‘Tár’ Is a Monumental Tribute to Cate Blanchett’s Talents (Review)

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When Lydia Tár gets on stage behind a podium and taps her baton, the audience is in complete silence, holding their breath in anticipation that something great is about to unfold. Cate Blanchett appears on the screen in the same way. In her remarkable career, she has played many great characters. But none of them have been as well-crafted as the one Todd Field wrote. Tár. This movie is 16 years after Field’s last. Tár Blanchett is given a rare chance to express her talents in one film. It is a beautiful tribute to one of his greatest artists.

Tár This is a portrait of a great conductor and composer. Lydia Tár is so amazing that Field opens his film with her résumé and leads into a 20-minute interview sequence. We learn so much from this prologue, as Field economically gives us everything we need to know about Tár’s personality. Similar to his slow burn in his previous films, he lays the foundation for his drama.The BedroomAndLittle Children. And the slow burn is slow, as the scandals that will ultimately lead to Tár’s downfall trickle out. While the highs of her life are exhilarating, the lows are terrifying in the middle of the night. 

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(Photo: Focus Features).

Those scandals are all of Tár’s own doing. Blanchett and Field have not created any character that the audience should emulate. Tár imagines herself above everyone else in the world, casually dismissing people she uses as “robots.”She sees life as a series involving exchanges in order to achieve her artistic goals. When a student she rejected takes her own life, Tár doesn’t care to learn what led to the tragedy and instead does whatever she can to hide it. Tár puts herself into what she perceives as an impenetrable box, and her only reaction to any scandal is to preserve that by running from problems. She doesn’t want her mistakes to lead her to regrets, even if it means being alone.

Blanchett’s transformations are evident throughout the film. It’s hard to believe that Tár is played by the same person at the beginning, where she oozes with charm, and towards the end when she can barely hold it together. It’s also a subtle nod to celebrity, and how exhausting it can be to keep up a façade of perfection at all times. At some point, Tár performs in front of everyone. Even when she’s at home with Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss), this is all an act. Sharon bluntly tells Tár that the only person in her life she doesn’t expect a transaction from is their daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic). This is almost true. Another person she doesn’t want anything from is her brother because Tár has completely rejected the idea of a “normal”Life without being constantly praised and globetrotting. 

Unlike The BedroomAnd Little Children, TárBlanchett is the only one who can perform this piece as Blanchett has little time to spare. There are many great supporting roles. Nina Hoss is perfect at doing so much without saying anything, as her reactions to Tár’s wildest antics provide a few light moments. Noémie Merlant acts as a sort of stand-in for the audience as Tár’s assistant Francesca Lentini, who begins to see the flaws in her idol just as we do. Julian Glover, the great actor and director, is well-known for his many roles inIndiana Jones and The Last Crusade For Your Eyes Only, gets a memorable part as Tár’s mentor, Andris Davis. But Tár can’t even consider Andris her equal. 

Field’s film direction is also very inspiring. He structures the film as a series of long scenes, although the movie gets a bit more frantic as Tár falls apart. Florian Hoffmeister’s camera work flips easily from getting us inside Tár’s mind when Field needs us to, and also puts us at a distance to highlight her isolation. Hildur Guðnadóttir also provides an evocative original score, although most of it was not used and will be heard in an upcoming concept album. 

Tár This is a detailed and well-rounded portrait of an artist who is in complete crisis. It shows why many can’t face scandal but prefer to have them buried, even if they cause more damage to their career. There are story threads in Tár that never get tied up, but that’s because these scandals never are in real life. Blanchett’s performance, Field’s directing and the combination make for an exhilarating epic where a terrible person touched with genius can’t keep falling into an endless abyss. 

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