A slow-burn behemoth of a feature that unravels meticulously over the course of its 158 minute runtime.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / JANUARY 17, 2023
An awards season darling that is currently scooping up critical acclaim across the board. Tár is set in the international world of Western classical music, the film centers on Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and the very first female director of a major German orchestra. It sees her facing one of her greatest career challenges as forces out of her control begin to chip away at her.
I’m still not fully convinced that Lydia Tár isn’t a real conductor/composer with just how fully realised, complex and utterly enthralling director and writer Todd Field (along with Blanchett’s phenomenal performance) crafts her drive, career world and sense of history and place within our culture here. A slow-burn behemoth of a feature that unravels meticulously over the course of its 158 minutes. After an admittedly hard exterior to crack in the opening few scenes, Tár gives the audience every single essential glimpse necessary to become enraptured with this character.
Tár won’t be for those who aren’t prepared to be patient. Opening with a series of conversations of which the camera lingers upon the characters with minute movements or dynamism (the first of which being an uncut interview between the titular conductor and The New Yorker Festival), certainly sets a precedent. However, once more of Tár’s multi-faceted routine is exposed and we learn more about her often manipulative, cold, dedicated and occasionally vulnerable persona and how she operates around those within her career and personal life, the film flows incredibly well.
Seamlessly chugging along as the seams of Tár’s tightly knitted and esteemed career begin to tear (narrative details of which I won’t spoil here, as I too went into the feature with very little knowledge), the psychological angle and seething discomfort and intensity begins to flow through the veins of the piece, before culminating in a finale that has set the bar for this year.
Subtlety and efficiency define the quieter and intimate moments of the dialogue heavy sequences. Frequent close-up’s, well positioned framing and unique angles keep the necessary intimacy, as well as being visually pleasing and cinematic, especially when combined with dulled, concrete and grounded colour palette. The way the orchestral scenes are constructed are as a whirlwind sonic experience and the editing is so damn sharp to bolster the excitement and enchantment.
The Academy might as well send that statue to Blanchett now as I honestly can’t see any alternative. She is a true force of nature here and completely submerges herself in the role. From the tiny subtle facial twinges, vocal tones and overall demeanour, it is impossible not to just see Lydia Tár. When she takes to the podium to conduct it is utterly captivating and terrifying to witness. Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss and Sophie Kauer all provide unique, contrasts and chemistry to meld with Blanchett.
Tár is a looming, striking feature that is near-impossible not to succumb to once you settle into its slow burn groove. Blanchett delivers what is a phenomenal career best performance, the meticulously thought out and engrossing world of classic musical that Field crafts, and the personal stakes within it are consistently engaging.