It’s been 16 years since writer/director Todd Field has helmed a movie, and if you’re a fan of his two previous efforts (2001’s In the Bedroom, 2006’s Little Children), and if you watch both it’s hard not to be, then a new Field movie is cause enough to celebrate. Tar is set up like a biopic for a brilliant yet problematic German conductor, Lydia Tar (Cate Blanchett), a renowned talent in her field who also happens to have a long history of grooming her female Julliard music students into transactional sexual relationships. The movie is presented like one of those Oscar bait-ready biopics, enough so that I looked up more about Lydia Tar’s life (surprise: she’s completely fictional). It’s a character study of a flawed creative superstar in the wake of a Me Too reckoning, and in one revealing and excellently written sequence, Lydia argues for the noble separation of the art and artist and harangues an undergrad for his refusal to play the old classical masters for their centuries-old outdated perspectives. She accuses him of playing into performative identity politics, of course glossing over her own narcissistic problems. The dialogue is impressively curated, with lengthy conversations feeling authentic and packed with details of the world of classical music and composition and different ways we appreciate and interpret art. The movie unfolds at a very relaxed pace, revealing key details and connections about Lydia without underlying their significance. You have to really keep up with the movie, and the first hour is quite slow to get over. It opens with a fifteen-minute New Yorker on-stage interview with Lydia, and names will be dropped that won’t be relevant for whole acts. It’s self-indulgent but the details feel so authentic that I was still impressed even as I was beginning to lose my patience or attention. Even the opening credits last over five minutes, and that’s just white text on a black screen. The movie picks up more of a momentum as Lydia’s career starts to unravel and her past inappropriate relationships are given new attention in a post-Me Too media environment. Blanchett, as you would expect, is brilliant. She’s a complex mess of contradictions, and whether she fully acknowledges them is up to the viewer’s interpretation. Once you start recognizing her “performance” of self, every scene becomes a careful study in how many facades a person can leverage and what degree of self-awareness she may be privy to. Field’s direction is very calculated and downright Kubrickian, emphasizing long takes and cool color palates (Field had a small role in Eyes Wide Shut) to go along with its intellectual, understated, methodical approach (also in running time, and at 150 minutes in length, it’s overlong). I wasn’t as captivated with Tar as I was Field’s other movies, but there’s still much to admire, a commanding performance from Blanchett, and I hope I don’t have to wait another 16 years for Todd Field’s next able effort.
Nate’s Grade: B
Posted on November 28, 2022, in 2022 Movies and tagged cate blanchett, drama, gay, mark strong, oscars, todd field. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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