Composter extraordinaire Lydia Tár receives renowned recognition as one of the world's great classical music conductors. While she thrives as an artist through her fierce leadership and exacting precision, Lydia eventually comes face-to-face with the misdeeds of her star-studded ascension in Tár.
The latest project from Little Children writer/director Todd Field views Lydia's soaring successes and problematic transgressions under an intricate microscope. Thankfully, Field's deft approach and masterful craft conjure an electrifying odyssey of a celebrated artist facing the spotlight.
Field operates behind the camera like a refined composer, orchestrating his vision with a well-balanced fusion of emotions and tones. Moments of biting satire and depraved behaviors are countered with genuine empathy on Field's part – a decision that allows Lydia to evolve into a well-rounded character despite her myriad of flaws.
In a climate where movies dictate black-and-white platitudes, Tár swims in the uneasy muck of human morality with refreshing honesty and nuance. Field's graceful touch conjures compelling ideals through sheer osmosis, allowing audiences to consume insightful meditations on stardom and the arrogance, ambition and personal demons heightened by Tár's illustrious status.
Field and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister also work effectively in defining a vibrant visual voice onscreen. The duo sinks their teeth into the pristine world of classical music, utilizing a patient filmmaking approach illustrated by lingering tracking shots and expressively intimate framing choices. Most people my age think of classical music as a pompous and stiff art form, but underneath the reserved techniques, Field discovers the pulsating life and uncompromising dedication within each musical note. The roaring sounds of each instrument are especially joyous to experience in the context of a quiet movie theater.
None of Tár's strengths would work as well without star Cate Blanchett. The two-time Oscar-winning actress is uniquely gifted in unpacking the complexities resting under the surface of characters who often feel deeply distasteful to viewers. As Lydia, Blanchett unearths the sheer menace of an artist unchecked by the world around her while also imbuing essential vulnerabilities as the character comes to terms with her actions. Blanchett's performance evokes a transfixing spell on viewers that holds their interest throughout the 158-minute runtime.
Tár achieves high marks across the board in its uncompromising vision. Don't be surprised if this film scores a few Oscar trophies come early next year.