TÁR | New York Film Festival 2022 | Review


When a film's lead character is an unlikeable woman, it is often the first thing mentioned. The same thing was said about Melissa McCarthy as prickly Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? just four years ago, and it will undoubtedly keep being said until we allow women to exist on screen in all their multi-faceted forms the same way we do men.

We receive all the context we need of Lydia Tár before we come to know her ourselves. Her accomplishments are reeled off in an opening monologue that is seemingly relentless, and we get an insight into the legend we are about to spend 157-minutes with in a rumination on paranoia, cancel culture and the inner workings of a falling woman. 

Todd Field slips into the director's chair for the first time in 16 years, saying that Focus Features gave him the grace to write whatever he wanted. Acknowledging that he had Cate Blanchett in mind from the start, he came to write the film during the pandemic, starting with a scene that takes place in a Juilliard classroom where we see Tár in full swing. Lecturing bright-eyed, unjaded students, she pushes one too far in an attempt to inspire him. The scene culminates in him calling her a bitch, after she spends minutes hurling quips such as "don't be so eager to be offended" and "the architect of your soul appears to be social media". Tár is the antithesis of everything the world likes to herald as good, and yet she is so compelling that those two hours and thirty-seven minutes fly by. 

Cate Blanchett is the heart of the film. Everyone is spectacular, but without her excellence, the film would fall flat. Blanchett gets deep into Tár's soul and does so much, even when saying so little. The film sets a tone of threat early, and this carries Lydia through the film, flinching at every out-of-place item in her home, any sound that is out of the ordinary, checking a room each time she enters it for unrecognisable faces. She is a woman possessed. Haunted by the ghosts of her past that are slowly creeping up on her. Field speaks to each character having an individual gate, saying that if you switch on a metronome, you'll find that Lydia Tár walks at 120bpm. There's an inherent rhythm in the film that starts with Blanchett and trickles down into the technical elements, like Hildur Guðnadóttir's score that articulates how it feels to have music underscoring your life for better or for worse.

Nina Hoss speaks to playing the role of Sharon Goodnow, partner to Lydia Tár, by posing the question: "who is the partner of a genius?" Sharon plays the violin in the orchestra and is a force in her own way. Hoss expresses in a post-screening press conference that those who partner with geniuses want something for themselves. They're after something that the other has. That singular thought places Sharon in a place between love and ambition, a dangerous combination. Every character is led by delicious motivation, including newcomer and cellist Sophie Kauer, who has no prior acting experience but looks like a seasoned performer across from Blanchett and Hoss. Field gave everyone something to play with, and the result is a masterful ensemble that crescendoes to great heights.

Tár is soaked in greatness. It so cleverly speaks to the cultural moment without being a lecture on what's good and what's evil. It's interested in the grey area, and it is a playground for brilliance. 

TÁR hits select cinemas on October 7th 2022 

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