Review of “Tár”: Obsession for Control

After 16 years, Todd Field returns to the movies to deliver a meticulous account of a brilliant and manipulative mind obsessed with adulation, power and control, starring Cate Blanchett. This is our review of “Tár”.

Still from the film 'Tár'

Photo: Universal Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Andrés Rodríguez

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Leer en español: Reseña de “Tár”: Obsesión por el control

Great works of art come from brilliant minds with questionable methods and behaviors. Are these fundamental to reaching your highest potential? Is a control freak an intrinsic quality of genius? Is the author's work indivisible? These issues dictate the pace of “Tár,” a psychological drama written and directed by Todd Field and starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, a musical genius and conductor haunted by the ghosts of the past in the midst of the preparations for the most important concert of her life.

Art and artist: two sides of the same coin

Lydia Tár is a narcissist. She wants all eyes in the room to be on her and to recognize her genius. When someone contradicts her, she doesn't mind humiliating and belittling, but not in an obscene way, she does it with such grace and subtlety that it's inevitable to feel captivated by her belligerence. She is mysterious because she knows that it is the way to be an object of desire and that gives her the control, or at least the illusion of having it, that she needs to give order to the world that she carefully perceives; suffers from misophonia, hypersensitivity to sound. Her musical intellect is unmatched, and therefore her ambition knows no bounds. This talent carries demons, impulses that she could not resist, and that she thinks he has found methods to satisfy without having to give up the glory that comes with the title of “master”.

Is this what allows Tár to be a great artist? A disciple of Stanley Kubrick (who today would probably be "cancelled" for his working methods), Todd Field, dissects the discourse of separating artistry that has been brought to prominence by the moral absolutism of the digital age. In this way, she leaves the interesting proposal that talent is indivisible from excessive ambition, that if we want to enjoy great works we have to accept their origin in the artist's demons. Art and creator are two sides of the same coin.

Also read: Oscars 2023 Predictions: Who Will Win Them?

Control freak

Field directs the tape with pinpoint precision. Its staging is designed to evoke the order with which its protagonist perceives the world. The symmetry in each shot, the choreography between camera and actor in the sequence shots, the spooky and disconcerting sounds, all assembled in a mesmerizing edition based on the central piece: Cate Blanchett's interpretation. The script was written with Blanchett in mind and if she had turned down the role, the film would not exist.

Although Blanchett's repertoire is not short of immoral and seductive characters, in "Tár", her task is to embody a Machiavellian genius and demonstrates a total command of the acting art. Her deep voice varies from a friendly tone to a reassuring one to a shrill one when he wants to show her superiority. The small gestures of her eyes, always attentive to determine the right moment to execute a play. Her movements on the lectern are mesmerizing, she commands the orchestra with her whole body, she becomes one with the music.

There is a bestiality to the character, her predatory character that is commanded by the illusion of control. It's a long road to decline (the film is over two and a half hours long), but the audience's patience is well rewarded with a scene that renders you speechless at the ferocity of the performance. Regardless of whether she wins the Oscar, this can be considered the best performance in Cate Blanchett's incredible career.

"Tár" is the product of the collaboration between two of the most brilliant minds in cinema, and its result is a masterpiece. Her execution in every aspect is impeccable, thanks to the precision with which Todd Field crafts the scene, centered around a ferocious Cate Blanchett. An introspection of Field to his obsession with perfection, who with only three films in his filmography can be considered one of the best directors of the 21st century.

His narrative proposal is provocative and even controversial, challenging the absolutist moralism of social networks. Although it is difficult to admit, an artist can achieve his greatest potential motivated by his narcissism that, fueled by adulation, gives him the power to satisfy his impulses and commit despicable acts. Is it really possible to divide the work of the creator? A question that haunts the viewer, the reminiscence of the tape as a distant and disconcerting sound.

“Tár” joins such films as Miloš Forman's “Amadeus” (1984), Darren Aronofsky's “The Black Swan” (2010) and Damien Chazelle's “Whiplash” as iconic accounts of artists' obsession with perfection and the control. Field and Blanchett have created an iconic character that we will surely continue to talk about for many years to come, fulfilling Lydia Tár's dream in laughable irony.

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