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Tár (2022)

Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) has spent her life breaking down barriers, destroying the norms that the world has come to expect about a woman’s place in music. She’s world-renowned, well respected, and she’s one of the greatest composers that the world has ever seen (or heard). While her life on paper looks brilliant, one that we all should be jealous of, she, too, faces hardship like the rest of the world. This is the story of exactly who she is.

Early in Tár Lydia expresses to an audience the ideas of ethos, pathos, and logos–and even better, the importance of each. The film then spends the next two hours attempting to appeal to each in regard to Lydia herself. In the early going viewers understand how credible Lydia is, why she’s in the position that she is, and how she’s been able to accomplish everything along her incredible journey. Along with this aspect of her character development, viewers see her logical side as she expresses to students the “why” of everything she does. Suddenly the tone of the film shifts, and we no longer see something so aggressive in her, but rather we get to see who she is outside of her profession. The secondary and tertiary characters play a role in helping to develop Lydia–and without them the story never develops as hoped, and Lydia never manages to appeal to viewers.

Once viewers see each piece of Lydia separately, Tár begins to express these parts of her as a whole rather than as individual pieces of her being. This transition, one where viewers are able to see the entirety of this character is brilliant. It honestly doesn’t matter whether it’s ethos, pathos, or logos that appeals to you–viewers get it all, both separate and together, making it nearly impossible to dislike Lydia as a character (and Tár for that matter).

It was very early in the film, even before Blanchett really speaks, that I began to think that Tár was a character study. It’s clear that Lydia is the center of attention, the focus of the film (just look at the title)–but for the film to study her, to hold her up to a light and look at every piece of her being is a tall task. It seems that Writer-Director Todd Field accomplishes this, however. I don’t think anyone would say that Lydia fails to develop at any point in the film, or that viewers struggle to see her for exactly who she is.

I won’t lie, Tár is a bit pretentious at times–sometimes difficult to follow as a result of how convoluted Lydia is and acts. That one hiccup in the film is what hinders it, what creates something of a gap between viewer and story.

Tár consists of very long scenes, some lasting as long as ten minutes or more. This is both good and bad for the film. Again, there are moments when the film is pretentious–almost like those working on the film feel like they're better than those watching the film, and in those long, drawn out scenes, there are moments when that feeling really comes to a head. However, in the same breath, the fact that these scenes develop for such an extended period of time allows viewers to contemplate what’s occurring, and it also allows these moments of pretension to turn a corner, become more well-rounded, and more effectively reach viewers. All in all, I appreciate the fact that these scenes are played out in full–there’s no cutting corners, no half-assed pieces of this puzzle. Everything develops into a whole, helping Lydia and Tár come to life brilliantly.

Tár is incredibly different from its Best Picture counterparts. Many of the other films that exist in this category this year focus on struggle that’s headed toward success, whereas Tár is quite the opposite. It depicts success in unsavory ways as the potential downfall of the powerful–and it develops a narrative that leans toward the negative rather than the positive. While that’s incredibly depressing, it’s almost a breath of fresh air to see something so different in the group. The decision to make Tár a character study, much like the narrative as a whole, is brilliant, and it shakes up the landscape of 2022’s cinematic ventures. It’s far different than anything else I had seen from 2022, and the many narrative decisions that Field makes throughout work wonders for the film.

Written & Directed by Todd Field.

Starring Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, etc.




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