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James Franco, Michael Shannon, Stacey Miller, Dave Franco, Vince Jolivette ... see more see more... , Betsy Franco

From Focus World and director/star James Franco, a film about visionary poet Hart Crane, who lived a life of beauty, passion, and tragedy. Hart Crane was one of the most important voices in American p... read more read more...oetry - but lived a life with as much turmoil as passion. From his early life to his journeys from New York, Cuba, and Paris, Crane's story and that of the loves that defined him is told with imaginative empathy, and with a no holds barred performance - in a film as introspective, rebellious, heartbreaking, and honest as Crane himself. -- (C) Focus World

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19% liked it

2,991 ratings


20% liked it

10 critics

Unrated, 1 hr. 40 min.

Directed by: James Franco

Release Date: April 27, 2012

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DVD Release Date: March 27, 2012

Stats: 29 reviews


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Flixster Reviews (29)

  • November 12, 2012
    This look at the brief life of troubled American poet Hart Crane is a real one-man show as its star James Franco also serves as writer, director, producer, and editor. While this isn't his debut as a director, it is probably his most well-known effort behind the camera.

    It's al... read moreso a colossal failure, too. It's not so much of a biopic, or even a proper film as it is pretentious, self-indulgent wankery. I'm okay with artsy, experimental indie works, but Franco tries way too hard here. It's rambling, overlong, boring, and really doesn't add up to anything.

    I had read a fair amount of Crane's poems and letters before seeing this, and, while I didn't hate his work, I can't say I'm a fan. That's not to say that some of his stuff isn't enjoyable, I just think he's overrated, despite his story being worthy of cinematic treatment...but not like this.

    The film has pointless title cards that serve only to spell everything out, and it's divided up into several episodic vignettes that covers periods of Crane's life, but really just sort of exist instead of actually providing a narrative about the man or his work.

    It's obvious that Franco loves Crane, and this was a real passion project for him, but I have no idea what he was thinking when making this. It's sloppy, meandering, slow, jumbled, and serves as a good example of how not every film that's a low budget artsy indie is always better than the big budget mainstream studio affairs.
  • August 5, 2012
    I'm always amazed when films made about intellectuals have little to no intellectual content. The starkness of that contrast startles and befuddles me every time. It also stuns me how often this happens. The latest example is James Franco's "The Broken Tower," which focuses on av... read moreant-garde American poet Hart Crane, who killed himself in 1932 at the age of 32.

    Franco clearly has authentic interest in Crane, and he appears to be getting a serious education at a range of institutions, including Yale University, where as far as I know he is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature. But in this film project, only a shallow level of interest shows. Franco is drawn to Crane and his poetry, but here he doesn't have anything significant to say about Crane or his poetry.

    There are superficial depictions of Crane struggling to get money so he could devote himself to writing poetry and many long passages where Franco reads Crane's poetry. The recitation is not particularly engaging, by the way. And since all the poetry has already been published, I'm not sure what the benefit is of having so much of it read to us. We already can read the poetry, Mr. Franco. We're not watching your movie to find Crane's poetry, since we can already get that in a library. Film as audiobook -- not good.

    There are bold depictions of Crane's sex life here, including one particularly daring scene with Franco portraying Crane performing oral sex on a man. Let's just say that it's cinema verite. Franco goes down on it with real gusto and in close-up. Not many straight-male movie stars would do this. Franco appears to have forceful opposition to homophobia, which is great to see. But this is more a moral gesture than an artistic one. "The Broken Tower" may have moral force, but it has almost nothing artistic to say.

    The film is also rather flat-footed. Franco demonstrates really no directorial talent here. Almost every scene feels awkward and phony. Franco's acting is also skin-deep here. A noble effort, but "The Broken Tower" is ultimately a big disappointment.
  • February 20, 2012
    The Truth is Indecent.


    This is James Franco's failed attempt in directing, producing and acting.

    In this slow endless film, Franco tries to highlight the melancholic life of American poet Hart Crane.

    Franco tries his best to make an art film, but ends up ... read morecreating a piece of garbage . His attempt to use black and white, handheld cameras, and a slow picture is futile. He ends up creating a horrible film that instead of making you admire Hart Crane, you end up despising him. Avoid this movie

    Hart Crane : "From pit to crucifix
  • January 20, 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 wh... read moreile 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.

    Read the whole review at
  • October 9, 2013
    With the pretentious drivel of a biopic of poet Hart Crane(James Franco), "The Broken Tower," Franco, as writer and director, confirms what everybody who hates poetry thinks they know and why poetry slams were invented. And somehow also manages to make self-destructive behavior ... read morejust as dull. Specifically, we find out that Crane had parents(Richard Abate & Betsy Franco). Otherwise, it may just seem like James Franco is about the only actor in the movie which is either a sign of an extremely low budget or extreme narcissism.(Admittedly, Michael Shannon is around here somewhere but I'm also not sure who he was supposed to be.) As I am reminded that no man is an island, I was also wondering who might have influenced Crane's poetry, not just that his advertising job made him miserable. But Franco does get points for the blow job.

Critic Reviews

Elizabeth Weitzman
April 28, 2012
Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News

You should be prepared for some high-minded pretension, lots of self-consciously arty shots, and long stretches of apparently profound nothingness. Full Review

Farran Smith Nehme
April 27, 2012
Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post

The technique - and this movie is about nothing if not technique, both Crane's and the filmmaker's - isn't particularly successful. Full Review

Stephen Holden
April 26, 2012
Stephen Holden, New York Times

Despite earnest attempts, Mr. Franco can't bring the fervency of Crane's poetry to life in the extensive recitations. Full Review

Owen Gleiberman
April 25, 2012
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

It's a pensive and heartfelt movie, assuming that you let yourself get caught up in its moody-minimalist, more-visual-than-verbal style. Full Review

Joshua Rothkopf
April 24, 2012
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

The Broken Tower feels unique as a young man's tribute to an adventuresome, doomed soul. Full Review

Melissa Anderson
April 24, 2012
Melissa Anderson, Village Voice

Sincere, amateurish, and misguided. Full Review

John Anderson
February 23, 2012
John Anderson, Variety

Though clearly besotted with Crane's poetry, the writer-director-star never achieves full immersion in the man's life or work; the sense is of people playing a very cerebral game of dress-up. Full Review

Todd McCarthy
June 23, 2011
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Not a heady experience like many of the semi-experimental 1960s films he emulates. Instead, it's mostly a tedious chore, much akin to listening poetry you don't much like. Full Review

David Noh
April 27, 2012
David Noh, Film Journal International

Ah, James Franco: actor, director, writer, conceptual artist, soap opera star! What can't he do? Answer: Make a cohesive, coherent film about a great American writer. Full Review

Matthew Connolly
April 24, 2012
Matthew Connolly, Slant Magazine

James Franco's film is tonally flat and a little too impressed with its own elliptical construction. Full Review

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