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Tár (2022) Review

This is my review for the 2022 film “Tár”. Nothing makes me more nervous than a movie in 2022 with a timely political message, especially one as hot as “cancel culture”. It feels like it’s impossible to comment on contemporary politics without seeming either preachy or straight-up bigoted. Director Todd Field weaves the messaging of this film perfectly, in a way that doesn’t alienate either side of the divide.

What is Tár about?

As previously mentioned, Tár is a movie about “cancel culture”, though it doesn’t ever use that term. Lydia Tár is on top of the world as a successful conductor who has the power to get whatever she wants. However, things begin to unravel for her and she soon finds skeletons from her closet coming back to bite her. It shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that it doesn’t end too rosy for Lydia.

Tár is accused of goading sexual favours out of her female underlings, in exchange for boosting their careers. It’s the suicide of one of these former protegees that ends up being the catalyst of her unravelling, as everything she holds dear comes crashing down and she finds herself in the humiliating pits of irrelevancy by the film’s final scene.

Field does a superb job at managing such a delicate subject. Most viewers will already have a horse in this race and to discuss the topic as deeply as he does, without blatantly upsetting either shows expert level control. I think the key reason for success here was refusing to use the contemporary language, that defines this debate. At no point in the movie does anybody say the word “cancel”. Nobody is called a “snowflake” and there’s no mention of #MeToo.

Equally, there is no sympathy for Tár – the terrible things that she does are portrayed as terrible and yet, we do feel sorry for her as we’ve grown attached to the things that she has. When she is “cancelled”: some of the accusations are legitimate and some of them are unfounded. At one point, we see an edited version of a previous scene where Tár is blatantly misrepresented.

The Julliard Scene

One of my favourite scenes in the film comes early on, where Tár is lecturing at Julliard. She butts heads with Max, a “BIPOC pangender” student who exclaims that they don’t like Bach. The presentation of Max did cause some eye rolls, they’re hardly the best representation of that side of the argument but they satisfy what the scene needs. Tár argues with Max, “destroying him with facts and logic” and does so in a very convincing manner throughout the 10-minute one shot scene. However, while she comes across as logical to Max’s emotional and eventual walk-out; it’s hard to say the she comes out victorious here.

“Facts don’t care about your feelings,” has been a mantra in contemporary politics, primarily used by conservatives to attack “liberal snowflakes”. It’s always been a catchphrase that I take issue with, as feelings are important and I believe this scene shows why. While Tár makes excellent, reasoned points – she does so while both refusing to engage with Max’s argument and while humiliating him in front of his peers. This was no outcome here where both parties walked away in agreement, yet Tár’s ego led to her upsetting a student and bringing down the tone of her class. This scene, also, comes back to bite her in the final act.

How does Tár end?

Tár ends with the titular character losing everything: her family, her prestigious career and most importantly: her power. It is drilled into the audience’s head that Tár doesn’t just love the power she has outside of conducting, but loves the power within conducting too. She decides when a performance starts and she decides when it ends. It’s all up to her interpretation.

In the final scene of the movie, after she jets off to an unnamed South Asian country (most likely the Philippines) – she is seen conducting an orchestra who are performing for a Monster Hunter convention. This may be degrading enough for somebody with Tár’s cultural snobbishness but it gets worse. Before beginning, she puts on a headset which dictates to her when to start the performance (so that it can match the screens that are set-up behind the performers). That crucial bit of control that she loved, the part that defined her as an artist has been stripped away from her. She hasn’t just lost her cultural power, she’s lost her artistic power too.

In a move that I don’t think I’ve seen before, the music used in the credits almost continues the story in a way as it blasts loud dance music – a huge contrast to the classical music that has defined this film. This is the kind of lowest common denominator music that Tár would scoff at. Yet, this is what she’s been reduced to.

We need to talk about Cate Blanchett

What a performance from Cate Blanchett in this movie!

It’s been predicted enough already, but the Oscars race for Best Actress is undoubtedly between her and Michelle Yeoh (for “Everything Everywhere All At Once”). I loved both films, but I think I would give it to Blanchett in this instance, even if she has been previously awarded by the academy. The way that she is able to capture the character of Lydia Tár is beautiful and the passion at which she speaks about orchestral music almost tricked me into believing that it was interesting.

If I were to put money on the Oscars 2023 race between her and Yeoh, I would have my money on Blanchett – if not only because I think EEAAO is going to dominate in other categories, meaning that Tár will likely be thrown a bone here.

Was Lydia Tár a real person?

No, despite many memes about her – Lydia Tár was not a real person and is a fictional creation for the movie.

Who should watch Tár?

Tár isn’t an easy flick, it’s a difficult recommendation to make. If you like artistic movies, with great performances – then give this a go! Especially so, if you like Cate Blanchett.

If you’re looking for something fast-paced, which doesn’t have a dull moment: this probably isn’t for you. Most of my enjoyment of Tár came after watching it, as I thought about how previous scenes and themes connected with each other and appreciated how well done it was. As a result, it is calling me for a rewatch.

This was my review for the movie “Tár”. Did you enjoy this movie? Let us know in the comments below.

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