Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 38 minutes, Director – Todd Field
An internationally acclaimed conductor (Cate Blanchett) finds her reckless words and actions coming back all at once.
The groundwork for writer-director Todd Field’s Tár is done in the way the viewer is placed directly into the various extended scenarios which make up much of the opening stages of the film. Whether part of a classroom or coffee shop conversation the camera feels like a conscious witness to the various events which bring us into the world of endlessly acclaimed conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). The film opens with an interview which starts with Tár’s never-ending awards and credentials being lifted off before the interview itself begins. From there we see a considered, confident and honest figure not without a scattering of modesty, or perhaps recognition of her own successes compared to other women in her industry.
Whilst teaching at Juilliard Lydia is preparing to travel to Berlin to conduct her interpretation of Mahler’s Symphony No.5. Quickly forgetting about an interaction with a pangender BIPOC student (Zethphan Smith-Gneist) over putting Bach’s music aside from his misogynistic lifestyle. The sequence is one of the longer extended scenes in the film, shot with a one-shot style we move around the room to see the interaction from various different angles, all naturally playing out in real time. It’s a fascinating sequence not just in terms of where it might go in the moment and for the rest of the film but also because of the performances. Blanchett leads with an excellently considered performance as her character’s past, and indeed, present actions gradually begin to build up to come back at her all at once.
When talking to the Berlin Orchestra and conducting them there’s an effusive energy from Blanchett who excellently captures the development and mindset of her character throughout the film, especially in the final half of the film. Matched by Field’s direction which subtly observes and interacts with the events of Tár’s life – especially sitting back waiting for things to kick off as she starts to converse and flirt with new orchestra member Olga (Sophie Kauer), who she intentionally chose to join for this reason. All in front of her wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss) who acts as assistant conductor. The various dramas all weave into each other allowing for a consistent flow to the film which further hooks your engagement and keeps you involved and interested for the 158 minute run-time.
While this might occasionally mean that some of the shorter scenes don’t quite have the same effect, there’s always a longer interaction or conversation around the corner with plenty of things being said and shown within the performances, all adding to the pile that will inevitably fall on the central character. One who you can’t help but engage with and wait to see what happens to her. You may not hate her, but you’re certainly meant to anticipate the eventual turnaround in her life and how she will try to combat it – although nothing will prepare you for a rather scary accordion number. And once that moment arrives the course the film takes is equally intriguing as you wait to see where it goes.
There’s no surprise that people have been asking if Lydia Tár is a real person thanks to the brilliant way in which Cate Blanchett plays her, and Todd Field treats her. Wonderfully developed and engaging in its extended sequences there’s a lot to like about the development of Tár’s investing narrative.