The Broken Tower: the poetics of indecency

A fragmented narrative based on homosexual and romantic poet Hart Crane mixed with a personal interpretation of Hart’s poetry, Hollywood actor and NYU student James Franco manages to test his audience in the similar way that Crane tested his. Although some might read this film as an attempt by Mr. Franco’s literate interest to achieve an in-depth character and poetic study, one should never underestimate the cinematic value of The Broken Tower as a film. Shot in stark and striking black and white, the sometimes strained hand-held, cinema vérité style calls too much attention to itself yet it creates an interesting contrast between the old-fashioned 1920s look and the clearly contemporary cinematic technique. Mr. Franco developed the film as his thesis project for NYU. One can’t help but to view it as what it is: a student film, instead of viewing it of what it is intended to be: an art-house biopic. The film is fragmented in voyages and it recounts the story of the American poet’s life from his departure from home at the age of 17 when he first attempted suicide to his successful one in his early thirties. Mr. Franco, who writes poems himself, has called the modest production a “success”, he described how his teachers where not confident of the screenplay’s biographical emphasis but Mr. Franco insisted that all the biographical elements are explained in the film: “his relationship with his parents, his romantic life, his work…etc”. Not just an editor, screenwriter and director, Mr. Franco also portrays Hart Crane in an obviously passionate yet careful performance that manages to centralize itself throughout the plot. As opposed to Franco’s previous film (also about a homosexual maverick poet) “Howl”, one can’t get pass the fact that it’s James Franco playing Hart Crane instead of witnessing Hart Crane in the flesh. It is unquestioned Mr. Franco’s passion and fascination for Crane. The film can both provoke and soothe a loyal cinephile audience. I believe it’s worth a watch. It is currently playing in the IFC Center.




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