Friday Film Review | "Tar"
Can a stellar performance by Cate Blanchett as a music conductor win over audiences despite the painstakingly slow character study by Director Todd Field?
This week’s film is “Tár,” director Todd Field’s first since his controversial “Little Children” in 2006. Cate Blanchett shines as Lydia Tár, an uber successful music conductor, whose career is culminating yet also spiraling out of control as the heralded conductor of a Berlin orchestra. Having won award after award in multiple fine art, theater and music disciplines, Lydia is attempting a new interpretation of a master work. Her focus is distracted by a growing social media scandal and by her inability to shake haunting if not compulsive reverberations of sounds in her daily routine.
Director Todd Field provides no easy answers regarding Lydia’s unyielding artistic inspiration, nor an all power corrupts theme that overshadows a meticulous look at the day after day in the life of a classical music conductor. Field’s use of an extremely slow tempo demands tremendous audience patience as the film’s pace deliberately contradicts the fictional character’s fast-past career cadence and the family pressures of her institutional success.
The film spends an inordinate amount of time on the intellectual framing of Lydia’s music philosophy, as well as her insistence upon contemporary emotional interpretation of any piece she touches. Underlying Lydia’s emotional mantra is an unyielding mandate to scholastically understand the original source. In short, Lydia embodies everything the political right hates.
The result is a cinematic buffet featuring standout performances, a fascinating look at the emotional component of making of a classical score, and a less than bright line character study of the necessary fortitude, conflicts and potentially hypocritical consequences of power and institutional artistic success. Strong supporting roles by Noémie Merlant and Mark Strong amplify the compelling performance by Blanchett. Ironically, and simultaneously quite deliberately, the film’s music composer is Hildur Guðnadóttir, the first woman to ever win an Oscar for Best Original Film Score for “Joker.”
So, on my Black Diamond ski trail rating system, “Tár” earns my highest but a qualified black diamond. Todd Field and Cate Blanchett serve up an artsy, tour de force performance that music lovers and anti-marvel universe cinephiles will welcome as an over-due antidote to dumbed down action blockbusters. However, Field’s deliberately restrained tempo yields a film over two and a half hours long that 90% of theatergoers may find unwatchable.
“Tár” is rated R for language, brief nudity, and force-feeding credits upon a captive audience prior to the start of the film. “Tár” is playing in theaters and the music score which is not completed in the film will be available separately.