Tár (Todd Field, 2022, USA)

Director Todd Field's return to feature film after a 16-year hiatus of many projects that failed to launch, Tár is an almost 3-hour-long meditation, centering on a fictionalized renowned female conductor named Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). Blanchett and Field render Tár and the world she inhabits in such detail, that it is hard to believe she is not based on a real person. This is illustrated in the film's opening, wherein she is interviewed in public by Adam Gopnik, the writer at the New Yorker who is playing himself. As Gopnik lists off Tár's accomplishments, Tár's assistant mouths the words verbatim - clearly they have been taken from her Wikipedia page. This sets the tone for one of the major questions of the film - how much of greatness lies within actual talent, and how much of it is constructed?

Field seeks to deconstruct the myth of the great artist, as we learn over time that Tár is perhaps more of a vicious social climber who uses people for her strategic advantage (her partner Sharon, played by Nina Hoss, claims that the only non-transactional relationship Tár has is with her adopted daughter). Tár is a fall from grace movie, but it is rendered at a glacial pace against the background of preparations for a Mahler performance to be recorded by Deutsche Gramophon in Berlin. Field's script plays with ambiguities, forcing us to judge whether Tár is the monster she is being accused of, or whether something more subtle at work. The film is anchored by Blanchett's powerhouse performance, which is the result of a year of preparation - including learning German. While critics will label Tár pretentious, the film is a powerful slab of arthouse cinema with a Kubrickian lens, and for that alone it deserves praise in a field where such American films are rare.



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