Cate Blanchett plays with a director who directs her own words when Todd Field returns to filming, “TÁR.” It’s the best performance of her career since she told Therese Belivet “I like the hat” in “Carol” in 2015, and the latest role allows her to step into sinews and reflect on her gifts. her own status and genius in the public figure. Here in Field’s fictional universe that mirrors our own, she plays Lydia Tár, the most famous female director in history, and a woman whose interpersonal dealings with protégés, peers, fans and colleagues inevitably lead to destruction. Watch the final trailer for the film below before Focus Features opens it theatrically on October 7.
The film is set primarily in Berlin, where Lydia lives with her partner Sharon (Christian Petzold’s violinist Nina Hoss, giving a balanced, quietly triumphant performance) and a small adopted Syrian daughter. A self-described “Lesbian U-haul,” Lydia is preparing to record Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony with the German orchestra she has been conducting for the past decade. She is also entering a period of heightened retrospective scrutiny, publishing a self-authored interview volume titled “Tar on Tár.” From the moment the film begins, in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with New York writer Adam Gopnik, you get the sense of a woman in enormous control of her own legacy.
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But it is slipping out of his hands. Her assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant), who once promised the world but now seems ready to spend money on the best causes without spoiling, becomes unhappy. Meanwhile, long-simmering allegations against Lydia begin to surface that send her into a tailspin.
The remainder of the nearly three-hour film is played out as a breakdown of Lydia’s persona, and of Blanchett’s variety as well, as she attempts to test her damaging public image. Field shoots the film with a length like Tarkovsky, with long passages unfolds in underground road tunnels and cold rooms where all you can hear is the humming of a refrigerator, and reject any sentimentality. “Tar” should be controversial for its timely take on cancellation culture and the politics surrounding #MeToo; it takes no easy stance, or prisoners, either. Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister add to the unease.
Cate Blanchett won Best Actress in Venice for her performance, which should set her up nicely for a slew of upcoming critics’ awards on her way to Oscar. Meanwhile, “In the Bedroom” director Todd Field releases his first film since 2006’s “Little Children” blew up the facade hanging over middle-class post-9/11 suburbia. He wrote this film for Blanchett, but it’s about both of them.
“She’s a supreme master,” Field said in a director’s statement. “However, when we were making the picture, Kate’s superhuman skill and sincerity was amazing. She lifted all boats. The privilege of collaborating with an artist of this caliber cannot be adequately described.”
Read IndieWire’s review of “TÁR” here.
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