At 2 p.m. on March 9th
a Shriver Hall filled with James Franco-philes waited in anticipation for the arrival of the actor/director/author/screenwriter. As he entered, gasps and excited murmurs were audible throughout the hall. Franco was dressed casually, and he donned a tired but friendly smile. After a short introduction, the screening of
The Broken Tower, which he directed, wrote, produced, and stars in, began. The black-and-white film features the story of the American modernist poet Hart Crane and his struggles as a writer, highlighting inner turmoil—Crane committed suicide at age 32—through scenes depicting family tension, alcoholic tendencies, and troubled gay relationships. The film is evocative, aesthetically pleasing, and well acted, but may not be ideal for viewers with short attention spans, as much of it moves at a slow pace and takes place inside of the poet's mind.
The discussion afterward was mostly lighthearted—Franco, who played a role in the 2008 stoner comedy
, declined any potential invitations to "smoke weed later," eliciting laughter from the audience. Despite his informality, Franco was clearly passionate about Crane—he took his time to respond accurately to the audience's questions, and through his responses it was clear that he had been painstaking in researching the life of one of the most influential poets of the 20th
century. Working with Paul Mariani, the author of
The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane,
on which Franco's film is based, Franco sought to familiarize himself with Crane's work, researching the poet's influences, and searching out recordings of his voice and descriptions of his personality and physical appearance.
The Broken Tower premiered in April 2011 at Boston College and screened at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival but never saw a theatrical release. It's available on DVD and digital download through Focus Features.