Monday, April 30, 2012

Amos Kollek's CHRONICLING A CRISIS highlights the difficulties of film-making

Toward the beginning of Amos (pronounced Ah-mōs) Kollek's new and heavily autobiographical documentary, CHRONICLING A CRISIS, the filmmaker complains to Anna Thomson (Levine), a good actress (shown below, left) who has done some excellent work in his and others' films, that he would have thought by now, at his age, he would not have to struggle so much to get a film made. "Look at Cassavetes," notes the thoughtful actress, implying that the master of improvisation and by-the-bootstraps film-making never had it easy during his career, either. She's right. Except that was John Cassavetes and this is Amos Kollek.

Just last week, TrustMovies mentioned Mr. Cassavetes, in relation to a failed "art" movie that had opened and that reminded him of the many Cassavetes-inspired filmmakers whose work, despite a lot of "attempting," doesn't quite make it. Mr Kollek's movies often end up in this limbo, as well. From his first film (Goodbye New York) through Sue and Fast Food Fast Women up to the project he blames for nearly destroying his career -- that would be Happy End (from 2003) which, though it starred Audrey Tautou and Justin Theroux, has not been seen in the U.S, neither theatrically nor on DVD -- the quality of his output has been sketchy at best.

Mr. Kollek, shown at right, appears to be a filmmaker of that group of students who were taught (or came to the conclusion on their own) that if you simply point the camera, something will happen. They do, and it does -- though whether they shot much that was worthwhile is worth questioning. Kollek is up to the same stuff with this new documentary. There's little shape to movies made this way nor much sense that the filmmaker had any clear idea of what he wanted to do. Just make a movie, I guess. And yet, you cannot totally discount the guy and his efforts because he has a penchant for smart casting and he comes up with a great scene now and again.

Amos is the son of Jerusalem's most famous mayor -- Teddy Kollek (shown above, right, with Amos) -- who held that post for what seemed like an eternity. Father Teddy figures heavily into the film, as he is getting on in years and seems to remind the filmmaker of his own mortality. Amos spent seven years filming this movie; by the time it is finished, so is the elder Kollek.

We also meet, briefly, and get to know practically nothing about the filmmaker's wife and two daughters (one of these is shown above with her dad). But we do get to know a very strange and interesting woman named Robin Remias (below), a drug-addicted prostitute whom Kollek encourters during one of his many trips back and forth between Israel and New York, as he tries to find backing money to make another movie.

Robin is something else, and its little wonder Kollek begins to concentrate more and more on her as the film progresses. The woman is utterly deluded about so many things, especially her own condition, and yet she proves surprisingly good company for the filmmaker and for us. She's the one demonstration in the movie that Kollek has not lost his casting skill. Defiant, funny, sad, needy and proud, Robin sort of beggars description, and so the filmmaker's time with her opens the movie up in the same way that his casting of actresses such as Anna Thomson, Julie Haggerty and Louise Lasser has done in past movies (and years).

As pretty (in an aging, drug-addicted manner) as is Robin's face, the rest of her body -- which we see on several occasions much more fully -- looks like drug central. Rail thin, pock-marked and needle-tracked, it's cause for alarm. But that alarm never seems to ring very loudly in the filmmaker's head. Twice this woman is shown prone on the bed or sofa, eyes open, unblinking and seemingly unbreathing. Is she dead, we wonder? No announcement is made, so we're left to our own devices. It is this kind of laissez-faire movie-making, with little thought about organization or storytelling, that can drive the viewer crazy. Yet what does (and does not) happen to Robin absolutely comprises the most interesting portion of Kollek's film.

Other filmmakers have problems with this, too -- Henry Jaglom comes to mind -- yet by comparison their films are models of containment and discipline. By the end of the film, we're left with Kollek himself, aging, uncertain, still suffering from a father complex, not to mention the woman as the Madonna/Whore syndrome. But good news is on the horizon. It seems he's raised enough money to finish this film.

Chronicling a Crisis, exactly 90 minutes in length, opens this Friday, May 4, in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Further playdates? I've searched but can't find any as of now....

The photos above, with the exception 
of that of Anna Thomson Levine, are from the film itself 
and/or are taken by Osnat Shalev.

RUMUR has it! The films of Galinsky/Hawley get a retrospective in Bklyn, VA and Perth, Australia. A short Q&A with the RUMUR-ites

Beginning this Thursday, May 3, the Brooklyn film production company, RUMUR, is getting a retrospective of its two-decade product -- Rumur Films 1992-2012 -- with the company's five films playing in Brooklyn, then later this month in Arlington, VA, and in July, 2012, at the Revelation Film Festival in Perth, Australia.

The series will kick off in Brooklyn this Thursday, May 3, with a weekly presentation of a RUMUR film every Thursday in May at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (70 Henry Street Brooklyn, NY 11201, Phone: 718-596-7070). On May 3: Half-Cocked; May 10: Radiation; May 17: Horns and Halos; May 24: Code 33 and May 31: Battle for Brooklyn.

Arlington, Virginia's Artisphere is ganging the movies into a six-day fest, from May 22 through May 27. For showtimes, click the link above or call 703-875-1100. In Perth, Australia, the film will be part of the Revelation Film Festival, with exact dates for the films yet to be determined. (For updates, visit:

Why is this movie-making team (shown at right) of Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky so important? In the words of Adam Sekuler, Program Director of the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle: "In the age of the cinematic in-between, the partners at RUMUR have been actively exploring territories of co-mingled documentary and fiction for nearly two decades. With their narrative films like Half-Cocked and Radiation, they worked closely with the underground music community to build fictional stories from their actual lives. For their social documentaries of the aughts such as Horns and Halos through their more recent films like Battle For Brooklyn, Rumur has tagged alongside the political underdogs constructing a narrative arc to their real life drama. Within all of this, unlike Michael Moore, Rumur actually lets its audiences do the thinking rather than taking polemical approaches to its filmmaking. This quality, particularly as more and more media offer overly perfected messaging, reminds us that we, too -- the audiences -- are as vulnerable as those portrayed on the screen. That is why the films remain an urgent example of how documentaries should be made."

RUMUR was founded by Galinsky and Hawley, who met in 1992 and began collaborating on film projects while ensconced in the underground music scene of the early 90s. The company's first two films, Half-Cocked and Radiation, were scripted narratives that danced on the line between reality and fiction. Half-Cocked, shot in black-and-white, observes a bunch of kids who steal a van full of musical gear and go on the road through the South. The movie, initially a little slow and clichéd (the scene between the girl and her mom, especially), builds nicely and introduces a number of even more interesting characters as it goes along.

Radiation, shot in color and only one hour in length, follows a Spanish tour promoter who books gigs for American bands, while selling drugs on the side to better support himself. Along the way he and his partner meet a performance artist, Katy Petty, whom our non-hero wants to book. The film is consistently on target, and Ms Petty is a knockout, single-handedly raising the movie -- performance-wise -- to a higher professional level. The actors in both films played versions of themselves, even as they were part of the world they were portraying. Much of the dialogue was improvised and the shooting was done on-the-run -- and on 16mm.

In 2002, RUMUR produced it's first documentary, Horns and Halos -- which was shortlisted for Academy Award for Best Documentary (this was back in the day before shortlisting was announced by the Academy). It follows a janitor who publishes a controversial biography of George W. Bush from his basement during the heated 2000 presidential campaign. Hawley and Galinsky were joined on this project by David Beilinson, who would become their producing partner. The narrative follows the book's ascent and trajectory in the court of public opinion. "The news media plays an important part in our work," states Hawley. "How we get our information is at the core of everything we do." Galinsky follows, "We tend to focus on stories about outsiders fighting against a system, and work to tell the story from their point of view, which usually clashes with the journalistic paradigm."

Still one of the most fascinating documentaries TrustMovies has ever seen (click here to read a couple of short reviews he posted on GreenCine back in 2004), the film, while perfectly timed to reflect George W. Bush's sleazy, ill-fated (and non-elected) Presidency, it still stands as a remarkable piece of film-making about perception, reality and storytelling.

Their next documentary, Code 33, shot over the summer of 2004, is a police procedural that chronicles the hunt for the most prolific serial rapist in South Florida History. The RUMUR team spent 24 hours per day over the course of four months shooting with detectives as they combed a strongly immigrant community of Miami. Galinsky notes that it was their partner, David Beilinson, who brought in Code 33 and really made that movie happen. For his part, Beilinson explains, "The commitment and the insight to understand the potential of where things might end up is what sets Rumur's films apart. The patience and perseverance to intimately capture events playing out over long periods has always rewarded us."

It seems to me that Code 33 puts to shame the tripe we've seen on COPS and America's Most Wanted. It's such a humane documentary that you feel for everyone involved (spoiler ahead; sorry) -- even the rapist, once they catch him. The Rumur team, again, shows us the case from so many angles: the victims, the police and investigators, the media, and finally the rapist himself. You don't find this kind of inclusion elsewhere. By the end, there is a strong sense of justice served. And god knows, that's not a feeling one gets in this country much anymore.

It is certainly not the sense one gets from Battle for Brooklyn, RUMUR's most recent film, that follows a group of Brooklyn neighbors over seven years as they struggle to keep their community from being bulldozed for a basketball arena and massive -- and to my way of thinking, not at all necessary -- development project. This is the film that, more than any, has put the film-making team on the map. Though its being shotlisted for BestDocumentary surprised some people, those of us who loved the film realized that Academy members must have understood that the kind of boondoggle shown here, that is taking place in Brooklyn, NY, is also taking place in cities all across the country (not to mention other nations across the world). Hence its universality. (You can read TM's review of the film, posted when it opened last year, here -- along with a longer interview with the filmmakers than the update at the close of this post.)

To read more about this upcoming festival (including some of the many fine critical responses to the team's work), click here and scroll down. And for more information on the team and their films, visit


Due to a very heavy-duty deadline week, TM had only a few minutes to talk with Michael and Suki, so we tried to make the most of it.  Below, in boldface, are TM's question, with Hawley and Galinky's responses in standard type. (The Rumur team, shown below, includes Michael Galinsky, top; Suki Hawley, middle; and David Beilinson, bottom.)

Were you as amazed and thrilled, as many of us not so directly connected with Battle for Brooklyn, that you made the Academy Award Best Documentary shortlist?

Yes, we were extremely happy to have the film recognized in that way. Our film Horns and Halos was shortlisted too (this was in 2002 before they released the list of short listed films), so we actually thought that Battle had a good shot, since it's somewhat similar in form but arguably better crafted. Given that, we really made a major effort to distribute it and get it qualified.

I didn’t even realize that you two had made that one when I saw Battle for Brooklyn. I should have checked the IMDB before I interviewed you!

With Horns, we had an easier time getting it seen. But with Battle, we have had such a hard time getting it past the gatekeepers.


Yes, we submitted it to every major festival -- and were rejected by all of them. So we made the decision to release it ourselves, because we believed in the film and couldn't stand to let it disappear without a fight. Then, even with all the good reviews and great box office in NY, we had great trouble getting it booked elsewhere across the country because the industry wasn't really aware of the film despite the fact that it had premiered at Hot Docs. All industry eyes are on Sundance, and the year of Battle, the only docs to get distribution premiered there.

We think that one thing that helped in terms of the Oscars was that the Academy was viewing these films at same time Occupy was happening. The scales were starting to come off people’s eyes. After September, we started to get a lot more traction for the film, I think because it made more sense to people in terms of the occupy movement. We also self distributed Horns. We had a tough time with festivals for that one as well, but once we launched it to great reviews and box office in NY, we got booked all over.

Do you think you’ll go back to narrative filmmaking? 

Yes. We actually have a script pretty much done that we really want to make. We wrote it with our friend Alana Newman. It's her story, and a script that she came to us with, but we spent several years re-working it into a more shootable narrative. We really hope we can get that off the ground this year.

Even when we were making narrative films in the past, they were based on real people and real situations. We’re always interested in real life and documenting. This script "Adam and Eva" came to us as part of a doc we are working on about nature vs. nurture issues- and the conception industry. The script is based on Alana's experience as a donor kid and Michael's experience as a sperm donor.

Wow -- this new one sounds very interesting. Even in your narrative films, you seem to concentrate on people who are actually part of the world with which you are dealing.

All the people in Half-Cocked were musicians. We were part of that world and we wanted to document that moment in time. In Radiation, too, the fellow who plays the lead actually was a tour promoter for small bands. Did he also deal drugs on the road? No -- but he did a lot of them.

What was it that most took you from narrative to doc filmmaking? 

The transition was made when we saw how difficult it was to shoot narrative films. You need so many more people to make it happen. So it was exhausting. When we got a prosumer DV camera, we realized that in a documentary we could run around together and do it all. And that is how the transition to documentary happened.

Oh – and you may not know this, but Battle for Brooklyn - and the doc on "conception"got us a Guggenheim Grant. This was basically our first grant. We have gotten some support but we have never successfully applied for a production grant and we have applied for dozens and dozens.

Wow—that is great!

That's why we’re so pleased – and why we wanted to do the retrospective, because we're really proud of our body of work but feel that most people don't have a sense of it. We have been doing this for so long, and as we have never had a real "hit" or support network, a critic like you, who really liked some of our earlier work, did not even realize that we had made it. So we wanted to have this festival that would give people a real sense of the breadth of our work.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

DVD stay-away: CONTRABAND proves the hands-down dumbest movie of the year

Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur has made three very good movies in his home country (101 Reykjavík, The Sea and Jar City) and one that's pretty good (Inhale) and another that's truly godawful (CONTRABAND, out on DVD/Blu-ray this past week) here in the USA. (TrustMovies has not seen his earlier made-in-the-USA movie A Little Bit of Heaven so he can't speak for the quality of that one.) Rather than posit that the moviemaker is uncomfortable off his home base, I would instead suggest that Baltasar, shown below, ought not let go of the writing chores completely, as he has done with Contraband. (He either adapted or co-wrote his other films--except for Inhale--and his absence dearly shows.)

If Contraband were created (deliberately, that is) as a comedy, along the lines of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight or The Ladykillers, it might have worked. That would have taken some wit, however, which is in very short supply here. As is irony. Or humor of any kind. When everyone in a movie -- good guys, bad guys, even guys we don't give a shit about -- can't do a single thing correctly, we either start to laugh aloud, or soon give up on what quickly becomes an extremely stupid movie. Surely someone can do something right here? No, they can't. When they finally do (in the case of the lead character played by Mark Wahlberg, below left, with co-star Ben Foster), the results are so utterly unbelievably and simple-minded as to beggar imagination.

The movie looks good, however (Barry Ackroyd shot it) and moves fast, though not fast enough for its nearly two-hour running time. Locations are nice (New Orleans and Panama City), and the cast is filled with actors who ought to know better - from Kate Beckinsale to Giovanni Ribisi and Lukas Haas to Diego Luna. By the time this movie ends, given the stupidity on display, nobody -- good, bad or indifferent -- should still be alive. That they are is a monument to dumb, lazy screenwriting. Supposedly based on an original Icelandic film called Reykjavik-Rotterdam (a hit on its home turf that ran a mere 88 minutes and in which, coincidentally, filmmaker Kormákur starred as an actor but did not direct), this overblown excuse for a thriller simply embarrasses.

Contraband is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, for sale or rental, and is probably available on streaming of some sort. Check out the usual suspects if you insist on seeing it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming debut: Don't miss Giuseppe Tornatore's masterpiece BAARÌA

Single-handedly making streaming a necessity (unless you've got a Blu-ray player: in which case, order the movie that way), the recent addition of BAARÌA to DVD/Blu-ray/streaming capability is something for which great gratitude is called. The latest from Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, The Unknown Woman and other fine films), this modern masterpiece -- and I do not use that word lightly -- takes us to the writer/director's home town of Bagheria (for which, I am guessing, Baarìa is a kind of nickname) over a period that spans more than three generations.

Tornatore, shown at right, takes a major risk with this film by making it move so fast via very short scenes that often fly by and seem to last only long enough to provide content without any accompanying depth. This proves not true, however; that depth arrives as the movie grows and builds, and we become hugely involved with the three generations of the Sicilian family whose story is told here. Even the subsidiary characters take on surprising weight, and the movie's real themes -- class, Italian culture and mores, the uses of politics and the importance of family -- come quickly to the fore and stay there, accumulating both power and force.

The photography (Enrico Lucidi) is ravishing, the town and sets and accouterments are often eye-popping, and the lead performances from mostly unknowns (on this side of the Atlantic, at least) are stellar and on-point.

The movie begins in the time of Mussolini (above) and continues through to nearly present-day (below).

Tornatore uses a small child on an errand to begin his film, with a scene of running through the town faster and faster -- and then, in a feat of breathtaking beauty and surprise, lifts us-- and the film -- into the heavens and to an overview of life that it grasps and holds onto throughout.

Toward the end the filmmaker manages to combine present and past into a single unity that seems both bold and heart-breaking. He uses ancient customs -- broken eggs -- to herald events and even gives us a sweet look at how early Sicilian home cooling systems worked (at left). Tornatore uses place and character so keenly and poignant-ly that brief moments shown early come back to haunt us with surprisingly effectiveness.

We see and hear much about Italian political parties -- Communists, Socialists, Christian Democrats, reformists and more -- with the icing on the cake provided by one family, the father of which explains its voting process, guaranteed to render all votes useless.

This is the second time I've seen Baarìa; the first was two years ago when the film made its USA debut as part of the FSLC's Open Roads series. (Sadly, it never received a theatrical release here in the USA.) I found watching it again as riveting as the first time, with the overall mark it made as strong as ever, even though many specific scenes seemed new. I suspect the film will become one of those I will watch again every few years, experiencing its joy and pain anew. You should see it at least once.

Baarìa, at a speedy and gorgeous two-and-one-half hour length, is available now for sale, rental or streaming via Amazon, or for rental and streaming at Netflix, and for rental at Blockbuster.  I imagine you can find it elsewhere, too, but these three sources should give you a good start....

The photo above are from the film itself, 
except for that of Signore Tornatore, 
which comes courtesy of

Friday, April 27, 2012

Size matters! So does reputation. Morten Tyldum's HEADHUNTERS shows us why.

What a week it has been for must-see movies: Three of 'em already -- and TrustMovies has seen only nine of the twenty-one films opening theatrically in New York City in the past seven days. (How does any critic possibly keep up with this flow? At the end of the year, when those "Best Lists" arrive, you just know that nobody's seen 'em all.) The third of the current week's must-sees (Bernie and Safe are the other two) is also, like Safe, part of the thriller genre: HEADHUNTERS (Hodejegerne in the original Norwegian), directed by Morten Tyldum (shown below) and written by Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg (from the novel by Jo Nesbø).

Our "hero" Roger (Aksel Hennie, shown below, at work) -- and little twat that he is, we still identify with him -- is only a slightly undersized fellow who nonetheless makes up for this with his own brand of Napoleon complex. One of the titular headhunters, he's a top pro in his field and would be by any normal standard considered quite the success. But it is not enough for someone who imagines himself "short," and so he makes up for this by stealing very valuable art and selling it on the black market. How he does this, using his day job as part of the scheme, makes for much of the fun of the opening section of the film.

From then on, however, as Roger gets in just a little too deeply and inextricably, the tension mounts until it is, at times, well nigh unbearable. Yet -- and this is part of the delight of this bleakly funny movie -- the humor is never far away, no matter how dark and disgusting things get (we won't go into what our hero is covered with, below). And, my, these "things" go places that few movies have been. Particularly films that are this funny.

Roger's wife, a statuesque blond played by Synnøve Macody Lund (below, left) has opened  an art gallery and one of her clients is a gorgeous and -- drat it! -- tall hunk named Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, below, center, and yes, from HBO's Game of Thrones) who not only might be looking for a newly-on-the-market, high-level job (that Roger could place him in) but also may have a priceless, stolen-by-the-Nazis piece of art in his possession. How can our hero resist this particular combo?

Of course he can't; let the games begin. So cleverly has the scenario been set up, and even more cleverly does it play out, that comparisons with Hitchcock are not amiss. Hitch loved to put his heroes through the wringer, but even he would be shocked at what our Roger has gone through by the time these hundred minutes have ended. (Hitch would also, I suspect, be grinning.)

This include a oddly clingy mistress (Julie R. Ølgaard, below),

a partner-in-crime (Eivind Sander, below) whose sexual tastes run to filming his Russian-prostitute girlfriend with a home camera,

and several others, the most biazrre of which may be the very heavy-set twin policemen from the provinces who end up saving our hero's life in a manner you would not want to try on your own nearby highway. Oh, and did I mention perhaps the most horribly inflicted haircut in the history of movies?

Almost, but not quite, too smart for its own good, the film still works beautifully precisely because it is so smart. Headhunters thrills, amuses and invigorates. That's more than enough, in my book, to make it a must-see. The movie, from Magnolia Pictures, opens today in New York City at the AMC Empire 25, the Beekman and Landmark's Sunshine Cinema, and in Los Angeles at The Landmark.  Click here for other playdates, with cities and theaters, across the country in the weeks to come

James Franco tackles gay poet Hart Crane in THE BROKEN TOWER. No one wins.

TrustMovies loves James Franco (shown on the poster at left and below). He loves to look at him and listen to him. He loves the guy's quirky intelligence and sometimes bizarre humor. He thought Franco's performan-ces in the underseen Howl and the much-seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes were both excellent. He admires the man's willingness to go out on limbs and engage with everything from life and higher education to film and soap opera and art installation and even... moviemaking. He thought Franco's 2009 five-minute short, The Feast of Stephen was somewhat interesting and certainly not awful. And now we have his new full-length THE BROKEN TOWER, which gives us a look at the life of the American poet of a century past, Hart Crane, which also proves to be somewhat interesting. But -- oh, gosh, how to put it nicely? -- this film is awful.

More than anything else, The Broken Tower, which Franco wrote (from Paul Mariani's biography and novel), directed, edited and stars in as Crane, reminds me of those would-be "art" movies we used to see back in the 1960s, which were probably indebted to the work of, if we had to single someone out, John Cassavetes, more than anyone else. These were black-and-white, shoestring budgeted (Franco's film has a bit higher budget than that), and intently focused on being artistic at all costs -- the biggest of which would be the almost complete annihilation of any possible entertainment value the movie might have possessed. (Cassavetes was better than this, but many of his acolytes were not.)

According to the press materials, The Broken Tower is actually Mr. Franco's New York University Film School "thesis" film, and as such it deserves, if not a grade, at least a pass or fail certificate. I might give it a pass, barely, with a grade of C-, and the suggestion that Franco center his ambitions back on acting. Arty and pretentious does not a good movie make. Watching the film, it seems as though the filmmaker may have been impressed with other black-and-white art movies such as Christopher Munch's Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day. But Franco does not yet understand what to do with the camera. He has it concentrate on typing and walking -- two very paltry actions that are not designed to interest the viewer past the first few seconds of screen time -- and worse, he likes to film the back of the head on those walks, as though something is about to be revealed.... by the hair, maybe?

And, oh, the sparkling dialog!  (I jest, because there practically is no dialog -- it's mostly title cards that key us into chapters from Crane's life. And then Franco repeats in action what has been told us by those cards.) As for the man's poetry, I cannot figure out if Franco imagines that, by reading aloud what sounds like an entire, lengthy and not very well-written poem, he is honoring Crane, or showing him up for the artsy twaddle the fellow created. It is certainly easy to understand why the man's poetry is not much remembered these days. (Still, before I "down" this guy's work, I should go to the source and trying reading some of it, rather than relying on what the filmmaker has presented.)

So why did Franco bother with making this film? It must have to do with Crane's homosexuality. One of the filmmaker's best scenes involves a blow-job, and I am not being funny about this: Franco does a good job of shooting the scene, of creating tension and release, and of giving us something to look at that seems both fresh and "felt." There's also a nice scene than has Crane, who worked as an advertising copywriter, trying out the sound of the word naugahyde -- a synthetic product which was evidently new at the time. But this, as so much else in the movie, goes on way too long. Otherwise, this mostly fledgling filmmaker keeps his camera to a tight frame on everything, in order, I would guess, to make the film look more "period" by including the necessarily detailed close-up, as above, but not expanding the view into scenes that would clearly call attention to modern times. (The good cinematographer is Christina Voros.)

In the cast, the biggest name is Michael Shannon (above right), who portrays a sailor for whom Hart has the hots. There's a nice lovemaking scene (three photos above), but Shannon is given so little to do that the use of an actor this good seems a bit wasteful. Also on view, as the younger Hart Crane, is Franco's brother Dave, who may actually be even more beautiful than his older sibling and director, and -- given the parameters of the movie -- makes a pretty good impression.

The entire film is in black-and-white except for a few moments that take place in a church. These are in color -- which calls to mind once again those artsy film duds from the 60s. Over all, and over its 99-minute running time, the movie acts as a kind of cinematic vacuum, sucking up energy like a black hole. I still love Mr. Franco and in fact will look forward to his next venture as a filmmaker -- but only with hope that he gives up trying to create "art" and decides instead to simply create -- come what may.

The Broken Tower opens today in New York City at the IFC Center in New York, and is simultaneously available via VOD. Consult your TV reception-provider to see if the film is being shown  on VOD in your specific area.