Thursday, October 20, 2022

TÁR - Review


From the moment that TÁR begins, there’s an emphasis on noise. Whether it’s the possibly perfect pitch of the titular composer, the ever present whispers and praise of what makes her who she is, or even the extraneous noise of a doorbell or a busted vent on a car, everything is precisely placed. Finding the meaning in the music, as Lydia Tár often pontificates on, is where the audience comes in. 

On the precipice of recording a symphony that will be another achievement in her laundry list of successes, Lydia Tár’s life suddenly turns against her. Her past, and the people scattered throughout it, comes back to haunt her, crumbling the faux intellectual image that is the influential composer, and with it, threatens to pull everything good away in one fell swoop. 

Director Todd Field has been away from the director’s chair for sixteen long years, but his return is nothing short of triumphant. Field swiftly and gracefully builds this mysterious world of music, an inescapable labyrinth that’s as mystifying as it is dangerous. Very few directors trust their audience in the way that Todd Field does with TÁR, allowing the viewer to fill in their thoughts and judgements rather than attempting to pass his own. 

At its heart is a fierce and unique performance from the always stellar Cate Blanchett. The opening scene, set during an interview for a rapturous crowd at concert hall, does so much to establish the persona that is Lydia Tár, from the unending list of achievements, to the self-satisfied look in the interviewers eye as the famed composer lectures on the power she has at the podium to control time itself. Lydia Tár is inherently selfish, she lives to serve herself and just about every relationship, save for the one with her daughter Petra, is transactional. 

And that powerful and prestigious image she projects is something that Field is interested in interrogating. Never once does he portray Lydia Tár with any hint of his own feelings on the individual he's crafted for the screen, instead posing a question to us, the audience, and allowing the pieces to fall into place within our own minds. If ever a film felt like reading a well-written, deep and contemplative piece of literature, TÁR would be it.

Todd Field and Cate Blanchett have crafted something truly remarkable with this film. Much of the film’s narrative is drawn straight from the headlines of abusive and exploitative behaviors from powerful individuals in various fields. In many ways, TÁR doesn’t give an easy answer, but poses questions instead. Do we wipe away the achievements and praise an artist receives once their problems are aired out for the world to see? Or can we separate the art from the individual? The film doesn’t come down on either side, but asks the viewer to consider their own role in this seemingly unending debate. 

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