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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Tár | Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Allan Corduner, Julian Glover | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the Clark County School District.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Tár | Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Allan Corduner, Julian Glover | Review

Lydia Tár lives in the rarefied atmosphere of the EGOT. The most successful female conductor of all time has an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony under her belt, one of only 15 individuals to have accomplished the impressive feat.

Her opening interview (reminiscent of The Actor’s Studio program in which celebrities are fawned over by a star-struck host – here, it’s Adam Gopnik - in front of a large auditorium of fans) reveals a yardstick-long list of accolades: ethnographic fieldwork in the Amazon with the Shipibo-Conibo tribe; serving as the conductor for orchestras in Cleveland, Boston, and soon, Berlin; creating a fellowship for aspiring women conductors; a new book (in which every word promises to be an epiphany); her work with Leonard Bernstein as his protégé and its profound effect on her own work; her upcoming project – a live recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, the only one of his symphonies Tár has yet to conduct

The film lingers upon this in-depth interview with Tár, introducing the viewer to the haughty, laser-focused, and stridently gay composer. She speaks with the utmost self-confidence and swagger, allowing her to later interrogate a student in her Julliard class like a predator toying with its prey. She harbors an attraction to a young cellist, Olga (Sophie Kauer) and advocates in her favor during an audition. It’s not the first time a dalliance rears its head, despite Tár having a wife Sharon (Nina Hoss), who is also a violinist in her orchestra, and adopted child, Petra (Mila Bogojevik).

Tár is consumed with conducting, reaching near orgasmic levels of appreciation for the music, and addressing her Berlin orchestra in flawless German. Her mentor, Andris Davis (Julian Glover) is the former conductor of the Berlin Orchestra and her touchstone. Through conversations with Davis, the viewer gets an unvarnished view of her thought processes and intentions, revealing an obsessed perfectionist and unapologetic cutthroat, wanting what she wants and justifying it with who she is. With such a large head, it’s a wonder that she can bear its cerebral and egotistical heft.

Tár’s accomplished world begins to unravel and our driven protagonist reveals herself to be underhanded, entitled (overused word, but here it is so appropriate) and predatory. Some of the victims include personal assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) conductor and business manager Elliot Kaplan (Mark Strong) assistant conductor Sebastian Brix (Allan Corduner), and Krista Taylor (Sylvia Flote) an aspiring young conductor whom we never actually meet in any meaningful way, but whose relationship with Tár is implied to have been one of sexual misconduct.

Tár evolves from a B-word to a C-word, her pompous arrogance posing as self-assured confidence. With no filter and nothing to prove, the artist descends unto a swift downward spiral brought on by judgment errors, betrayals, and a lawsuit by Krista’s grief-stricken parents after a tragedy reveals an accusatory trail that leads right up to the accomplished conductor.

Director Todd Field (In The Bedroom) gives us numerous tight shots of Tár’s face, and in doing so highlights the nuanced intensities of Blanchett’s performance. From bored, to ignited, to ruthless, to questioning her reality, Blanchett inhabits Tár in all of her pieces, musical or otherwise. Who is screaming in the woods? Why does the metronome spring to life? Is the large dog real? Field and Blanchett take us on a trip with scenery that combines impeccable sophistication with messy, unpleasant, even nightmarish intrusions of unforgiving reality.

Blanchett is the draw, mesmerizing in intensity and wearing Tár like a second skin. She escorts the character from dizzying heights to ignominious lows with the wave of her right hand, the one that wields the baton, the one that keeps time.

And perhaps the one that will hold yet another Oscar.

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