I couldn't get into James Franco's The Broken Tower last night, but according to Indiewire's Eric Kohn I didn't miss a masterpiece. Franco's study of the life of poet Hart Crane, which Franco stars in and directs, is "shot in a scrappy, handheld style nimbly lifted from early Godard, [and is] meant to represent Crane's creative process. [It's] predominantly a cerebral exercise in experimental analysis, but it feels stationary, repeating the same motifs and attitudes ad infinitum until the credits finally roll.
"Notwithstanding cameos from Franco friends and colleagues, including Michael Shannon in the fleeting role of a sailor, the movie has the qualities of an unfinished thesis project, more document of discovery than cinematic achievement. Regardless of what Franco thinks, it's not slowness that holds it down, but rather its overly ponderous nature, a trait only truly appealing to those with the same existing appreciation for Crane that Franco has.
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"The movie lingers in his frustrations -- with unemployment, Crane's homosexuality, his disputes with publishers -- in a style dominated by ongoing detachment. Of course, that's the same critique many pundits leveled at Franco for his notorious Academy Awards performance. Franco tends to look perpetually distracted, which is a reasonable state for somebody overloaded with Hollywood and non-Hollywood gigs alike, not to mention doctoral research at Yale."