TL;DR – A phenomenal performance in a severely dull film
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film
Tár Review –
This will be a difficult film to review because it is a movie of two very distinct parts, performance and narrative. Thus it becomes a work of incredible highs and deep lows, and trying to pass that feels like climbing a mountain. But climb we will as we dive into this fascinatingly frustrating film.
So to set the scene, Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is at the height of her career. She is the first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, being asked to do masterclasses at the Juilliard School, she has a book coming out Tár on Tár, and she has a beautiful homelife with her wife Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss) and daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). But there is a growing sense that Tár is walking on shifting sands as actions of the past start bubbling to the surface.
Before we get to the difficulties I had with the film, we must talk about the stunning performances that permeate the film. Cate Blanchett is transcendent in the role through all the highs and lows, you feel the weight of every action, every flourish. There are these two scenes at the start that capture this energy. The first is the opening interview, in which we see her responses in precise short replies, like precision strikes on a target. Then we get her masterclass at Juilliard, where in one long flowing scene, she both exalts and then mercilessly destroys a student through the veneer of politeness. In both of these, you see her strengths and behaviours that will befall her. Cate captures every moment with this intensity that you have to watch, even when it is incredibly self-destructive.
This is not to say that Cate is the only good point here. The film was full of these little moments that I loved. I was fascinated by all the politics behind the scenes of the Philharmonic, the blind auditions, the quorums, and the different rules and responsibilities. Another strength is the music; I believe it was filmed in situ, and you can tell. Part of this is probably some nostalgia from me for the sound of a band tuning, and I love an excellent Cello Concerto. Adding to this, the supporting cast does not have a weak link.
However, while I disagree with the gentleman who walked out of my session halfway and bemoaned to his wife, “that is an hour of my life I am not getting back”. I did feel that this was a phenomenal performance lost in a severely dull film. It could be that they were using this juxtaposition between the highs and lows, but goodness, it felt like a longer film than its run time. I understood the build-up being a bit on the slow side, but once the ball gets going, the film slams on the brakes and goes well past the point where the curtains should have been drawn. Indeed, the whole ending felt unnecessarily mean and reductive, and I don’t mean this regarding Tár.
In the end, do we recommend Tár? Well … look, there is a reason why Cate Blanchett is nominated for an Oscar. Her performance is electric, and you can’t help but watch in awe. However, is that enough to recommend it? And I am not sure. If you liked Tár, we would recommend to you The Menu.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Tár
Directed by – Todd Field
Written by – Todd Field
Music by – Hildur Guðnadóttir
Cinematography by – Florian Hoffmeister
Edited by – Monika Willi
Production/Distribution Companies – Standard Film Company, EMJAG Productions, Focus Features & Universal Pictures
Starring – Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong, Sylvia Flote, Adam Gopnik, Mila Bogojevic, Zethphan Smith-Gneist, Lee Sellars & Sydney Lemmon
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R
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