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Thread: TÁR (Todd Field 2022)

  1. #1
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    TÁR (Todd Field 2022)

    TODD FIELD: TÁR (2022)


    CATE BLANCHETT IN TÁR

    A shimmering portrait of brilliance, cruelty, and downfall

    This is a story of power and prestige and their apparent downfall focused on a conductor, a woman, and a lesbian, a greater rarity* at the pinnacle of international classical music who pushes too hard and maneuvers too cruelly, and has awful things happen to her. TÁR is a remarkable picture and signals to us the ascendency of its 'maker,' Todd Field, and his star, Cate Blanchett. We already knew Cate to be great, but here she gets an exceptional chance to prove it in in a rich and demanding role for which she learned to conduct - and convincingly, with originality, to rehearse - a symphony orchestra, to speak German, and to play, not just the piano, but Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, no less, mimicking the style of Glenn Gould for a moment while devestatingly dressing down a young student at Julliard who has let political correctness and his personal identity sweep away the western canon.

    This is a worthwhile argument indeed. Surely we cannot allow Bach to be treated as icky because he was a cis-male white European man and sired 20 children. Putting the defense in the mouth of one so flawed as Lydia Tár leaves it properly ambiguous: we can't decide these things right now; there's still a lot of hashing-out to do. What authority Lydia has: she is the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, behind her Leon Fürtwangler, Herbert von Karajan, and Claudio Abbado. But her dressing down of the attractive young mixed race Julliard conducting student, Max (Zethphan D. Smith-Gneist), winds up with a jokey racial slur someone happens to break the rules of the meeting and film. And this is only the beginning - and not even, because before that there has been an interview appearance by The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik as himself, retailing all Lydia's accomplishments.

    What Field has done in the sixteen years since he directed a film is uncertain, apparently nothing, but he has grown exponentially as a director. In the Bedroom (2001) was already an outstanding film, Little Children (2006) noteworthy enough for Telluride, Toronto, and New York; but TÁR takes on challenges of a higher magnitude, the complex international portrait of a sophisticated profession, one that is riveting, suspenseful and slyly malicious, and a personality that defies analysis. This is both an admiring portrait of the classical music world and cruel satire, the study of a brilliant artist and an anatomy of madness. Its maniacal extreme takes it into the growing world of high class horror. And yet Field avoids the over-the-top-ness of something like Black Swan. The music is still there. There's a respect for the complex juggling involved in conducting, administration, recording, promotion, and admiration and love for Mahler's Fifth and Elgar's Cello Concerto, the two works concentrated on.

    There's a galaxy of satellites or "transactional" key relations around Lydia, starting with her lover and wife Sharon (the great German Actress Nina Hoss), her abused schoolgirl daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic), her selfless assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant). Then there are those who come and go, her assistant conductor Sebastian (actor and musician Allan Corduner) who she is "rotating out," a pretty young Russian cellist Olga (cellist and actress Sophie Kauer) who's being brought in. And there is a suicide. But she's alone, as is clear in a dangerous visit to a scary place, and a return to nameless American family where she watches an old videotape of a Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concert where the maestro, a mentor, affirms the sweet emotionality of classical music.

    It isn't just a portrait of grand personal decline but also a remarkably complex picture of international celebrity music-making. The sequences of Lydia with a self-portrait book that's being published, working on a recording vs. a live performance, choosing the precise lighting and pose for the new Deutsche Grammophon album cover, these and so much mmore help fill out the details of such a complex role as major orchestra conductor. But it's the committees and boards she must meet with when she has fallen from grace that are greatest challenge. Field opts also for a complex finale. He does not go into the details that would be generated by grotesque faux pas in a "cancel culture," social media world. Instead he shows Lydia soldiering on, still conducting a symphony orchestra in an unidentified Asian country for a Monster Hunter concert. What does that even mean?

    As here, and throughout the whole film, Todd Field opts for complicated, sometimes puzzling details notable for their originality and specificity - and not for the kind of flashy style the material would lead you to expect. There is much material in TÁR for thought and investigation. It's the kind of movie you want to discuss and see again.
    ______________________
    *One wonders what Marin Alsop thinks of this tale.

    TÁR, 158 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 1, 2022, showing also at Telluride, New York, Mill Valley, and a few other festivals. Limited theatrical release started Oct. 8. Screened for this review at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, Oct. 16, 2022. Metacritic rating: 90%.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-09-2023 at 08:51 PM.

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    Is TÁR a "highly controversial" film, specifically one people hate as well as love, hence "TÁR Wars"?

    Film Comment thinks so. They have staged a "debate" about TÁR with Jessica Kiang on the PRO side and Nathan Lee CON. Devika Girish and Clinton Krute are moderators.

    Another article indicates there have been gibes at TÁR from Richard Brody and Amy Taubin for being unkind to poor people and racist, respectively, and suggests such "controversy" will cloud TÁR's path to the Oscars.

    Unfortunately these comments ignore what seemed to me most special about the film, its rich detail and sophistication about classical music and the world of classical performance.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-03-2022 at 11:21 AM.

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    LEADING WOMAN CONDUCTOR MARIN ALSOP SPEAKS OUT AGAINST TÁR

    I footnoted my review with the comment "One wonders what Marin Alsop would think of this tale."

    Maybe I should just have said she wasn't going to like it, as was pretty obvious. Well now we know: she strenuously dislikes TÁR. This came in an interview she gave to the London Times that is reported in Variety. She says when she heard last August about the plot element in Todd Field's new movie of a famous woman orchestra conductor who is a lesbian (which she is) tied to sexual misconduct she was "shocked."
    “I first read about it in late August and I was shocked that that was the first I was hearing of it,” Alsop said of the film in an interview with the U.K.’s Sunday Times newspaper. “So many superficial aspects of ‘Tár’ seemed to align with my own personal life. But once I saw it I was no longer concerned, I was offended: I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian.”
    You can read the rest of the interview - which will be bad for the film's Oscar hopes - in the linked Variety article. Well, we may feel that TÁR is a tricky but brilliant film and think it's unfortunate Marin Alsop had to speak out against it in this way. But we don't know if she could have done any differently. And we must pay attention to her feelings and her thoughts on the matter since she corresponds to Lydia, the Cate Blanchett character, in so many aspects - but not the undesirable ones. In a way perhaps this film is a reckless as its protagonist. It was certainly not concerned about the feelings of women, conductors, or lesbians.

    The article incidentally points out there is a recent (and very interesting) documentary about Marin Alsop by Bernadette Wegenstein, called The Conductor, which was reviewed here as part of the 2021 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Baltimore is the town where I grew up, and I'm proud that Baltimore's was the first major orchestra to have a woman (Marin Alsop) as its principal conductor (from 2007 to 2021).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-09-2023 at 10:14 PM.

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    Xian Brooks of the Guardian enters the TÁR debate

    This article in today's Guardian("Monstrous maestro / Why is Cate Blanchett’s cancel culture film Tár angering so many people?") winds up defending discomfiting protagonists. He cites Philip Roth in 'American Pastoral':
    The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is about anyway,” he explains. “It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.”
    Brooks seems a bit too sympathetic to the most naive members of the audience for my taste a times here but he seems fundamentally right, too. TÁR is a "challenging film," with an intentionally unappealing main character, and that's good.
    But really these women are part of a long tradition, one that extends back through the likes of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Jane Austen’s Emma and Thackeray’s character Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. All of these, too, were presumably seen as bad in their day. It’s only the passage of time that has rounded their edges.
    But the movie has made back only $6 million of its $35 cost despite all the critical and awards admiration, because people want to be soothed. (Brooks mentions Marin Alsop of course, and the film is currently showing in the UK and coming in Australia Jan. 27.)

    (Locally TÁR is now only still showing at small offbeat movie theaters. In NYC it's still showing at Regal Union Square and Angelika. You can rent it online now but it will cost you six dollars.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-20-2023 at 10:50 AM.

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