With incredible cinematography and a performance of the ages from Cate Blanchett, writer-director Todd Field has struck gold with his latest feature, writes Screen Editor Harvey Isitt.
Oscar-nominated for his two previous features, Little Children (2006) and In the Bedroom (2001), genius writer-director Todd Field has now received a further six Oscar nominations for his most recent film TÁR. An impressive track record indeed. Lydia Tár (a masterful, already Critics Choice and now Golden Globe-winning Cate Blanchett) is a world-class composer-conductor turned monster maestro whose immense reputation and ego charm and later impede the careers of several young industry women.
TÁR is a strange, profoundly unsettling movie (verging on psychological thriller, at times) with a remarkably modern take on ego and how politics affect action. The story involves but does not limit itself to the current issue of cancel culture, with one of its scenes – involving a dispute between Tár and her student on conflating art and artist – sparking some seriously insufferable online discourse. The scene is one of many indelible one-shots employed by cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, whose exquisite framing, cold colours and camera placement capture the beauty and precision of Lydia’s Berlin. He does not waste a single frame.
Field’s script is impeccably structured both from a musical and psychological sense, and his constant playing with audience perception makes the film warrant rewatching. Likewise, his attention to detail when directing his actors and crew shines through in the film’s pacing, performances, set pieces and cinematography. The longstanding Michael Haneke collaborator Monika Willi brought her all while in the editing room. Making bold decisions as in the opening scene: a riveting interview she let run in real-time to make us feel like audience members in the room with Tár. Willi and Hoffmeister have both received Oscar nominations.
Blanchett gives an electrifying, tour-de-force performance, with viewers rightly comparing her to acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis. Blanchett completely loses herself, wholly transforming into Lydia Tár whilst sharing the screen with the incredible Nina Hoss (lead violinist and her partner) and the forever-excellent Noémie Merlant (Lydia’s assistant). To support her performance, she trained as a composer with the Dresden Philharmonic orchestra, whom she, no less, conducts in the film and for parts of the score: these scenes are particularly spectacular. Making this her seventh Oscar nomination, of which she won two – first for Scorsese’s The Aviator in 2005, then again in 2014 for Blue Jasmine – the question now is whether she will bring home a third at this year’s awards.
Blanchett gives an electrifying, tour-de-force performance, with viewers rightly comparing her to acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis
TÁR is a masterpiece, fully realised from page to screen. The film is thick with subtext, and it is a joy to watch Blanchett shine while also witnessing the slow peeling back of the story’s layers. TÁR is ultimately about power, its abuse, and the fallout of being caught. While many a film adopts perspectives other than the accused, where TÁR shines most is in its doing the opposite.
You can watch the opening scene here.