Tár from the outset looks like a movie that was going to be one of those Oscar contenders that was heralded as “difficult” and “slow”. And I will concede that the latter is fairly true, the movie is rather glacial in its pace.
But god this movie is so much more than that.
Tár is only “difficult” in the sense that it doesn’t hold your hand or tell you what to think, it just shows you the events as they happen, that’s it. And even then, the narrative of Tár feels so modern that only those who view “cancel culture” as some nefarious form of mob justice will find this film difficult. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even though it is tempting to reduce Tár down to the Film About Cancel Culture, the cancel culture aspect of this film is not at the forefront. If anything, the film is just saying that Cancel Culture is just this generation’s way of dealing with these deeply flawed people.
Speaking of deeply flawed people, Lydia Tár is one of the best depictions of a raging narcissistic genius I have seen on film in a long time, due in no small part to Blanchett’s godlike performance. She imbues Tár with this distinct sense of simmering hollowness, like a large menacing storm cloud hovering over you, always threatening to send a lightning bolt down and incinerate you. Much of this hollowness comes through Fields’s dialogue for Lydia, which is a marvel to listen to solely for how pretentious it is. When Lydia is talking, her words are full of vitriol and four-dollar-words, but she basically says nothing with her attempt at sophisticated language being more of a smokescreen rather than any statement. If Blanchett didn’t fully commit to portraying this true narcissist, the film would have fallen completely on its face. Thankfully, that did not happen.
Shockingly, the modern aspects of the film, from the slight references to the pandemic to the cacophony of cancel culture near the end of the film, to the importance of emails that weren’t deleted, don’t feel out of touch or out of place, but instead perfectly woven into Tár’s tale. Much like the actual hellish reality we occupy in today, Tár’s modern aspects are of course present and relevant, but are rarely at the forefront of peoples’ lives. Of course, controversial emails can and do cause problems for public figures, but do you really want to watch a movie that has those emails at the vanguard of any story? I certainly wouldn’t, and Fields seems to agree. Modern conveniences are little more than a means to deliver information and organize people, so Fields only uses these conveniences for these purposes. Modernity doesn't drive the plot, Lydia’s actions do. The film’s story is less of a story and more of just observation of how Lydia acts through her life, over the course of a couple of months. It feels like you’re watching a documentary of some talented personality who loses it all due to their past actions, a spectacle that feels rather similar to the past few months watching Kanye West implode into an anti-semetic singularity.
Tár is a genuine marvel, every aspect of the film is perfectly executed, yet never feels cold or distant. There is still plenty of room for humor in this film, where you get to laugh both with and at Lydia Tár. As of right now, it’s the best film I’ve seen this year, and I HIGHLY recommend you go see it on the biggest screen you can. It’s incredibly worth watching, and I will be thinking about it for a while.
Production Company: Standard Film Company, EMJAG Productions
Streaming Service: None (yet)
Release Date: October 28, 2022
Rating: R (For some language and brief nudity)
Reviewer Name: Liam Larkin-Smith
Date of Review: 11/1/22