October 10th, 2022
STARRING: CATE BLANCHETT, NINA HOSS, NOEMIE MERLANT
DIRECTED BY: TODD FIELDS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
A great sign of a good movie is not wanting it to end. That was immediately my thought with TÁR. I never wanted it to end. More music, more conducting, more conniving politics, more abuse of power, manic episodes, and the insane obsession of being the best at one’s profession. This is the newest film from director Todd Fields, about a fictional music conductor named Lydia Tár- played by Cate Blanchett to impeccable levels- who has already reached one of the highest points of her profession. She’s an EGOT winner, a professor at Juilliard, the conductor of Germany’s orchestra, and on the precipice of releasing her new memoir. With all of this success comes the pressure and although the outside is pristine, it’s a world of madness on the inside, with Tar going to great lengths to always protect her image. It unfolds in uncanny ways, with stellar acting, masterful directing, and a narrative that flows like a symphony. TÁR is a whirlwind experience from the first stroke of the baton.
There have been plenty of movies in the past that have dissected the obsessions of an artist. From Amadeus, to Whiplash, or recently in Elvis, but what TÁR reminded me of was Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Not the drugs and debauchery, but the way our lead character uses her powers at hand for her gain, and constantly maneuvered to make everything around for her expense. That’s not to say Jordan Belfort wasn’t manipulative, but with Lydia Tár, her brilliance has been her weapon. From frame one we see that this is a woman in control, someone who always knows what to say or how to say it; A person with those surrounding her willing to go the extra lengths for her happiness and keeping that happiness means Lydia keeps her power. Where The Wolf of Wall Street shows destruction at the loudest decibel, TÁR slowly dances along the piano keys of Lydia’s life, until she runs out of space on the board.
The central focus is Lydia (Blanchett) and the politics of working in an orchestra. We meet her assistant Francesca (Noemie Merlant) always standing next to her, waiting and telling her what events she has, while keeping detailed notes about upcoming preparation for the orchestra’s next show. Her wife Sharon (played superbly by Nina Hoss) is the first chair violinist, someone who has been a support at home, taking care of daughter Petra, and never digging too much into Lydia’s affairs. The director of the Orchestra is Elliot Kaplan (Mark Strong), a failed conductor in Lydia’s eyes, but the main proponent of having Lydia lead the charge. Then there is her first assistant, long timer Sebastian (The Offering’s Allan Corduner), who has been there based on his friendship with Lydia’s mentor Andris Davis (Julian Glover). When small hints at an ex-cellist stalking Tár happen, we begin to see the cracks forming in her pristine life, while her own extramarital provocations, using her power to manipulate a new younger cellist named Olga (Sophie Kauer), starts to show that once Tár loses focus her entire world begins to crumble.
Undoubtedly it is the performance from Blanchett that will receive top notice from critics and awards groups alike, but not to be overshadowed is the direction and writing from Todd Field. What the director has rightfully decided on is using a leering approach, to the point where cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister is spying on this life, never allowing her to sleep or rest. For a while, the life of Lydia Tár is displayed in the set design, the books kept in alphabetical order, the house often in a state of cleanliness, and her go-go lifestyle not interrupted by anything she doesn’t want. What this does is create a form of cinematic tunnel vision, a claustrophobia that begins to break open when her own paranoia eats at her, with moments where she hears noises in the walls, nightmares that shake her up, and the mounting pressure of never showing a blemish.
And yes, the performance from Cate Blanchett is arguably one of the best performances of 2022, while certainly more internally complex than her previous two Oscar wins. She’s never not on the screen and her character is a ball of tension. She’s certainly not a good person, someone who abuses her power, lies to people’s faces, and then stabs them in the back. With all of those attributes what makes Blanchett’s performance so good is her ability to convince the viewer of her charm. Without it, TÁR might not be half the movie it is, but it moves and flows like an enthralling opera of her life. You will be pulled into the production, be swayed by the performances, and when it comes to a close, you will leave wishing for more. TÁR is one of the best movies of 2022.
TÁR IS PLAYING THIS FRIDAY AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATER AND IN SELECT THEATERS WORLDWIDE.
Written by: Leo Brady