“Tár,” February 27, 2023, DVD (2022). Cate Blanchett stars as Berlin Philharmonic conductor Lydia Tár in this painful and disturbing, award winning/nominated study by writer/director Todd Field. With its stellar acting, astounding score and gut-wrenching story line, it’s an excruciating look at the abuse of power by a brilliant woman who preys upon her younger students and musicians from her podium, exchanging favors for favors. Tár uses those who crave her support until they’re to be thrown away. The suicide of one distraught former mentee leads to a cascade of accusations, both true and false. It is ugly and terrifying to behold, just as her cruel, arrogant, and presumptuous playing with peoples’ lives (and not just more vulnerable young people) is ugly and terrifying to watch. The character’s hubris is breathtaking.
“Tár” is both a study of abuse and, to a lesser extent cancel culture. The latter is played out in a vastly more caricaturish manner than the former, however, and lacks the sense of reality invested in her power plays. Are there really music grad students at Julliard who reject Bach because he was a cis, white man with 20 kids? Could Tár, in our time, be this oblivious about her comments and her personal physical contact with students? It rang false to me, even as I watched it.
It’s also got a huge number of subordinate themes that are really fascinating. One that struck me is her relationship with Mahler and, of course, Bernstein. But that would take much more time to develop and my degree in pop psychology expired three weeks ago.
At 2:38 run time, the setup is leisurely while the collapse is like a whirlwind that is, sometimes, harder to follow. It goes from shock to shock and takes us down below anything I could imagine. I, for one, could have used some of those connecting scenes that, I fear, are on a ‘deleted’ disc.
While some women conductors have condemned the film as misogynist, others have praised it. It’s worth viewing regardless, although it certainly made it hard to fall asleep after viewing.