Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’  Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’ Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See The 10 Best Films Of 2007 The 10 Best Films Of 2007 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Rome Review: 'Tar' With James Franco Is A Dreamy Collage Of Pretty But Overfamiliar Aesthetics

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist November 17, 2012 at 1:53PM

It's difficult to know quite what to make of 'Tar,' a multi-authored project seemingly coaxed into being by the sheer force of James Franco's current artistic cachet. Playing In Competition in the XXI sidebar of the Rome Film Festival, the film represents the work of twelve newbie directors -- NYU film students all -- and attempts to create an impressionistic interpretation of the work of poet CK Williams, who himself appears occasionally, reading from his collection. Championed by and starring Franco, amongst a starry cast including Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Henry Hopper, Bruce Campbell and Zach Braff, the film shifts around in time and mood, using four different actors (Franco one of them) to depict Williams at different stages in his life, with the scenes sometimes playing out with internal dialogue and mini-storylines, and other times played mute, with snatches of poetry voiced over.
15
Tar

It's difficult to know quite what to make of 'Tar,' a multi-authored project seemingly coaxed into being by the sheer force of James Franco's current artistic cachet. Playing In Competition in the XXI sidebar of the Rome Film Festival, the film represents the work of twelve newbie directors -- NYU film students all -- and attempts to create an impressionistic interpretation of the work of poet CK Williams, who himself appears occasionally, reading from his collection. Championed by and starring Franco, amongst a starry cast including Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Henry Hopper, Bruce Campbell and Zach Braff, the film shifts around in time and mood, using four different actors (Franco one of them) to depict Williams at different stages in his life, with the scenes sometimes playing out with internal dialogue and mini-storylines, and other times played mute, with snatches of poetry voiced over. It is to be commended that despite the far-ranging approach and the cadre of people involved in its making, the film doesn't feel disjointed or particularly uneven, that's a lot down to shared cinematography and production design departments, we are told. But whether the approach enhances or detracts from our appreciation of Williams' poetry is another question. 

Tar

The problem really lies in the last place you might look for it: the originality and resourcefulness of these young filmmakers. We don't want to do anyone down, but it seems a slight shame to us (and perhaps it was as a result of trying to maintain tonal control over the whole), that, for example, when handed the often autobiographical work of a poet who grew up close to his mother in mid-20th century America, the choice was made to cast Jessica Chastain, and then to essentially recreate half of her "Tree of Life" scenes, right down to the lens flares and the twirling on the grass. It comes across not as homage, but rip off, and does a disservice to the poetry that supposedly "inspired" it, which surely should have engendered a more personal, less derivative response. And this issue carries through even to the less Malickian segments, where the aesthetic may not be of smiling red-haired mothers bleaching dreamily out to white, but is no less familiar. Call it the Instagrammation of our culture, but grainy, blurry, oversaturated/desaturated images no longer mean what they used to mean; at best they evoke 'Levi's ad' and at worst 'my friend Dave's holiday snaps uploaded to Twitter.' It's still lovely to look at, often, but we've seen this cornfield, we've seen this closeup of Mila Kunis looking sexy and disheveled, we've seen this tender handholding moment between kids -- we've seen an awful lot of these images elsewhere. Its effect on Williams' poetry is therefore reductive, taking words that are free and wild and evocative on the page and pinning them to images that could sell perfume. Personally, we're pro-word, and think these particular ones deserved, not better, exactly, but braver choices. 

Tar

The XXI section is designed to showcase films that challenge the boundaries of what is considered cinema, whether in format or content. "Tar' for all the experimentalism of its conception, falls some way short here, and ends up an irreproachably tasteful, easily digestible but an unsurprising, undemanding watch.  [C+]

We should note, the film was preceded by Franco's own 1-minute short "Dream," a lustrously staged showpiece featuring a roving camera wandering restlessly through a house in which trees grow, mists hang and ethereal girls, wearing white, open fridges full of apples. It looks great (until the Grand Canyon bit at the end, and the whispered text over the beginning and end is a bit silly), but feels more like a test film for something else than an entity unto itself. 

This article is related to: Rome Film Festival, Review, The Color Of Time, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, James Franco


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates