Having brilliantly portrayed Allen Ginsberg in the acclaimed drama Howl, the prolific and erudite James Franco takes on another gay poet in The Broken Tower (new on Video On Demand and digital from Focus Features).
Written, directed and edited by Franco, this intimate experimental portrait of the legendary early 20th century gay poet Hart Crane takes a poetic approach to its subject and features a tour de force performance by Franco as the young, doomed writer (Crane committed suicide at the age of 32, jumping from a ship into the Gulf of Mexico in 1932).
Franco's mellifluous full-length readings of several Crane poems are accompanied by distinctively shot black & white wanderings of the streets (and bridges) of Brooklyn and Paris. Along the way Franco's Crane experiences the joys of gay sex (and love), the despairs of having to earn a living (working in the Cleveland factory of his father and then at an advertising agency), and then the descent into alcoholism and depression which led to his death.
Like the poetry of Crane himself - who is best known for his ambitious and challenging epic poem, The Bridge - Franco's film is not conventional. This is not your average gay drama. This experimental minimalist portrait combines the aesthetics of such modern gay masters of cinema as Gus Van Sant (think Gerry -- and his experiments in lengthy shot durations) and Tom Kalin (think Swoon) to create a passionate depiction of a gay writer who influenced such gay literary heroes as Allen Ginsberg and Tennessee Williams.
Now that the serious film review part is over I will also mention the film's much talked about blow-job scene (which is probably how most people will hear about this film). What can I say? If that's what it takes to motivate you to watch an experimental film, go for it.
The Broken Tower is available now via iTunes and VOD - and comes to DVD on March 27th from Focus Features.
Trailer is after the break.