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Film: Blanchett Hits All the Right Notes as Tár
But you knew that, right?
Tár in a Nutshell: A nuanced insight into the life of a musical virtuoso who seems too big to fail. Cate Blanchett delivers a stunning performance.
Time is Money, Why Should I Go? You can view it at the beautiful and newly built Independent Picture House at 4237 Raleigh Street just outside NoDa, and it features one of the most powerful performances by an actress in the past decade.
Spill the Tea: Diving deep into the weeds of top global symphonies, the film centers on the (fictional) Lydia Tár, who is widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors. She is a Berstein acolyte who dresses in smart tailored pant suits, commands any room she is in, and despite being a self-described “U-Haul lesbian” has very little patience for the overly woke younger generation of musicians whose close-mindedness towards cisgender male classical artists induces contempt from her every breath.
Whether Tár is addressing a packed audience for a New Yorker Q&A or orchestrating the Berlin Philharmonic in their final performance of Mahler’s fifth symphony, she oozes a supreme confidence. You can’t help but be mesmerized and jealous at the ease with which she deconstructs her complex arrangements into layman’s terms for us novices trying to keep up.
It’s been over sixteen years since writer/director Todd Fields has put forth a feature film. Little Children (2006) was an indie critical darling that garnered three Academy Award nominations, including one for Fields himself in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. While that film was larger in scope, dealing with ebb and flow of suburban life, this film is a deep character study into the life of a virtuoso narcissist maestro. He lets Blanchett lead, but still makes a few small fun choices like the tone-setting opening credits. Every frame has Blanchett in the center and asks her to deliver, for which she obliges us spectacularly.
As the film progresses you see her slowly unravel from tiny cuts. The movie takes a look at power, privilege, gender, and who is held accountable in today’s world.
Star of the Show: This movie is Oscar bait, but I’m all for it. Cate Blanchett already has two statuettes and seems to be eyeing a third for her role as the titular Tár. She may be the greatest living actress not named Meryl Streep, and this film will likely lead to her third nomination in the last eight years (others include Blue Jasmine in 2013 and Carol in 2015). Blanchett owns this character and the elite academic intelligentsia baggage that comes with her.
Don’t Sleep On: Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Icelandic composer who won a Best Score Oscar for Joker, creates a wonderful musical backdrop to accompany Blanchett. The expectations for the score in a movie about a virtuoso composer are high; Guðnadóttir delivers.
Best Ten Minute Stretch: Lydia and her peer Elliot (Mark Strong) are having lunch together, and you can feel the pathetic attempts to gain her prestige through osmosis. From there she sets off to teach a class at Juilliard, thoroughly dressing down a young man for his taste in music selection, moral gatekeeping, and very being as a human. This is the first taste of who Lydia Tár is behind the façade of perfection.
Stay Away If: If you have skeletons in your closet waiting to ruin your day, or if you don’t like to have the conversation defending art from the artist.
Coulda Used a Little More… backstory to elucidate the mysteries of her past relationships.
Score (No Pun Intended): Highly Recommend - 9/10 and firmly in top 10 for the year so far
Breakdown: Pieces together the overall “vibe” this movie brings from other releases.