TÁR is a deeply remarkable, spellbinding character study directed by Todd Field. Set in the international world of Western classical music, and centers on Lydia Tár, a revered composer & conductor. TÁR is an impossible to categorize film, and to say that it’s specifically about cancel culture, ego or hubris alone does a disservice to how fleshed out & fascinating Lydia Tár is as a protagonist.
It is those things, among many other human complexities deriving from passion, faculty, arrogance, identity, and the feeling of being special in the eyes of a mentor, along with the dangerous potential power dynamic of such a relationship. Cate Blanchett gives the showstopping performance of the year, full stop. She seamlessly transforms into this character in one of the most convincing portrayals of a fictional person that I’ve ever seen put to film. What we see is a character desperately trying to manage the perception of herself, an identity she’s repeatedly attempted to shape like a diamond from the ashes of whom she once was.
What I find most interesting, is that if you took the story of Lydia Tár, and removed all pronouns and gender from the equation before presenting it to someone, they would almost certainly believe her to have been a man. She categorically does not allow her gender to define her. There is no condescending virtue signaling to be found here, where other films of the like stain themselves with blatancy, TÁR addresses its themes coherently, but also impartially, trusting filmgoers’ intelligence to read between the lines. The film treats us like one of Lydia’s pupils, we also have a sense of reverence for how brilliant & commanding she is, that it feels more personal once the film & audience begin to condemn her.
That early scene where Lydia debates the “separation of the art & artist” with a student (an immaculate unbroken shot) transforms into something entirely different, recontextualized by the rest of the film. An incredible commentary on evolving times, and those who think they’re above it. One of the most pronounced films of the last few years.
Tar was released to acclaimed reviews at film festivals before its October 2022 release.