DVD Review - The Broken Tower

The Broken Tower was James Franco's thesis project at NYU and in many ways it feels like a student film, and this is not a compliment. The writing of it is barely there. The cinematography is off and wrong and I don't think it bodes well for Franco as a director. Frankly, it's just boring, extremely boring, pretentious as Hell, and really provides us little to nothing about its subject.

It's supposed to be somewhat of a biopic on Hart Crane, the gay poet who committed suicide back in the 1930s. The film is divided into 12 segments or 12 "Voyages." It's shot entirely in black-and-white or it was perhaps converted to black-and-white in post, aside for one scene 70 minutes into it that's in color, though I have no clue why. The signficance of this one color shot seems to be nil.

The majority of the movie is a handheld camera following Crane as he walks around from here to there. Other times, it's just long close-ups of Crane's head, which means it's just long close-ups of James Franco's head, as if we didn't get enough of that in 127 Hours. Yet, when Crane is walking, the framing of the shot is such that you really see nothing else, so I don't get his cinematography plan here.

Dialogue is few and far between. There is no narration. It's mostly Franco alone on screen for nearly two hours. His character goes from New York City to Paris to Mexico, but, except for a few shots in Paris, we don't really feel the environments at all. This movie comes in the wake of Franco starring in the film Howl, which was another film about a gay poet. That movie did some bold and experimental things like adapting a poem. It seems as if Franco was trying to rip off some of the things there but doesn't succeed.

Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road and Take Shelter) appears as a sailor and Crane's short-lived boyfriend. Shannon is a terrific actor, but he is so under-utilized here as to almost be a waste of his time. James Franco's brother, Dave Franco, is better utilized. Dave Franco plays the younger version of Crane at the beginning of the film. There is an interesting scene between Crane and his mother that intrigued me, but it's all over by 10 minutes and we're thrust into the slog that is the rest of the movie.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


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