During the first minute of this film, Cate Blanchett shows what an extraordinary actress she is. Her character, star conductor Lydia Tár, is waiting to go onstage. There is no dialogue, only body language. But even without words, Blanchett shows what Tár thinks and feels.
Blanchett’s remarkable performance is a large part of what makes this a good movie. But there’s more. The very clever script gives us a lot to chew on afterards. Tár is a woman in the men-dominated world of classical music. She’s not warm, empathic or even very sympathetic. In fact, she has many characteristics that are usually associated with men. She’s vain, selfish and manipulative. And that’s what gets her in trouble. At the start of the film, she seems to be one of the most admired women in the world. She is extremely famous and successful. At the end, everything has fallen apart.
The film doesn’t judge. It leaves it up to the viewer to decide if Lydia Tár is a victim or a culprit. Or maybe both at the same time. The viewer gets a lot of information to make up his (or her) mind. Director Todd Field gives us the story elements slowly, bit by bit.
Tár is very much a modern movie. It has things to say about gender, about power, about social media, about being woke. But at the same time, it’s a very old-fashioned movie. It takes its time. There are long scenes, and long takes. There’s nothing modern in the way it is filmed. And that’s a good thing.