TÁR is an intoxicating portrait of how a female conductor not only shapes and manipulates music, but also the world she operates in which ultimately leads to her own self-destruction.
TÁR begins in an unorthodox way with the complete credits rolling with an eerie symphony strumming in the background. A very unsexy Q&A interrupts the climatic buildup to introduce Lydia Tár: the woman we will be watching for the next three hours. By making this the start of our story, Todd Field successfully inserts the fictional Lydia Tár into music history.
Audiences enter the life of Lydia Tár, renowned classical composer and conductor, in the weeks leading up to her completing the fifth of the five Mahler adaptations. In the span of her career, she is the first woman to be the lead conductor of a major German orchestra, a member of the EGOT club, and a mother. From her accomplishments, both personal and professional, she has always had an audience that requires her to maintain the aura of a composer in order to be respected.
For the female conductor, there is no separation of the art and the artist. She continues to practice her art of conducting but instead of instruments, she uses people including those who are there to help her, such as the funder of her conducting fellowship and Francesca, her assistant, who wants to be a conductor herself. She uses them to suppress her dirty secrets, that involve grooming young female musicians. All of these elements keep her privileged life intact by providing a border between her and the world. TÁR is more than a character study; it is a masterclass in the abuse of power set in a prestigious cultural institution.
Lydia is positioned as a trailblazer in her male-dominated industry of classical music. She has been able to construct a world for herself as if it is one of her symphonies. But how did she make it to the top and stay there? By using the strategies of her male counterparts who came before her. Every relationship, besides the one with her adopted daughter, is strictly for personal gain. She does nothing without an agenda. When she is doing one of her many altruistic activities, such as teaching at Julliard, she dismisses a student who tries to bring up identity politics as an excuse to not study classic composers. Lydia believes in the artist being separate from their art and not including identity in the way people examine art. Even if you feel differently from her argument, her undeniable genius is admirable and makes you question your own beliefs. She is the master manipulator.
It is when Lydia gets too confident in her ability to overtake those less powerful than her that the pedestal she built herself begins to crack. This reveals the fear within Lydia of falling to her own demise. Lydia’s facade slowly chips away, revealing the narcissist she is to those who once idolized her. Todd Field gives us a look into a story of what happens when the all mighty crumble from forces that can’t control. For Lydia, it’s the young women she broke off relations with and the young man who she challenged. The people coming after Lydia aren’t wrong in who they are targeting but in their reasoning. What is beautiful about this film is that it never asks you to sympathize with Lydia; it understands that she is a terrible person. It is her charisma that wins over the audience until they catch on to what she is doing to them. Everyone is under the spell of the Lydia Tár performance.
Blanchett’s work in this film is deserving of the title of her career best. It is a performance that only a truly seasoned actor could deliver. She exudes charisma throughout the narrative while also balancing tenacity and tenderness depending on the situation Lydia finds herself in. We can clearly see the genius of Lydia and the monster she is making it hard to draw a separation of where Lydia the art ends and Lydia the artist begins.
Writer/Director Todd Field took a 16 year break from his movies, and based on the final product, it was worth the wait. He is tackling hot social issues that have been heavily debated online and in the news cycle for the past few years. He does so in a way that is not just a string of sound bites to take from the film, but to make the audience think about the complex ideas he presents. His goal isn’t to make you think one way or another; he simply wants to make the audience work for it. We aren’t explicitly told the details of many of Lydia’s insidious acts but see short clips, overhear sound bites, and watch as the cinematography literally melts the icy exterior of TÁR into warmth that require our attention. It is these slow reveals and details that make TÁR an exciting watch.
Likely: Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Score, Best Sound
Should Be Considered: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actress (Nina Hoss)
Release Date: In Select Theaters now; rollout continues throughout October
Where To Watch: In theaters
Lives in LA
Favorite Director: David Fincher
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