The new movie Tár, which opens this Friday, starts off in an antagonistic manner, almost daring the spectator to stick with it. At the end of the film, the audience gets what they deserve, but they have to earn it.
Famous composer Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is a household name. Tár's frosty attitude and interactions with others are examined while she teaches at Juilliard and leads her Berlin orchestra.
The entire end credits scroll is the first risk taken by writer/director Todd Field. Making the audience suffer through a whole list of crew credits when they know the movie will be nearly three hours long is a blatant disregard for their time (which play again at the traditional end crawl).
Tár is subsequently shown in the film at a Q&A session, where he answers audience members' queries, which is a huge example of telling rather than showing. She has a powerful voice, but wouldn't it be much better if she used it to create music?
At Juilliard, Tár confronts Max's (Zethphan D. Smith-Gneist) anti-classical bias, and the situation heats up. Tár's allure lies in the fact that she encourages Max to delve into the complexities of the creative process.
The Juilliard sequence is similarly shot in one long take that pans from the front to the back of the classroom. Max's battle with Tár is already stressful, and his restless leg syndrome just makes things worse.
Tár's (Noemie Merlant) assistant, Francesca, is more sentimental than Tár is about the company, yet she seems to grasp what he needs. She's not all business; Tár enjoys playing with her daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic).
As much as she utilizes them to express herself, Tár's use of jargon like “misogamy” and “technical music concepts” serves to isolate herself from her audience. Her attempt to make a scatological joke about the creative process sound more sophisticated than it makes her sound like she is trying to be even more arrogant than those million-dollar words.
Tár is seen here tuning the instruments in her orchestra. She's not quite as severe as that conductor in Whiplash, but she still has a lot of requirements.
At some point, Tár reveals a small glimpse into his creative process as a composer. She improvises at the piano, letting listeners hear a tune take shape before their very ears.
At the beginning of the film, Francesca informs Tár about Krista Taylor's death; however, the depth of their connection is not revealed until much later. In the end, Tár regrets getting involved with both Krista and Max.
Tár's carefully constructed bubble bursts and Blanchett has a field day illustrating the disintegration of Tár's defenses.
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Tár is a low-tempo buildup of all those parts. It's nice to see Blanchett deal with things when they finally get out of hand.
However, Tár is overlong without being particularly compelling. There could be a substantial improvement in the effectiveness of Blanchett's spiral if the running time were trimmed by 20 minutes.
The sound design adds to Tár's setting as well; the listener is thrust in and out of Tár's universe by both the orchestral score and the jarring effects of environmental sounds.
Among Blanchett's, most powerful roles are Tár, alongside Blue Jasmine and Elizabeth. You may feel confident that the film's clunky presentation and opening portion are on purpose and essential to understanding Blanchett's work in its full complexity.
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Fred Topel, a graduate of Ithaca College's film program and currently living in Los Angeles, is an entertainment writer for UPI. He has worked as a film critic professionally since 1999, been a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and been a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Check out more of his writing in humorous magazines.
Cate Blanchett has perhaps produced so many “performances of a lifetime” that a reborn Buddhist would feel embarrassed. Blanchett, like the only other performer as dangerously chameleonic (Meryl Streep), seems to be an emptiness who lets each character she portrays completely fill her own blank space.
An aggressive newscaster in “Don't Look Up,” Queen Elizabeth I in “Elizabeth,” Bob Dylan in “I'm Not There,” a highly neurotic elite in “Blue Jasmine,” and Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator”? It's hard to believe they're all the same person.
Blanchett excels once again in TR by portraying an unlikeable yet compelling female lead. She portrays Lydia Tár, a world-famous conductor and revered brand, but in reality, she is a soul-crushing train disaster, a pathological liar whose corruption and abuse of power are boxing her in.
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The film, which is constructed around her, is a significant representation of our current cultural moment, and it features a great performance that is virtually guaranteed to win the Best Actress Oscar. One cannot afford to disregard TR.