THE NARCISSISM OF SMALL DIFFERENCES LEADS TO THE MOST BORING KIND OF CONFORMITY : Lydia Tar
It is fair to say that this hypnotic movie belongs to its writer-director Todd Field and its actress Cate Blanchett. Meticulously made, Tár has many layers, it is a complex conversation piece set in the world of classical music that deals with the intricacies of power dynamics in social and cultural relations, shady in what´s professional and what´s personal.
In the history of movies, we are familiarized with indelible female characters such as Norma Desmond, Margo Channing, Blanche Dubois… Lydia Tár adds to the list.
The film uses a grayscale palette in the widest sense of the term and makes a statement at the beginning placing ahead of the usually abundant end credits. Chapeau! to all the staff and production team for the work of art made.
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2022, since then we have been aware of a promotional campaign portraiting the main character captured from below, standing up like a giant with her arms open. I am not aware of any other film in recent years that has had that clean graphic design and coherence, using minimal texts and images in so many varied manifestations (Twitter posts, theater facades, huge billboards). Well known to the public, Mahler´s 5th Adagietto is related directly to Luchino Visconti´s Death in Venice; thanks to Tár, we are invited to listen and identify excerpts or the extended version of the symphony.
In the first sequence, we watch there is a text message from a cell phone and a short video of a woman sleeping during a private flight, it gives hints of what´s coming cause of social media, and how information flows instantly nowadays for good or for bad. Undeniably talented Cate Blanchett in an overwhelming interpretation incarnates a fictional composer/conductor and principal director of a German Philarmonic at the top of her game, in the male-dominated classical music industry. We observe Lydia Tár, in a tailored black suit, talking about time as the essential piece of interpretation and sharing her past, present, and future projects that include the live recording of Gustav Mahler´s Fifth Symphony, the one she´s missing to complete his circle of nine, and the presentation of her book “Tár on Tár” scheduled to arrive for Christmas to make a perfect gift. The covers of Deutsche Grammophon LP’s falling on a parquet floor are the perfect visual complement for a conversation during which Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker magazine writer, shares with the audience her impressive achievements in a long and important opening scene where Lydia sits like a queen, also speaks with her body, and above all, reigns throughout the film.
Meals at restaurants with silverware, crystal, porcelain, and white table linens, suits from Egon Brandstetter atelier, private roundtrip flights from Europe to America, a suite at the Carlyle hotel, a brutalist architecture apartment in Berlin… stress the ultra status of Lydia´s wealthy universe. There is rigor in the world of classical music (Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Elgar), but there are also strange noises, silences that speak volumes and Sharon´stares. Lydia´s insecurities are covered with her authoritarianism until the perfect image she feels she is and projects begin to disintegrate.
The bewitching original screenplay is in the good hands of a skillful cast. Noémie Merlant as Francesca, Lydia´s personal assistant, and Nina Hoss as Sharon, Lydia´s wife, are outstanding, they are particularly close to Lydia´s despotic needs, and their actions determine her fate.
Cinematography, sound design, score, and attention to countless details make the movie a haunting and rare experience to watch. Questions arise: Can art be separated from the artist? Can your beliefs or prejudices limit your ability to explore unlimited possibilities as a source of inspiration? Many more inquiries and doubts stay long after the movie.
Not to be missed, this expertly crafted film is one for the ages.
Tár premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2022, Cate Blanchett received the Volpi Cup for best actress, and since then, recognitions have been unstoppable.
Tár is showing in select theatres and cities around the world, and streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Peacock.
Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.
Labels: 2023, Cate Blanchett, drama, José Mayorga, review, Tar, Todd Field