Cat Blanchett as Lydia Tar as Tar (2022)

Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Film Review – Tár (2022)

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It’s no secret, we can easily be the masters of our own downfall. We can take the steps to get us to the top of the castle, one false move the walls come crumbling down. In Todd Field’s Tar, Cate Blanchett is exceptional as a music maestro whose life unravels in the face of allegations.

Classical music may not be for everyone, that doesn’t mean you will not enjoy this film, far from it. I would not call myself an avid fan of the genre, I do appreciate it’s qualities. Tar is not about about the music, you could say this psychodrama could be a biopic if the main character was not fictional. Even then this wouldn’t be based on a true story, it does tick all the boxes to be one.

The film is slow moving, building the profile of Lydia Tar (Blanchett). Spoon fed her achievements which delivered in the shape of a live interview in front of an audience in New York with real life New York Times journalist Adam Gopkin. Achievement after achievement, Gopkin builds her profile that would put Tar on a pedestal. She knows she’s good, her reaction says it all. We know she is good too, a student of Leonard Bernstein, inspired by Gustav Mahler.

She is now on the verge of conducting Mahler’s 5th, the only piece of his work she has still to conquer. She is of course the first female conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic. She is a maestro, a woman with much power and her presence is felt not just at the conservatoire, through out the music itself. The interview itself is a performance for Lydia Tar, everything is tailored for her including the shirts and suit she tries in the scenes during her chat.

Always by her side is her devout assistant, Francesca (Noemie Merlant, A portrait Of A Lady On Fire). She constantly denigrates her despite how much she needs her, same can be said about her wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss). The latter also her first violin, mother of child but like Francesca they seem to be pawns of her power. Everything seems good for our maestro until suicide and sexual allegations bring her world tumbling down.

When actors play specific roles, who have certain jobs like a music conductor they aren’t always credible. Cate Blanchett is convincing on every level, delivering with such confidence and conviction. She does that in the open minutes of Tar, commanding your attention when she talks. Very confident, even funny but deep down behind the scene she is cold and flawed. Behind those flaws Blanchett is sublime, searing and deserves those plaudits she is receiving for her phenomenal performance.

Tar is a character study of a musical genius whose egotistical and narcissistic. Someone who thinks herself as a godlike figure she can do anything with no remorse. Including threatening kids at her daughters school who bullied her. The film steps into gender politics and her relationship with younger female students. Getting favours, but is that relationship seen as professional or worse? The one relationship is with a new Russian Cellist Olga (Sophie Kauer) point in the direction of ‘grooming’. This takes the film into the cancel culture and #metoo movement. Not in a way to take it’s side but to question the viewer of why are we doing it?

Tar will showcase Lydia Tar extraordinary talent, but never puts her down when she’s oppressive. The film is a slow-burner that builds the layers of tension with great precision, building up to an unexpected conclusion. A searing performance for Blanchett and I won’t be disappointed if she wins the Oscar.

★★★★


Drama, Music | USA, 2022 | 15 | Cinema | 13th January 2023 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Todd Field | Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noemie Merlant, Mark Strong, Julian Glover, Adam Gopkin

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