THE OSCAR PROJECT
Yan Wong's Reviews
Todd Field’s TÁR is a masterfully crafted 158-minute character study of fictional conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). The film opens with a long interview scene highlighting Tár’s various accolades and career achievements, establishing her as a sophisticated, successful woman standing just before the climax of her musical career - the adaptation of Gustav Mahler’s most difficult symphony.
The following scenes feature one-on-one conversations between Tár and other characters, making clear the film’s distinct style. We see entire conversations in scenes lasting minutes and this slow start to the film gradually creates a powerful tension that becomes apparent in the second half of the film, leading to quicker pacing between scenes and shorter segments of dialogue.
After introducing Tár’s success the film details her descent into ruin, beginning with an off-screen alleged affair with a mentee who ends up committing suicide. We witness many blows to her reputation and career, including the aforementioned suicide, and watch as she behaves increasingly inappropriately to her success and position. Tár is not at all a likable character but the film never passes judgment on her actions. The story of this queer female conductor’s fall from grace is so real and contemporary that it could be about a real person. TÁR depicts a story told so thoroughly, it seems real, with incredible attention to the detail. The music is performed on-screen by an orchestra composed of professional musicians and Blanchett speaks impressively accurate German, making for thrillingly realistic storytelling. The musicality of the sound design is subtly brilliant with no music in the film apart from what the characters are playing and much of the sound around the music is very rhythmic and musical.
TÁR is undoubtedly a masterclass in storytelling, but while its quality is elevated by the details, it also felt too perfectionist at times. The film tries to do everything perfectly which simply isn’t feasible. Blanchett’s German accent, though impressive, was too stilted and strained to me as a native speaker. The German was inaccurately translated in parts and the portrayal of the classical music ensemble felt too serious, too sophisticated and uncomfortable. Yes, I am nit-picky, but these tiny errors completely ripped me out of this grand fantasy about somebody’s life falling apart.
Blanchett’s undisputedly wonderful acting and gravitas were a true highlight. Needless to say, there was not a single acting performance in TÁR that wasn’t remarkable. This film is an absolute must-watch and I guarantee it will give you something to think about by the end.
8 out of 10