There aren’t any explosions, capes, or buildings crumbling to the ground in Todd Field’s latest film. Instead, the bold filmmaker opens Tár with an onstage Q&A session in which Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), a fictional conductor, is being interviewed by real-life writer Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker Festival.
This interview establishes Lydia’s backstory—a protégé of Bernstein’s, the head conductor of orchestras in Cleveland, New York, Boston, and now the Berlin Philharmonic—but, as film reviewer Chad Byrnes writes, it also provides a glimpse into darker currents: “When asked about being a pioneer for women in classical music, Lydia sidesteps the question by saying that gender doesn’t define her. After the interview, Lydia meets some fans backstage. As she indulges the praise of a female admirer, her assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant), gratingly watches from the wings with the concerned look of someone who’s seen too many of her boss’ proclivities.” Eventually, Tár’s past comes back to haunt her when news surfaces that a former protegee and violinist has committed suicide. According to leaked emails and rumors, Lydia didn’t just have a sexual relationship with this girl but blackballed her from working in the industry. Overnight, the public pickets her appearances as the board of directors furrow their brows a little deeper.
“Inhabiting a character that is both detached but undeniably resolute, Blanchett never divulges too much, which keeps us on edge. Instead, she radiates a blistering intellect which covers up a deep anger,” Byrnes writes of the lead performance.
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