Cate Blanchett in Tar.

Writer-director Todd Field creates a rich, authentic world for the fictitious Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) in Tár, easily one of the year’s most ambitious films.

That world is the world of Western classical music, where Lydia Tár is perhaps the most famous female composer. She’s about to guest conduct a German symphony after the COVID-19 shutdowns; her memoirs are about to be released; and her university courses are coveted by aspiring classical musicians. She’s sitting on top of her world.

The film is long (158 minutes), and it slowly establishes Lydia as an assertive, supremely confident person on the surface and in public—but behind the scenes, she is popping pills, stressing about communications with a prior student, and suffering sleepless nights. Something is afoot, and the viewer is left to slowly figure it out.

Social media and possible indiscretions play a big part in Lydia’s troubles; the film is a study of the current cancel-culture climate, although those words are never said in the film.

When Lydia eventually finds herself in trouble, we never really know what actually happened, or whether or not she is guilty—but this sort of trouble can cause an instant, full career breakdown, regardless of guilt.

It’s all very interesting, if perhaps a little heavy-handed at times. It’s fair to say this movie would not be what it is if it weren’t for Blanchett’s amazing performance. It is virtually impossible to imagine another performer in the role; she completely inhabits the world of Lydia Tár and disappears into the movie.

The film is wonderfully shot and edited to keep the viewer constantly guessing. It’s hard to put together what, exactly, is happening until the film’s final moments, when a lot finally comes into focus.

Tár requires patience from the viewer—but that patience that will be rewarded.

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