I can't say that I've ever ended up loving a film so much that's first twenty minutes almost had me heading for the exits. Such is the case with TÁR. Writer/Director Todd Field's triumphant return to cinema after nearly 16 years. The film opens in a slow and unorthodox fashion, running the end credits first at a pretentiously slow pace while an elderly asian female voice sings hoarsely over them. I took a deep breath and prepared for what looked like a painful two and half hours ahead of me. The film then opens on Cate Blanchett ( Lydia Tár) sitting on stage at Lincoln Center as the star guest of a packed Q&A event. We listen to the stuffy host give her a long and sycophantic introduction and proceed to watch Lydia wax philosophical on music and her creative process. The scene goes on for far too long and carries a dryness and self-absorbed quality that really rubbed me the wrong way. This is where I nearly gave up.
Thankfully I braved onwards and found myself slowly sucked into Lydia's world and Todd Field's exceptional craftsmanship as a director. The film is designed to slowly wrap you in, feeling no pressure to move at a quickened pace or deliver a series of shocking moments. It's the life of a highly successful artist and I quickly found myself enthralled in its beauty and realism.
I'm embarrassed to admit that going in I thought this was a biopic of a real-life composer. If you google Lydia Tár the first thing that pops up reads as follows:
Lydia Tár is one of the greatest living composer/conductors, and first-ever female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic
It's more appropriate as a wikipedia entry in the film's universe than a real life google search result. Perhaps this is part of the film's PR campaign? The truth is, Lydia Tár is in fact a completely fictional creation and clearly designed by Field so he can tell a story about an artist's flaws and their battle against cancel culture without audience's preconceived notions on the subject being followed. It's a clever concept and one I think many filmmakers have not considered, instead opting for the obvious route of exploring the real life stories we've all already witnessed in the news over the last several years and which carry a baggage that TÁR doesn't need to.
Cate Blanchett gives what is easily her greatest on screen performance ever in a role that places her in every scene and nearly every shot for two and a half hours. Field wrote the role exclusively for Blanchett and has stated he would have never made the film if she turned it down. In truth I couldn't imagine anyone else pulling it off and it working so effectively.
The director actor duo of Todd Field and Cate Blanchett is extraordinary and I hope to see the film up for all the major awards next year with Blanchett being the most predictable winner for Best Actress.