The Movie Waffler New to VOD - TÁR | The Movie Waffler

New to VOD - TÁR

New to VOD - TÁR
A renowned conductor prepares to record a career-defining symphony while dealing with ghosts from her past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Todd Field

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong

TÁR poster

There's a certain irony to western society beginning to call out those who exploit their positions of power just at the point when women are beginning to attain such positions. If you're a predatory woman who fought hard to acquire power in order to get laid, as so many men have over the years, you must feel like a victim of a great injustice now. In writer/director Todd Field's long-awaited third feature TÁR, Cate Blanchett plays such a woman. Lydia Tár is the world's most respected female composer and conductor, her booming music having shattered the glass ceiling. She's also not averse to using her position to exploit younger women for sexual favours.

TÁR review

When one such victim, known as Krista, commits suicide, Tár finds herself under scrutiny. Having been able to duck and weave her way out of such issues in the past, Tár is stumped by how seriously allegations of impropriety are now taken in the MeToo era. Standing stiff as a board with a severe haircut that gives her the look of a portrait of some 15th century Slavic dictator, Tár puts on a brave front, but inside she's crumbling, haunted by ghosts of her past.

Indeed, TÁR is as much a psychological horror movie as it is a character study. Tár's guilt over Krista's death begins to manifest itself through strange occurrences. While jogging she hears a woman's screams yet can't pinpoint where they might be coming from. At night she's woken by the sound of a metronome hidden away in a closet. Other noises get on her nerves, like the rattling of a car dashboard or a troubled neighbour constantly banging on her door.

TÁR review

Things begin to take an eerie turn with the arrival of Olga (Sophie Kauer), a pretty young Russian cellist whom Tár takes an immediate shine to. Olga arrives just at the point that Krista's suicide is revealed, and she's initially filmed as though a ghost glimpsed wandering half seen through rehearsal halls. If this were a more conventional movie you might assume Olga was a friend of Krista who has arrived to seek some form of revenge, or perhaps some sort of reincarnation, or maybe she's even Krista herself.

But Field hasn't made a conventional movie. He's fashioned his film in a manner that constantly trips up the viewer. Just when we think we've gotten a handle on the movie and its fascinating anti-heroine, Field pulls the rug out from under us. Few of the questions TÁR raises are answered, making it a movie you'll be mulling over for days after viewing, and no doubt rewarding successive viewings. Who is specifically out to get Tár, recording her on a phone from angles that don't seem physically possible? How did the working class Linda Tarr rise to prominence and become Lydia Tár in the upper middle class world of classical music? Is a violent confrontation with a rival conductor (Mark Strong) to be taken at face value or as a product of Tár's unstable mind? Is there a deeper meaning to the use of Mahler's 5th beyond evoking Death in Venice, another movie about an aging homosexual pursuing younger prey? Looking for answers may drive you as mad as the film's protagonist.

TÁR review

And what a protagonist Lydia Tár is. Blanchett's great strength has always been in portraying women who seem to have it together on the outside while falling apart emotionally, so it's no surprise that Field wrote the part specifically for the Aussie star. There's something fascinating about characters who are every good at what they do, but sometimes actors don't fully convince in such roles. Watching Tár debate everyone from New Yorker writers to "triggered" Julliard students over the merits of her art, we're fully convinced that this is a woman at the top of her profession, that regardless of how messy every other aspect of her life might be, once she's on that podium she's a titan of her art. As a problematic character, Tár is entertainingly awful, but awfully entertaining. It's rare to see women portrayed as assholes - at least not in a realistic rather than cartoon Disney witch way - in the manner of say, Jack Nicholson's cantankerous git in As Good As It Gets, because there's a double standard that dismisses such men as "eccentrics" while labelling their female equivalents as "Karens." While nobody should be an asshole, everyone should have the right to be an asshole, regardless of gender. Meet Lydia Tár, your new favourite asshole.

TÁR is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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