The Broken Tower DVD Review
The Broken Tower
is the latest project from James Franco (Your
Highness). The film is based upon the autobiography of the poet
as written by Paul Mariani. Crane was considered to be one of America's
influential poets following his suicide. The story that is told is one
revolved around Crane's struggles to survive as a poet determined to
prose, while also emphasizing his homosexuality and self-destructive
James Franco wrote the screenplay, directs, and stars.
Every once in a while a popular actor or actress
step outside of their comfort zone and step into the director's chair
production. This practice seems to occur somewhat frequently and it can
though the performer is mainly attempting to test their creative
muscles to see
what sticks on the proverbial wall. In fact, it's such a common
that numerous high-profile actors wind up making a lone film as the
head-honcho. Some actors even manage to make great things happen and go
fruitful careers as the men and women behind the camera on many
might think it describes James Franco. To some degree, that actually
does seem to
Franco is a busy man. He has three MFA's, a BFA,
and he acts
a lot too. You might have seen some of his films: Spider-Man,
and 127 Hours are just a few from his
long filmography. He directs more often than most typical actors,
professors do (yeah, he even teaches classes too). It might be
imagine where he gets all of his energy from. Caffeinated beverages and
sleep? I've heard that Franco feels as though he's wasting good time
be spent doing something else in hours contained by sleep. Franco
himself on all cylinders.
There actually is a point to discussing Franco's
lifestyle while writing about his latest effort, The
Broken Tower. The film feels amateurish despite the fact that
Franco has so many directing credits under his belt by now. I was
his style. The camera-work was shoddy (unsurprising given what must
low quality handheld cameras). I would have hoped for more from a
actor worthy of miles of admiration. This film is messy: the
often chaotic in style with poor visual techniques and the editing is
weak. When one scene feels ready to end it often extends much further
and many scenes feel unfinished and end in a somewhat abrupt fashion.
The acting isn't uniformly memorable or
impressive. Not even
Michael Shannon (The Runaways) is
that memorable in the role of Crane's lover. Shannon has hardly any
with sparse dialogue, and with a seemingly uninteresting story because
get a feeling of knowing him much at all. It doesn't surprise me that
is never allowed to drift from Crane at any given moment.
Watching The Broken
Tower mostly feels like "the James Franco show" with a small group
characters that never get an opportunity to feel like actual people at
Instead, these supporting roles simply fulfill their role in relation
telling the story of Hart Crane. The only actor to have a real chance
is James Franco, and while his performance feels honest it doesn't make
Franco's weak skills behind the camera, and as a poor instructor to his
actors, which does more to detract from telling Crane's story than it
help share it.
Even the opening of the film can't manage to grab
a hold of
you. The direction feels too lackadaisical and uninspired. Franco's
and efforts are driven from passion, and yet he doesn't seem able to
any solid supporting performances and the camerawork feels like
from a first-timer. There are some notable moments but it doesn't add
up to a
convincing and satisfactory whole: it's an unfortunate drawback that
the film from feeling like a solid bio-pic, character analysis, and
Franco vehicle. Even so, Franco does a solid job at demonstrating some
of internal conflict for Crane and that helps to keep the proceedings
The black-and-white photography feels appropriate
material. That is one positive directional decision that worked well. Having it be in black and white helps it to
capture the solemnity of the character and the harsh reality of a man
self-hurting torment and self-indulgence in his mental interior-room.
the pain of Crane even when the filmmaking itself seems atrocious.
The Broken Tower
was filmed entirely in a traditional "standard" art-house style: low on
and high on experimentation. Regardless of the outcome, Franco has
curious passion project worth experiencing at least once - if only to
yourself what happens when an inspired performance becomes undersold by
filmmaking. James Franco might be an awesome workaholic and all around
(which I'm positive he is), but he
could use some fine tuning as a director and screenwriter - and
Considering how many films he has now completed Broken
Tower comes across as a decidedly uneven outing that never
manages to grasp Hart Crane as if in full bloom.
Broken Tower is
presented on DVD
with a 1.78:1 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer which preserves the
original theatrical aspect ratio. The black and white photography by
cinematographer Christina Voras is pleasant and retains a good
classicism quality that befits the photographic work. The film appears
been shot using digital video but there are scenes that feel rather
appropriately stylized. The transfer's not going to surprise anyone by
showstopper butt it has decent depth, clarity, and remains free from
compression problems. It's the best one can expect to see for this
production on DVD.
Dolby Digital audio isn't overtly impressive
and doesn't contrast quite as nicely when compared to the video
There simply isn't much going on with this surround sound mix. The best
going for it is the added dimension given by the impressive original
by Neil Benezra. It added an element of intrigue, darkness, and remorse
atmosphere of the film. It was one of the best aspects. Subtitles are
in Spanish and English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
Digital 2.0 Stereo audio is also provided.
release actually has a few interesting
inclusions for fans of the film to dig into. Perhaps the biggest
Commentary with Director James
Franco, Producer Vince Jolivette, and Cinematographer Christina Voros.
featurette entitled Exploring Hart Crane (48:20)
features James Franco interviewing three scholars/poets regarding the
of The Broken Tower's subject Hart
Crane. He uses the Skype technology to conduct these interviews (which
been edited together). The piece also contains some film clips from The Broken Tower as edited with dialogue
from the three contributing members and Franco.
Theatrical Trailer has also been included.
Broken Tower is an
piece by James Franco. The performance is strong and the concept is
fascinating. It's unfortunate that the film doesn't feel like more of a
and one worth investing some quality time into. Hart Crane is a worthy
of a character study but James Franco's passion project doesn't deliver
experience. It's worth watching at least once to see the noble
with a few worthwhile moments, regardless.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.