Tàr: A Powerhouse Cate Blanchett Performance
Lydia Tàr is a character that needs absolute control over every aspect of her intricately designed life. A chime in the hallway, a humming in the fridge, a rattling in a car’s air vents, a student twitching his leg, her assistant conductor playing with his pen, a metronome going off ‘by itself’.
For most, these sounds would represent peripheral annoyances, if that. For Lydia, these noises intruding into her ears, her whole world, represent insubordination. How dare anything or anyone existing in her orbit not do exactly as it’s told. As Tàr progresses, sounds and interruptions manifest at a faster and faster pace, matching the increasingly frequent cracks and fractures in her personal and professional life.
Tàr is Todd Field’s first movie in 16 years, his last being the Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly-led suburban drama Little Children. That film, about repressed desires, whether preternatural or adulterous, has little to do with the ideas at play here in Tár.
When we meet Lydia Tár, she is a world-renowned conductor, or maestro, of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra. Everything, from the lotion on her skin to the pills and water she takes before her performance, to every sound or lack thereof in her orbit, is controlled meticulously.
The movie opens during an introduction, which is clearly written either by Lydia herself or her assistant (control in all things) played sublimely by Noémie Merlant. It’s an intro to an interview given by the New Yorkers Adam Gopnick, playing himself, whose questions were most likely written or approved by Tàr or her people. Control in all things.
Lydia still has a clenched fist of control over her life when one day she’s teaching a class of freshmen, discussing their favorite composers. The topic of Bach comes up, and a BIPOC freshman named Max says that he has complicated feelings about Bach as a person and therefore chooses not to engage with him as a composer. Lydia then proceeds to berate and embarrass Max, telling the student, “Unfortunately, the architect of your soul seems to be social media…If you wanna dance the mask, you must service the composer. You’ve gotta sublimate yourself, your ego, and yes, your identity. You must, in fact, stand in front of the public and obliterate yourself.”
Tàr is a beguiling movie about implications, allusions, desires for perfection, an overwhelming obsession with control.