Tár is the story of a renowned composer-conductor at the top of her craft. Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) seeks to continue her reign in the world of music. To accomplish this, she has chosen to tackle a live concert and recording of Mahler’s 5th symphony while serving as the leader of the Berlin Philharmonic. While preparing the piece, Lydia struggles to maintain various relationships. These include her wife Sharon, a player in the orchestra she is leading; Francesca, Lydia’s assistant who yearns for a seat in the company; and various other influencers who hold political power over decision-making. When some questions arise about her past conduct, Lydia finds herself struggling to keep her entire world from unraveling.
What works in Tár is the incredibly engrossing script and (another) career-defining performance by Blanchett. Writer and director Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) unapologetically drops viewers immediately into the middle of erudite action as characters debate using a library of musical references that only the most scholarly could parse. This is an intentional choice, as Field creates a true experience through cultural immersion. Along the way, Field challenges audiences to keep up with the charismatic and enigmatic Tár, as her intentions come into focus through Blanchett’s captivating display. At the heart of her scheming, positioning, and passions a central question emerges: what is more important—the artist or the art? Expect Tár to score multiple deserved Academy Award nominations, possibly to include Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Director, and Best Film.
Tár delves into tough and sensitive subject matter that some may find unsettling. Without giving too much away about the plot, Lydia goes on a journey marred with pain—especially when considering the lengths she’s willing to go to protect her ambition. Along her narrative arc, Field sprinkles a myriad of moral and ethical conundrums. He sets the table with ambiguous facts and perceptions and leaves decision-making and value judgement to the audience. For this reason, some patronsmay conclude Tár feeling unsatisfied given the majority of the consequences and “truths” are left open-ended for further analysis, debate, and interpretation.
There’s no film quite like Tár at the moment. It provides those who engage with it entry into an entire universe both familiar—in terms of the struggles every person has with relevancy and external adulation—but also the artistic highs and lows musicians grapple with. Tár is worth watching for Blanchett alone, but the screenplay elevates the affair to something extraordinary. Highly recommended.
Tár is now available select streaming platforms.
Recommended if you Enjoyed: Whiplash, Carol, Blue Jasmine