Venice 2022: Cate Blanchett is Extraordinary in Crazy Brilliant 'TÁR'
by Alex Billington
September 1, 2022
One of the most important questions being discussed during the times we're currently living through: is an extraordinary artist's work relevant if the artist is a bad person? It's not a question that any of us can answer simply, though it might seem that the answer is obvious. Todd Field's latest film in 16 years (he previously made Little Children in 2006 before this) is TÁR and it grapples with this very question, exploring the story of an artist and her flaws and eventually her downfall. This film brilliantly and carefully asks this question and let's us analyze all aspects of it, beginning nuanced and complex discussions while also speaking out in both good and bad ways. TÁR tells the story of an acclaimed, award-winning female conductor named Lydia Tár - who lives and works in Berlin and reaches an tumultuous point in her life which brings about her own destruction thanks to her own ego. It is a harsh lesson she must learn, but will she actually learn her lesson?
With an overload of dull, forgettable streaming content, it's quite refreshing and invigorating to watch a film where it's clear the filmmaker has something to say. He's not just shooting a script that someone else wrote, he's not just telling a fun story, he's making a film that is expressing something deep and important that he must express through the language of cinema. Whether you agree with what he's saying in it or not, doesn't matter, as it's all part of having a discussion anyway. TÁR is a expertly nuanced, meticulously crafted tale of a renowned conductor who has let power and fame go to her head. Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár, who works in Berlin and is married to a German violinist, played by Nina Hoss. For the first half we watch as she outwits anyone who stands in her way, and perhaps she is battling misogyny and sexism in the industry (there are not that many female conductors or composers, after all). Though as the story plays out, there is something else about her that is uncovered as she deals with more &more challenging situations in her life.
It's impossible not to delve into the very disquieting implications of where the film's story goes in its second half, because ultimately this is what TÁR is really about. However, I don't want to reveal anything else, as I believe it is best to experience a film without knowing where it's going and what's about to happen next. In this one, it's especially gutting to watch this brilliant conductor participate so vividly in her own undoing. Kubrick comparisons are absolutely spot on for this film. Todd Field has outdone himself. It is a confident, beautifully crafted study of an epic and uncomfortable downfall. A ravishing look at how ego and obsession with power can warp one's mind, carving out the souls of those who cannot halt the pursuit of more power. There are two key moments that define how delusion she is. Cate Blanchett's performance in this will echo throughout eternity as an all-timer, she will be studied as much as her story in the film will be studied. The symphonic music moments brought me to tears. I've been thinking about the film non-stop since it ended.
More than anything, I very deeply admire a film that ever-so-carefully evokes a conversation, allowing us to discuss and analyze and consider every little last detail of every moment without feeling compromised or problematic in the process. TÁR is a sizzling slow burn film, allowing the tension to build throughout during lengthy conversation scenes, or shots that silently make your head spin in wonder with ideas and thoughts. Once it reveals what's really going on, and as Lydia herself stumbles deeper into the pit of her own making, you'll begin to think much more intently about what it's bringing up: can we separate the art from the artist? Is an artist irrelevant if they are not a good person? How much control do they have over this, and/or who controls their destiny? It goes much further beyond, as these kind of thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg. Todd Field is an irrefutable master for being able to delicately craft a profound film around such a huge, scary, controversial topic yet make it feel so informed, intelligent, and open-minded. This is one of the ages.