A movie based on a book of poems: ‘Tar’ stars James Franco, of course


It sounds like an art project that could swiftly go awry: A dozen writer-directors -- NYU students -- collaborate to turn a book of poems into a feature film. What could make it be a success? James Franco, of course.

Franco is the tireless movie star slash literary figure, a writer and director in his own right, who is ready to throw his megawatt smile behind the most improbable of projects. To which now can be added “Tar.”

The independently produced “Tar” is based on the 1983 book of the same name by poet C.K. Williams. Williams, who recently retired from Princeton, has won just about every poetry award possible: A Pulitzer, a National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and an L.A. Times Book Prize among them. To that list of accolades he can add a film starring James Franco.


While “Tar” was a poetry collection described by the Poetry Foundation as employing an “expansive line which allows for philosophical investigation and qualification,” the film takes the form of biography, moving through Williams’ life from the 1940s to the 1980s. Several different actors play the poet, including Franco. When the movie screened at the Rome Film Festival in 2012, Williams himself appeared in the film (although he’s not in this official trailer).

The movie co-stars Mila Kunis as Williams’ wife, with Zach Braff as a friend. It includes appearances by Bruce Campbell and Jessica Chastain who, as a 1940s mother shot against gorgeous sun flares, seems to be reprising her role from Terrence Malik’s “Tree of Life.”

“Tar” is scheduled for release on Dec. 1. CK Williams has a book of prose poems, “All At Once,” coming in April.

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