It would be a shame to reduce Tar to a kind of ‘cancel culture’ pensum, so determined is Todd Field not to build his screenplay around any lines of thought on the time, or worse, opinions thrown in the face of a spectator who should rush to pick them and approve them. This is where the tedious installation of Lydia Tár’s routine at the beginning of the film proves to be essential in the unfolding of the story. If the heroine is execrable, toxic, obsessed with a parasitic noise that spoils her daily life, her quest for absolute power, for an almost divine dialogue with music in the manner of her mentor Leonard Bernstein, also has something quite touching.
By multiplying the sidesteps, like these scenes that flirt with horror and which, in normal times, could appear a bit artificial, Todd Field digs a film of an abyssal darkness, as icy as the house in which Lydia Tár lives with his girlfriend (Nina Hoss) and their daughter. It also reveals her own suffocating anguish which, in this incompleteness that she refuses to herself, poisons the lives of all those around her, without feeling the slightest empathy.
None other than Cate Blanchett could have embodied such a character with this level of precision and ferocity, sincerely offering this impression of seeing an actress slip into the skin of the woman she embodies, while shedding the tinsel of the traditional Hollywood “performance”. In one character, the twice Oscar-winning actress composes a plethora of expressions and faces that reflect, without saying too much, the progressive disintegration of Lydia Tár and the way in which, little by little, she uproots herself from the world not to reach the heavens but to test the asphalt and leave the sanctuary she had built for herself alone. From orchestra conductor to war leader, there is only one step — she herself tells her daughter that there is no democracy in symphonic music — and from vampire to vampirized face, the distance is approximately equivalent.
Tar is a ruthless film, badly inconvenient but fortunately demanding. From this requirement that we have seen disappear in American auteur cinema, lost in moral postures and easy Manichaeism, and which should be cherished more. It took sixteen years for Todd Field to regain control of a feature film and it is legitimate to think that with the fabulous Tarthe wait will have been worth it.
Tár, a film written and directed by Todd Field, with Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant and Nina Hoss, 2h38, released on January 25 at the cinema.