TÁR (2022) - 7/10
Updated: Feb 2
Tár is a dense film. Thick with dialogue and emotional power. It’s also a bit tricky to get in to and might be a bit much for the casual viewer. That’s a shame though as it’s great. Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is a renowned concert conductor. An opening montage leads us into a live interview with the New Yorker, introducing her achievements to date. Let’s just say it’s a stellar CV. Right from the off, Tár is a force. Confident and assertive, but there are hints of the smallest of cracks. People will often misunderstand the role of a conductor, reducing it to something almost needless. Director and writer Todd Field knows this and lets that opening interview roll, as a device it not only introduces us to Tár, but the world of classical orchestration and her interpretation of it. Like I said, dense. At the top of her game, there’s plenty of admirers, both publicly and professionally. Like Elliot Kaplan (Mark Strong) with a fantastic wig, who’s told “There’s no glory for a robot, do your own thing”. Or a room full of nervous students at Juilliard, who also feel the wrath of Tár’s uncompromising views. She’s putting a lot of herself out there, is she as certain of herself as she appears though and when everything appears so perfect and controlled, what aren’t we seeing. Those potential cracks show themselves through Francesca (Noémie Merlant), she’s the assistant. Seemingly subordinate, she’s clearly privy to some weakness, could be the weakness, or quite the opposite. Tár’s partner Sharon (Nina Hoss) too. She has a fragility and brings out a tenderness in Tár, but there’s something else. It’s clear that Tár intends on retaining her position, status, power. Ruthlessly if required. These personal moments though really help the flow of this film. Although slightly bleak, they’re a breath of fresh air in Tár’s austere world. It’s a beautiful world though. Rooms vast with modernist lines and understated grandeur. I find myself lost in these spaces as Tár too begins to ebb. I can imagine that classical music students might lap the opening acts up, it feels important. Is it though, or is it an impenetrable pretentious three hour indulgence. I’d say it’s neither. It’s a slow burning drama. That doesn’t so much as unfold as gently slides into a darkness as Tár’s facade crumbles. Accelerated by the arrival Olga (Sophie Kauer) a no nonsense Russian cellist, brought in to help a live performance recording of Mahler’s Symphony No.5… but is anything but a stabilising presence. There's a lot to unpick here, about power, about gender. It demands your attention. Blanchett is incredible. It’s an explosive performance. Utterly captivating. A singular pivotal presence. “It’s not a democracy”. She needs to be too. At not far off 3 hours, it’s an intense experience. Be prepared to be patient, but you will be rewarded.