The Big Picture – ‘Tár’


Graphic created in Canva by Dominique Williams and Gavin S. Hudson. Movie posters courtesy of Focus Features.

Gavin Hudson

Disclaimer: Light spoilers for the film are included in this review.

One of the largest conversations I was a part of in 2022 was the idea of separating the art from the artist — most notably discussed with Ye — but figures like Louis C.K. and Ezra Miller seem to keep themselves in similar talks. As consumers we pose the question to ourselves, “do I judge the art by the artist, the art, neither or both?”

While the answer is entirely subjective, “Tár” forces its audience to answer this question through the eyes of the artist. Writer/director/producer Todd Field subtly builds this concept in one of 2022’s most remarkable films. 

“Tár” follows accomplished composer Lydia Tár as she looks to record her first live album since the Covid-19 lockdown ended in Germany.

The true brilliance of this film is how believable it feels. It’s apparent how studied the writer was with the near incomprehensibly long history of composition because it clearly helped create the illusion of a biopic when in reality it’s all fictional.

In a film about orchestral composition, the silence in “Tár” is deafening. It evokes this astounding anxiety in these astonishingly long takes where the tension between the characters is too thick to breathe in. 

Cate Blanchett gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her. This quietly intimidating figure she portrays with such precision perfectly contrasts the performance given by J.K. Simmons’ Oscar winning work in Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash”.

I mention Simmons’ performance because it is easy to compare the two films on subject matter alone, but Blanchett plays Tár with such an understated emotion. It’s apparent both characters are the opposite sides of the same coin.

Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett, passionately directs the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra as her wife plays violin and looks on. She is preparing for a momentous live recorded album that has absorbed all of her time. (Picture courtesy of Focus Features. Pictures via IMDB.)

Certain details in the film help the viewer piece together its elusive antagonist and  captures why the dynamic of film works best as a “show and do not tell” medium. This puzzle the viewer is presented with throughout the film is fun for me to dissect and beckons a prompt second viewing. 

While I personally enjoy the commentary “Tár” has on an astounding number of subjects, I can see how it could become annoying for some. While its subject matter is quite varied, I can’t help but think the film sometimes tries to say too much. 

In a final positive note to cap off my thoughts, there’s a few sequences in the film that depict its titular main character going through a kind of writer’s block. These sequences perfectly capture the struggle to bring creative thoughts from the mind and into the world in a way I’m sure most artists relate to.

Tár sets her personal stage with precision to ensure the best creative venture she could have comes to fruition and yet, finds so many distractions that interrupt her. An assorted cacophony of sounds, like the low hum of a fridge or a distantly ringing doorbell, invade her thoughts and steer her off the musical path her brain was on.

Isolated on a private jet, Lydia Tár prepares to address a number of legal issues amidst her creative process. The shot perfectly illustrates both Tár’s financial and social status. (Picture courtesy of Focus Features. Pictures via IMDB.)

Wednesday, at the 2023 New York Film Critics Circle, legendary director and noted short king Martin Scorsese presented “Tár” with the award for best film. He claimed, “the clouds lifted when I experienced Todd’s film, ‘Tár,’” and felt the future of cinema was indeed in good hands. 

If that endorsement doesn’t make you want to experience the hushed drama of “Tár,” well here’s mine. “Tár” is an incredible piece of art with a lot to say and more to show.

I give “Tár” 9/10. I love when movies are good.