preaching it in countless locations including Cuba, New York, and Paris where he writes, presents, and basks in the art of poetry. This film is a look at the life, dreams, and experiences Hart Crane had prior to his untimely suicide.

James Franco is a huge poetry enthusiast, in fact, his everlasting love for the art of poetry led him to becoming a professor at NYU, teaching students how to adapt poetry into short films. If only Franco took his own advice and made a short film; The Broken Tower runs nearly two hours and is pure rubbish. I was intrigued by the film early on and would have been fine with it, were it not so poorly made. The only notable aspect of the cinematography featured here was a five-minute scene where Franco’s character walks back and forth (honestly, nothing happens) and we catch a few glimpses of the beautiful landscape of Paris, but that is about it. 

So much of The Broken Tower comes and goes without any explanation. Why does Hart have such an odd relationship with his mother (played by Franco’s real life mom), and what was the point of eating at a restraunt knowing you will end up in a brawl due to budgetary concerns? These are just some of the thoughts that go through my mind while critiquing this inconsolable mess. Why did Michael Shannon’s character disappear without any sort of explantation halfway into the film? Had Michael Shannon stayed on for a while longer, he could have made the film more bearable for audiences everywhere! 

While those issues did bug me quite a bit, my major question is this: who thought the script was at all acceptable? Franco helmed the script itself, which is an incoherent mess. Not only did the grueling fifteen-minute poetry reading part bother me, but it was the scene prior to that, which has Franco making this voice to himself. The poetry scene should have been cut by at least twelve minutes, and the weird voice scene should have been cut out from the start. It’s not that there was anything particularly detrimental with Franco’s performance, it is just that I found it hard to configure if he was trying to hard or not trying enough. Either way, it was unpleasant in the long run. The Broken Tower is the very definition of the term “snooze fest”, it is incoherent, unnecessary, and long. I’ll save you some time and recommend you go see The Artist for a good black and white film.

The Broken Tower: 2 out of 5

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Samuel permalink
    January 19, 2012 7:08 pm

    Reblogged this on tapping the source.

  2. February 8, 2012 10:55 am

    70 years ago in 1937 the British Battalion of the International Brigade fought in its first battle at Jarama against Franco s fascists.

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