The Broken Tower (film)

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The Broken Tower
Film poster for The Broken Tower
Directed byJames Franco
Screenplay byJames Franco
Based onThe Broken Tower
by Paul L. Mariani
Produced byJames Franco
Caroline Aragon
Vince Jolivette
Miles Levy
Christina Voros
StarringJames Franco
Michael Shannon
CinematographyChristina Voros
Edited byJames Franco
Music byNeil Benezra
Distributed byFocus World[1]
Release dates
  • June 20, 2011 (2011-06-20) (LAFF)
  • April 27, 2012 (2012-04-27) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

The Broken Tower is a 2011 American biographical drama film directed, written, produced, edited by and starring James Franco. The film was made by Franco as his master's thesis for his MFA in filmmaking from New York University. The film is about American poet Hart Crane. Franco appears in the starring role as Crane along with Michael Shannon as one of Crane's lovers. The Broken Tower made its world premiere in April 2011 at Boston College. It was shown at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) in June 2011. It was released to theatres in the United States on April 27, 2012,[2] and released on DVD in 2012. The film includes the recitation by Franco of several of Crane's poems both as voice-over additions to the film, as well as actual readings of several poems rendered by Franco as portraying Crane himself.


The film begins with a plot structure based on a progression of chapters titled as "Voyages" in Hart Crane's life loosely related to Crane's lyric poem of the same name. In the first "Voyages", a depiction is made of an early attempt by Crane to take his own life. Among the other opening "Voyages", the audience is also shown depictions of several same-sex relationships which Crane had throughout his lifetime in semi-graphic portrayal consistent with the film's rating. Crane's life is shown progressing through the various "Voyages" in the film, largely portrayed through his troubled relationship with the father, his close relationship to his mother, and his frustrating relationship to his job in advertising as a copyrighter in New York City. In the final "Voyages," Crane's difficult relationship to alcoholism is depicted, ending with his final "Voyage" on a small cruise ship at sea in the vicinity of Mexico where Crane ended his life by his own hand.



Franco thought of the idea for the film while reading Paul Mariani’s biography of Crane, also entitled The Broken Tower after the name of one of Crane's poems, on the set of his 2002 movie Sonny. Franco had publicly stated that the poet's tragic life story attracted him to the material.[3] The DVD release of the film includes a supplement which has an interview of Mariani with Franco.


The film's world premiere was held at Boston College on April 15, 2011. Franco chose to debut it at that venue since Mariani is a professor of English there.[4] The Broken Tower was screened at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival on June 20.[3] It was among more than 200 feature films, short projects, and music videos from more than 30 countries to be selected.[5] It was released on DVD March 2012.[6]

Critical response[edit]

Critical response to the film was largely negative.[7] In one critical review, Elizabeth Weitzman from the New York Daily News writes, "It’s not an insult to say the black-and-white film looks like a grad-school thesis project, since that’s what it is (for Franco’s MFA at NYU). . .But that does mean you should be prepared for some high-minded pretension, lots of self-consciously arty shots, and long stretches of apparently profound nothingness."[8] Although Weitzman is critical of Franco's writing and directing, she does compliment the film's cinematography and Franco's acting. In a review in The Village Voice, Melissa Anderson wrote that the film was "sincere, amateurish, and misguided" and that it was full of literary biopic cliches.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "AFI-Catalog". Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Broken Tower". TWELV. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Pfefferman, Naomi (June 15, 2011). "James Franco Q & A: His Film on Tortured Gay Poet Hart Crane". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  4. ^ Monaghan, Peter (April 11, 2011). "James Franco Brings Hart Crane to the Big Screen". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Amy (May 11, 2011). "2011 Los Angeles Film Festival will welcome stars Guillermo del Toro, James Franco, Ryan Reynolds and more". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  6. ^ "Broken Tower". Amazon. March 27, 2012.
  7. ^ "Broken Tower - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. October 2, 2011. Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ "James Franco gets arty with 'The Broken Tower'". New York Daily News. July 3, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  9. ^ Anderson, Melissa (April 25, 2012). "The Broken Tower". Village Voice. Retrieved October 19, 2016.

External links[edit]