My wife and I went to see the late afternoon matinee of the movie TÁR back on November 10 at the Spectrum Theatre. There was, coincidentally, one other couple in the roomy theater, who we’ve known for years. Afterward, as the four of us mused about what we had just seen, a young man who worked at the cinema proclaimed, “Isn’t that the best movie EVER?”
The four patrons all agreed that Cate Blanchett inhabited the character of music conductor Lydia Tár wholly. It is not surprising that people sought Tár’s body of work only to discover that she was a fictional character.
Blanchett’s complex performance featured her actually playing the piano, something she hadn’t tried in decades; conducting and speaking German, which she learned for the role. Tár striking a punching back to the rhythm of Mozart’s A Little Night Music made me laugh aloud.
There were other touches of verisimilitude in the film that I really liked. The far too long introduction by a New Yorker writer before interviewing Lydia reminded a specific Writer’s Institute event I attended several years ago. Deutsche grammophon is the imprint of many of the classical recordings that many folks, including me, own.
But, as several of my friends asked me, what is the movie about? The Spectrum description says it “examines the changing nature of power, its impact, and durability in our modern world.” So it’s the looking away from the foibles of a talented artist, at least for a while? The power of the cancel culture? Is Icarus flying too close to the sun?
Mashable opined: “Like its protagonist, Tár is many things all at once: a psychological drama, a foray into horror, a (very) dry comedy, and a relationship drama.”
Friend Karen suggested that we are supposed to feel some sympathy for the conductor. This is even though, according to another of the movie’s other main characters, all of Tár’s relationships, save one, are transactional. That is dead on.
Over a week later, I’m still musing about the film. It was good to see it in a movie theater with speakers. I think this would be too claustrophobic to watch on the small screen. And I did love not just the music but the thought and process of creating a performance.
So I looked at some of the reviews; 92% were positive from the critics, but only 72% from the audience. From The Guardian: “a singularly strange offering from US writer-director Todd Field.” I cannot argue with that.
That’s not my take
But I will dispute Amy Taubin’s assessment in ArtForum. “Cate Blanchett, playing one overblown note in Todd Field’s imbecilic and carelessly racist TÁR.” The characterization is based on the fact that “Field cuts from the concert halls and trophy residential real estate of Berlin and New York… to the filthy streets and decaying buildings of an unnamed Southeast Asian country…”
No, it was not a one-note performance. And, as my friend David divined, it’s a particular country, as a reptilian reference in the dialogue would suggest.
I’m glad I saw it, yet I don’t imagine I’d watch it again. 178 minutes is a long haul that’s so…internal.As Charles Koplinski noted, “TÁR is a movie you admire more than enjoy.”