TÁR. Cate Blanchett mesmerizes in this drama about genius
After seven Oscar nominations, two of which turned into statuettes, can the actress still find new ways of expressing herself? Cate Blanchett proves that you can. The queen of acting coolness, the tsarina of noble restraint, again took over the screen – this time in the title role in Todd Field’s Tár.
It’s amazing that this is only Field’s first film since the brilliant Little Children – 16 years have passed since then! This amazing director, who made his debut over 20 years ago with Behind the Bedroom Door, returns with a powerful work – both in form and content. Tár is a story about the genius of the title character, the world-famous conductor Lydia Tár, who works permanently at the Berlin Philharmonic. Field watches her from an almost intimate distance in moments of greatest glory, as well as moments when Tár discovers her most unpleasant personality traits: megalomania, impertinence and ruthlessness in the pursuit of her goal. Tár talks about many of his heroine’s vices in passing, somewhere between the lines of many intricately constructed dialogues. Although Cate Blanchett creates an absolutely phenomenal creation on the screen, it would not be complete without these little additions, scraps of memories from the past that define Lydia Tár – the undisputed star of the philharmonic podium.
Tár is not an easy film in many ways. The whole is bathed in grays and sepias, as if the colors in Lydia’s world have lost all saturation, while the main character’s conversations with her friends from the industry create an uninterrupted maze of musical terms and names so niche that Gustav Mahler – in whose symphonies Tár specializes – is in super celebrity in this group. At first, it seems that it may be difficult to get through such hermetic material, but the Field-Blanchett duo manages to create a character that is magnetizing enough for Tár to turn out to be a spectacle capable of fascinated every viewer. I admit that I expected a more negative heroine – a typical cold hag who despises everyone around her and does not take into account any conventions. And in a way it is: Lydia’s chill can be chilling, but in the end the famous conductor turns out to be a genius lost in the meanders of her visions and desires. And as a result of this confusion, it may lose its position in the industry that has been built over the years.
This may be too trivial an analogy to the world of music, but there is indeed not a single false note in Tár. For over 150 minutes of the screening, we observe a world constructed with surgical precision of people completely fixated on classical music – and in this world Lydia Tár is a goddess. Repertoires and schedules are arranged according to her wishes, and the orchestra, consisting of several dozen people, runs like clockwork to the rhythm of the gestures of its charismatic conductor. The opening sequence is incredibly important for the plot, during which, at a meeting with fans, Tár talks about herself, her inspirations and what music means to her. At this point, we drink every word out of her mouth, already at this stage of the story we were mesmerized by the authenticity of Lydia Tár’s vision. With this performance, she creates a statue for herself, on the surface of which cracks gradually begin to appear only later.
If you expect the story of a brilliant fictional conductor to be a series of philharmonic performances, Tár will be surprising – yes, there are a lot of shots from orchestra rehearsals, but Todd Field’s film is not a classic biography that would tell about the glory of concert performances by a brilliant conductor. Instead, the director focuses on the slow deconstruction of Lydia’s world, which is carried out by the deadly mechanisms of cancel culture – Field coldly shows how easy it is to fall from the top nowadays, even being a person as private and cold as Lydia Tár, masterfully created by Blanchett. The creators seem to say that cancel culture spares no one, including openly homosexual people. There is also a great scene in Tár, when in conversation with her main donor (Mark Strong), Lydia proposes to open a program designed for women also for male musicians, but she is quickly scolded by her interlocutor. Although she believes that her foundation has served its purpose, she must continue to play with moral conventions, even if there is no logic in it.
It is a pity that Todd Field failed to realize several other projects over the last dozen or so years – Tár proves that he is a filmmaker of incredible sensitivity on the one hand and icy precision on the other. But who knows, maybe this gray drama about genius is so good because Field could accumulate all his creative energy accumulated over the years in it?