Lydia Tarr is a powerful and talented conductor and composer living in luxury, who is on the brink of becoming the first woman to lead the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. She is driven and ambitious, but her success comes at a price as her wealthy benefactor Elliot Kaplan sends her a private jet and her focus on her career leaves little time for her family. Todd Field’s gripping film, Tar, explores the corrupting influence of power and privilege, with a compelling performance by Cate Blanchett as Tarr. With an epic running time of 157 minutes, the audience is taken on a thrilling journey as Tarr seeks to complete a clean sweep of EGOTs, record Mahler’s symphony No. 5, and deal with the many distractions that come her way. As the story progresses, Tarr’s character is revealed to be manipulative, duplicitous and cruel, and her relationships with young women become increasingly questionable. Tar ultimately raises timely questions about identity politics and the ability to separate great art from problematic artists, and Blanchett’s performance will leave viewers mesmerized.
Lydia Tarr (Cate Blanchett) is a frighteningly skilled conductor and composer living in luxury. She is the first woman to lead the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, but when she has a job in New York, her wealthy benefactor Elliot Kaplan (Mark Strong) sends her a private jet.
Tarr lives in a large, tastefully furnished grayscale apartment with his partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), who is also her lead violinist, and their somewhat withdrawn daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). Sharon does most of the childcare as Tarr is clearly focused on her career: she’s already completed a clean sweep of EGOTs (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards) and is about to release a book called Tar for Tara .
Lydia Tarr isn’t a real person, but this gripping film about the corrupting influence of power and privilege will have you thinking it is. That’s partly because writer-director Todd Field has created a terrifyingly believable character and the world she controls. This is Field’s first film in 16 years, and he doesn’t hold back: Tara has an epic running time of 157 minutes that totally lives up to it.
The tar also feels real because of Blanchett’s virtuoso performance, which just won her a Golden Globe. The scenes in which she conducts the orchestra are not just convincing, but moving and moving. Her maestro (as everyone calls Tara) is brilliant, self-centered, manipulative, duplicitous and cruel. In a chilling early scene, she confronts her daughter’s bully on the playground, looking the girl in the eye and hissing, “I’ll get you.”
Tar prepares to record live on Mahler’s symphony No. 5, which is expected to be another monumental achievement, but also faces many distractions. She wants to get rid of the sleazy assistant conductor Sebastian Brix (Alan Corduner), but realizes it will be too convenient if she replaces him with her assistant protégé Francesca Lentini (Noemi Merlan). After all, there are already rumors about Tara’s questionable relationships with young women who want to climb the classical ladder.
One of them, who we never see on screen, appears to suffer from a mental illness and may be stalking Tara. As chaos creeps into the maestro’s previously peaceful universe, everyday sounds seem to disturb her greatly. However, this does not prevent Tara from developing an inappropriate fixation on Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer), a talented cellist in her twenties who has just joined the orchestra. She even made an unscrupulous plan to promote the young musician.
When Sharon tells her arrogant partner that almost every relationship in her life is “transactional,” she’s absolutely right. Tar is a slick beautician who gets what he wants from everyone in his orbit, but is also used by others. Similarly, Field’s film is not just about an arrogant bully getting his revenge; also raises timely questions about identity politics and our ability to separate great art from the problematic artists who created it.
As Tar’s life crumbles, Field I can’t seem to find a way to leave her. He does come up with one — his final shot will make you gasp — but only after a slightly drawn-out final act. Again, this may have been intentional: Tar may have been dropped on the ground, but like many monsters, she’s very stable. This dazzling character study will haunt you long after the credits roll.