- Run time: 2 hours 38 minutes
- Studio: Focus Features
- Director: Todd Field
- Where to Watch: In Theaters
Lydia Tár is a trailblazer in the world of Western classical music. Widely regarded as one of the best composer-conductors of her generation and with plenty of award hardware to back it up, she is truly on another level. Now in charge of the futures and livelihoods of pupils and peers, Tár picks and chooses who succeeds and who fails. But like many great artists before her, Tár believes that her art and prestige grants her license to manipulate those who look up to her and it soon proves to be problematic for her personal life and legacy.
Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely stunning performance as Lydia Tár. She is the star of this exasperatingly elegant movie, no contest. She has almost the entire 2 hour 38 minute run time to herself, with very few scenes not getting the benefit of her input. She pumps Tár up to be this larger than life character that just pushes everyone to the side. There isn’t an ounce of weakness or empathy in her character. Tár’s best skill isn’t her composing or conducting, it’s her chameleon ability that lets her hide in plain sight and take advantage of everyone around her with seemingly no repercussions. Doing her best to support Blanchett is Nina Hoss, who plays Tár’s partner Sharon. She’s able to see Tár for who she is by the end and is strong enough to push her back to the bottom where she belongs. Mark Strong also makes an effort to keep up as Lydia Tár’s peer, and ultimately is the final person that Lydia wrongs before she is relegated out of most of her own social circles.
Director Todd Field follows the less is more approach with this very dialogue heavy movie. There are hardly any scenes with real score backing or use of Lydia’s actual score and this ratchets up the impact of each use. It is a very quiet movie with lots of appreciation for the architecture and atmosphere. There are many shots throughout that put Tár in the mid-ground, often surrounded by expensive furniture or instruments. The backgrounds are crystal clear and beautifully presented from start to finish. The concert halls and Berlin streets are so elegant and unfamiliar to a mid-western American troglodyte like myself that I couldn’t help but be awestruck by their beauty. For all the beauty and elegance, it is a bloated movie with an almost 3 hour run time.
The thesis of this movie is one that most audiences are familiar with, even if it is delivered in less than simple terms. It boils down to the possibility of separating the artist from the art. There are countless instances of this in modern day connected culture and it is really up to the audience to decide for themselves. Lydia Tár makes her stance on this abundantly clear and it is the key to her own demise. Her hubris is her arrogance in thinking she is just as great as those who came before her. She preaches about Bach’s contributions despite his moral shortcomings and immediately begins to march down that same road, thinking that she won’t get caught or that her own contributions will bail her reputation out. Her own elitism ensures that she has no allies to catch her, making her fall from grace particularly painful as she is excommunicated from the western classical music scene.
Todd Fields’ 2022 drama Tár is intricately complex look at what modern cancel culture does to people. This movie isn’t interested in telling the audience which answer is the right one. Fields gives this interesting conundrum a platform to exist on with compelling characters and actions that give the audience plenty of ammunition to fall on one side of the argument or the other. Each person in the audience can take this movie and decide for themselves if Lydia’s fate was appropriate or not. That is what makes Tár such a compelling narrative and when paired with Blanchett’s performance, you’ve got a homerun of a movie.