Shadow
Tár
A standout performance by Cate Blanchett in an overlong film.

Tár

Synopsis:
Set in the international world of Western classical music, the film centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and the very first female director of a major German orchestra.

An acclaimed conductor's career is affected by her allegedly predatory behaviour in . Lydia Tár () is a highly acclaimed female composer and conductor working with the Berlin Philharmonic on an upcoming live recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. With her busy schedule, Tár relies on her assistant Francesca () and the support of her wife and concertmaster, Sharon (). As Tár begins to show favour towards young new cellist Olga (), the conductor's world is rocked by accusations by a former protegee.

Tár Synopsis

Tár is the first film in 16 years written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children). The film stars Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, a former protegee of Leonard Bernstein who has become an acclaimed composer and conductor in her own right. Tár works with Eliot Kaplan () on the Accordion Foundation, mentoring young female conductions. However, Krista Taylor (), a former foundation member, begins speaking out against Tár for blacklisting her after an alleged sexual relationship between the two went sour.

My Thoughts on Tár

After kicking off his filmmaking career strong with In the Bedroom and Little Children, both films receiving multiple Oscar nominations, Todd Field seemingly disappeared for the better part of two decades, only to resurface with Tár. The film was written with Cate Blanchett in mind for the titular only. Indeed, Blanchett does stand out in her performance of the self-described “U-Haul Lesbian” Lydia Tár, who becomes engulfed in a #MeToo style controversy, where she allegedly helped the careers of young female conductors and musicians in exchange for sexual relationships.

While specific sequences of Tár stand out, such as an interview at the start of the film and a single-take Juliard masterclass, I found that the film is much longer than it has to be. Tár could have easily been half the length of its 2h 38m running time and told the same story, especially since most of the essential story beats don't happen until the film's second half.

It's also a bit misleading to make a film about a conductor and not focus on the music she is making, save for a few moments from rehearsals. Tár is much more about the accusations against Lydia Tár and how they affect her career as a conductor. It is left somewhat ambiguous whether there is some truth to Tár's grooming and predatory behaviour or merely a representation of misogyny and homophobia against an incredibly successful conductor.

Overall, while Tár is an OK film with a standout lead performance by Cate Blanchett, the film is marred by a plot that is way too long for what it is.

Trailer for Tár

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How to Watch Tár

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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