Directed and written by Todd Field. Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sydney Lemmon, Sophie Kauer, Mila Bogojevic, Allan Corduner, Zethphan Smith-Gneist, Fabian Dirr, Sylvia Flote, Julian Glover and Mark Strong.
Amy. rodin. Hoe. milk. Whitney. Seine. Belushi. radius. There. lincoln. John. Trumbo. Milius. Blessed. bland. judy. Tina. coat. nixon. Marly. Jobs. elvis. Crumb. Estamira. Klitschko. quill. Elizabeth. Tar. Documentary or dramatized, all these traits are biographies of characters so famous (or, at least, fascinating) that their titles can be summed up in one word: the name or surname of the protagonist – who, in the case of the last two, earns the face by the same actress.
Played by Cate Blanchett, Lydia Tár is the first woman to hold the position of conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic and one of the few people to reach the EGOT (read: winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). A disciple of Leonard Bernstein, the maestro (she rejects the feminine form of the word) was best known for having recorded the nine symphonies composed by Mahler and, of course, for a scandal which, it should be noted, was not included in his autobiography, Tar on Tar. Almost all of these data are mentioned right at the beginning of the film by the writer Adam Gopnik (played by himself) in an interview with the protagonist, whose Wikipedia page is sometimes vandalized by anonymous detractors and who, since the release of the feature film, has granted interviews and started updating his frequently twitter accounts — in which she has yet to discuss her partnership with the billionaire (and amateur conductor) nicknamed Kaplan, with whom she maintains a foundation to encourage the training of more female conductors.
Oh yeah: the billionaire in question, Eliot Kaplan (played by Mark Strong), is based on the real (and deceased) Gilbert Kaplan. Lydia Tár, on the other hand, is a completely fictional figure.
It is understandable, however, that many have begun to treat her as a real person on social networks and some have even believed in her existence: with a resume drawn in minute detail from Field’s script, Tár’s professional trajectory is convincing and contains a number enough encounters with reality (like an appearance on Alec Baldwin’s podcast and the aforementioned interview with Gopnik) to sow doubt in the public mind. Also (and equally important), Cate Blanchett’s characterization is rich in balancing tics, mannerisms and naturalness, such as occasionally touching her left ear as if adjusting a headset (or simply scratching it) during the initial interview or when passing the hand on the tablecloth in the restaurant, as if to clean it of crumbs, in the next scene. Likewise, her energy in conducting the orchestra translates into precise gestures which, also common among conductors, suggest a particular and personal style of performing her work. What’s more: by organically jumping between German and English in these passages, the actress evokes the conductor’s efforts to communicate as accurately as possible her musical intentions to the members of the philharmonic, and it is also remarkable how the actress projects the efficiency of the protagonist in dealing with all aspects of her role, from the study of the scores to the technical discussions on the recording of the performance, passing through the administration of the orchestra, the meetings with its financiers and meetings with its apprentices.
By projecting intelligence into each scene, Blanchett here has the opportunity to create one of those performances that transcend the actor himself – a rare (and therefore so valuable) phenomenon that I recall discussing in relation to F. Murray’s version of Salieri Abrahams in one of the texts elder of Cinema in Cena, for more than a quarter of a century(!): present in all the scenes of the film, the actress recognizes that it is contradictions that make Lydia Tár human and, to illustrate them, she highlights her love for that woman for her daughter at the same time that underscores her impatience when it invades her workspace or – more importantly – makes us wonder how someone so organised, rational and methodical could be so irresponsible, foolish and inclined to bring chaos to life. to your own life.
Of course, Todd Field’s directorial narrative approach also helps create the pinpoint impression that we’re watching something documentary: when following a lecture given by the title character, for example, Field and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister invest in a continuous plan, without breaks, lasting ten minutes, moves in the auditorium in a fluid but disciplined way, highlighting every point of interaction between the conductor and a student, Max (Smith-Gneist), starting from the questions friendly by comparison. In the scene where Tár talks to Kaplan in a restaurant, director and editor Monika Willi manages to create dynamism in a bureaucratic conversation, highlighting the billionaire’s anxious gaze when he asks the other to share some of his creative choices while directing a composition by Mahler (and it is revealing that she ends up giving in, but insisting that the subject invests in originality).
And if Mark Strong projects Kaplan’s pathetic nature well, Nina Hoss does an equally fabulous job as Sharon, Tár’s wife, suggesting through her eyes all the pain she causes so nonchalantly, almost as if she doesn’t care. of the havoc it leaves in its path. However, far from being a victim, Sharon demonstrates strength by imposing her own limits, leading the viewer to realize how essential it was for her partner to attain the coveted position she came to occupy in Berlin. Meanwhile, Noémie Merlant, so unforgettable in Portrait of a young woman on firehe makes the most of his screen time by evoking Francesca’s competence and how he divides himself between professional ambition and personal ethics, enduring (with pain) Lydia’s reprehensible actions in the belief that he will be able to reward her at the right time.
And it is this dynamic that offers the protagonist the ideal conditions to exercise cruelty in her search for sexual satisfaction: by showing herself artistically collaborative to earn the trust of her prey, Tár has learned, over the years, to manipulate everyone around her with immense efficiency . . around her, swinging without hesitation between affability and dryness – a duality that Field symbolizes through the various planes in which we see her reflected in mirrors (I have already discussed the symbolic use of her reflections writing about black Swan) and in the various moments in which he appears washing his hands (another gesture full of meanings). On the other hand, in a post-#MeToo world, it’s no surprise that Tár’s actions generate serious repercussions – and here it’s worth emphasizing how the project of sound, associated with the increasing restlessness of the camera, leads us to see how the driver is losing control of the situation when she is disturbed by the ticking of a metronome, the vibration of the car dashboard, the clicks of an assistant’s pen and, of course , with distant screams echoing without revealing their origin.
Or perhaps they do, representing not one particular person, but the various victims Tár surely left behind – a theory reinforced by the fact that we never see Krista’s face (although her presence is hinted at from the start, when we see the back of a woman). mysterious woman centered on the screen during the interview conducted by Gopnik).
Bringing still thought-provoking discussions of the distinction between art and artist, tar is a film that indulges in thematically complex tangents as when it focuses on a conversation with a student who, because he belongs to a racial minority and identifies as pangender, refuses to play works by Bach due to his misogyny, but sees no problem in Edgar Varèse’s work even though he was racist and anti-Semitic – reflecting a selective condemnation full of contradictions that often appears in debates about controversial historical figures.
Fascinating from the close-up to the last shot (whose irony, among other things, concludes the narration brilliantly), tar is the realization of how Todd Field has established himself as a heavyweight director even with only three features under his belt (before they came Within four walls And intimate sins) – is that he open it the narration with what would normally be the end credits is proof of how, going against the grain of the character it explores here, it knows how to unreservedly recognize the importance of the collaborative nature of the Art it creates.
Be prepared to read Lydia Tár’s vehement protests on her social media.
January 26, 2023
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