Perhaps I should just state it from the get go here: If you are someone who wants as little ambiguity in a film as possible, then TÁR is not a film for you.
If you want to have a movie to tell people they need to seek out for the purpose of needing someone to talk to about what you just witnessed, you won’t find a better candidate on any sized screen this year.
There is so much to taste and chew from TÁR that I almost wanted to wait to review it until I saw it a second time. Yet as a critic, I will try to do my best to describe what I witnessed the first time around. The film centers on the fictional character Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), a world renown conductor/composer we learn is even one of the few EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). Yet, as is the case with many brilliant artists, Lydia’s life is anything but ordinary. Her newest venture is that of conducting Mahler’s 5th Symphony with the German Philharmonic.
Perhaps I was just transfixed by Blanchett, but I admit it took a little longer than it should have for me to realize how not nice a person Lydia is. Perhaps it is best shown in what is one of the more memorable scenes of the cinematic year, in which Lydia is guest teaching at Julliard. The 15 min (ish) scene, done in one long take, centers on her singling out a young student (Zethphan Smith-Gneist), who is slowly but surely victimized by her. It is humanly disgusting, yet you cannot possibly turn from watching it.
Although married to her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss), it is suggested (though never shown) that Lydia has had relations with other women in the past, and may be looking to have one with a future member of the orchestra. Her only true, pure relationship is that with her adopted daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). Lydia’s solution to Petra being bullied at school is…let us just say unconventional.
The movie is about more than just what the consequences (both positive and negative) are for being a driven artist. It also has a fair deal to say about what it means to be in the modern day issue of cancel culture. Yet the film’s director/writer Todd Field (who has only made two prior films before this, his last being sixteen years ago) is not at all interested in giving concrete answers. Even the most seasoned film goer will need to time to digest the ideas of this film.
Even if the film does not work for some people (which I can completely understand), it is virtually impossible to deny Cate Blanchett’s performance (she was also an executive producer). She is raw, ruthless, cold, commanding. Along with Field, the film relies on her for the crescendos and decrescendos. Put simply, it is the performance of 2022.
Parents, this movie is for High Schoolers and above. The R rating does account some nudity (it is mostly blurred, brief, and non sexual.) There is also some violence (also brief), but it is mainly for the swearing. This would go above the heads of any adolescent and honestly would bore them.
The film brought to mind another classic of higher caliber, 2007’s There will be Blood. It will indeed be some time before TÁR would be in the same class as There will be Blood, but I could not avoid the similarities. Both are long, artistic films, leaving you more questions than answers, and is not going to be for everyone (although everyone will at least agree on each films’ lead performance being uncanny.) Both films also have sublime cinematography and a unique score (TÁR’s score is by Hildur Guðnadóttir, who won an Oscar for the score of 2019’s Joker).
Finally, both are strong contenders for the best movie of their respective years.