James Franco's 'Tar,' 'The Motel Life' on Center Stage for Rome Fest's Second-to-Last Day

 Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

ROME – Tar, an examination of the life of poet C.K. Williams featuring James Franco, and Gabe and Alan Polsky’s The Motel Life premiered at the International Rome Film Festival Friday, the second-to-last day of the event.

The festival also hosted a special forum the challenges of the audiovisual sector hosted by former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Christopher Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, along with Riccardo Tozzi, president of the Italian audiovisual association ANICA.

STORY: James Franco's 'Tar,' 'The Motel Life' on Center Stage for Rome Fest's Second-to-Last Day

Tar was conceived as a New York University film project, and its credits list a dozen grad students as its directors -- working under the supervision of the Oscar-nominated Franco, who stars in the film as the adult version of Williams. Henry Hopper plays the younger version of Williams in the film, while Mila Kunis plays the role of Williams’ wife, Catherine.

Franco was on hand for the premiere, joining Sylvester Stallone, Jude Law, and Adrien Brody as the most high profile stars at the festival.

It was Stallone, though, who attracted the most attention, staying in Rome for four days and drawing the festival’s biggest red carpet crowds ahead of the premiere of Walter Hill’s thriller Bullet to the Head, being presented with a special award by Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, and even finding time to cause a little controversy after reportedly skipping out on a dinner hosted by Italian producer Pietro Valsecchi.

The Motel Life, meanwhile, screened in competition and drew lower-than-expected crowds given its Friday night slot in the festival’s main venue and the increased interest in the festival over the previous three days. The film tells the story of two working class brothers who fell after becoming involved in a hit-and-run accident.

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The festival continues to draw fire in the local media, which has complained about low attendance levels, a relative lack of star power, and disappointing films. One of them, E La Chiamo Estate (And They Call It Summer) from Paolo Franchi, and co-produced by opera icon Luciano Pavarotti’s widow Nicoletta Mantovani, and one of three Italian films in competition, was so badly received that the audience booed after one screening.

But the Italian media has evidently fallen in love with Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Head of Charles Swan III, which premiered Thursday, calling it the odds-on favorite to win the festival’s top prize.

The Rome festival concludes Saturday with a final day of screening and the awards ceremony, though The Business Street, the festival’s market event, continues until Sunday.

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