Monday, April 16, 2012

The Broken Tower (2011)

Written and Directed by: James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Michael Shannon

The Broken Tower is a black and white biopic about early 20th Century American Poet, Hart Crane (1899-1932.) Written and directed by James Franco, (who plays Crane) this film takes a look at a self-destructive, but brilliantly talented man who committed suicide at the age of 32 by jumping off a boat into the Gulf of Mexico. The narrative of the story follows the life and travels of Crane from age 17, when he changed his name from Harold to "Hart" and moved from Cleveland to New York, Paris, Cuba and back to New York. The story details how Crane struggled to make a living through temporary jobs, even moving back to Cleveland at one point to work for his father, who happened to be a successful candy manufacturer (a side note: Crane's father, Clarence invented the candy "Life Savers", but sold the patent before it became popular.)  Throughout the 1920's, the openly-gay Crane had some of his poems such as "White Buildings", "Voyages", and "The Bridge" published by well respected literary magazines. We learn through the film that Crane's poems were (and still are) difficult to understand, but at the same time, he was way ahead of his time and people in the literary world took notice of his work.   One of Crane's last published poems "The Broken Tower" emerged in 1931 after his only known hetero-sexual affair with a woman named Peggy Cowley.  Hart Crane is now viewed as a literary genius some forty years after his death.

I have to say that no other actor has the courage or the talent to play the character of an openly gay poet like James Franco. Just like he did with the character of Alan Ginsberg in Howl (2010), Franco opens the door to the world of an eccentric and gifted, yet incredibly self destructive person.  James' younger brother, Dave Franco, who plays the teen-aged "Harold" has proven that he is just as eccentric and talented as his older brother.  Michael Shanon, who plays the part of Hart's lover, Emile is well cast, and a natural fit for his role. The sex scenes in the movie are in fact explicit; however, the passion that is shown is felt by the viewer, making them non-offensive.  The black-and-white cinematography of the film really captures the time period for which the film takes place. It is pretty well known that Franco is a hard-working actor who is willing to take risks.  Just like the characters which he likes to portray, it's no mystery that that Franco is an eccentric person himself; but, that is what makes him stand out from the rest of the Hollywood crowd.

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