At first, Tar demands too much of the viewer. It
opens with a black screen on which barely visible screen credits
go on and on accompanied by a painfully high and tuneless
(perhaps Asian or atonal) song as sung by a female voice.
The film is also purposely dark, hard to view, ultimately
without any bright colors—and then suddenly, we see
the fiercely brilliant, famous, and multi-talented conductor,
Lydia Tar, played by Cate Blanchett, being interviewed by
the New Yorker. They are talking insider talk; if the viewer
is not a classical music aficionado, even an expert, the scores,
performances, histories, pieces referred to may be completely
unknown. The viewer is made to feel like a complete outsider.
The viewer is bored silly and/or made to feel like an idiot.
Or, is supposed to feel reverence for all that which she cannot
understand. Chalk one up for postmodernist Mandarins.
was watching this at home with a friend, a film buff, who
looked very unhappy and who left after eighty minutes.
the moment it became clear to me that Tár was an out
lesbian, I vowed to stay with the film until I learned how
they bring her down. The plot is no different than Radcliffe
Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness, Lillian
Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour, or
the film, The Killing of Sister George. One wonders
why the director, Todd Field, with so many Academy Award nominations,
and who also penned the screenplay, felt compelled to tell
this story and why the film has already received so many accolades.
True, Blanchett is a wonderful actress and her performance
here is stellar.
this meant to be seen as a politically correct defense of
it still true that no mere woman can be forgiven…her
arrogance? Is being born female, even if you are a genius,
especially if you are recognized as such, by definition, a
is not clear if Tár used her position to demand sexual
favours from her subordinates just as her male colleagues
routinely do. She may have done so. For example, she follows
a young, new Russian cellist, Olga, in an inappropriate and
dangerous way—Olga has left a small teddy bear behind
in Tár’s car and she is most improbably trying
to return it in a very dangerous neighbourhood—but even
here, as she pursues her fancy, the great conductor literally
falls flat on her face, bloodying herself. She is immediately
punished. However, satisfying her lust is not what leads to
it is her coldness, and the fact that she wields her power
with cruelty. (“Unsex me here” as Lady Macbeth
once said) defines Tár’s character. This is what
does her in. She is not ‘feminine,’ or maternal
to anyone other than to her wife, Sharon, and their young
an early scene Tár shames a conducting student for
his ‘woke’ views—he identifies as a BIPOC
and rejects Bach as a white misogynist. He is ridiculous—and
Tár’s long, drawn-out mockery drives him out
of her Master class. Later on, she demotes or dismisses a
long time orchestra member, Sebastian, because he is no longer
as good as she needs him to be. Tár upholds very high
standards which is her absolute right and yet, her exercise
of power is not forgivable.
what really gets her into trouble. She has written letters
to every possible orchestra about one of her former female
conducting students which, in effect, destroy that student’s
career. Tár refuses to take the desperate student’s
calls, refuses to see her, or to respond to her emails. That
student kills herself. Lydia Tár deletes her former
student’s every email together with all the emails that
she wrote which doomed her career. Tár asks her assistant,
Francesca, to do likewise. But she does not make sure that
she’s done so.
when the Genius Conductor also refuses to promote Francesca
(who has neither deleted the desperate student’s emails
nor Tár’s own damning emails ), Francesca suddenly
resigns and disappears. Shortly thereafter, the lawyers come
to call. The girl who killed herself has parents and they
are suing Tár and creating a scandal.
Tár loses her position as the principal conductor of
the Berlin Philharmonic. In response, she wildly appears,
mid-performance, or mid-rehearsal and starts beating the more
inferior male conductor Eliot, in full view of the orchestra.
enough, her marriage is over, she cannot see her young daughter,
and she is reduced to conducting in some backwater at the
ends of the earth.
of this is realistic. Tár herself is not realistic.
And, we do not ‘like’ her. We barely know her.
She is a caricature of a woman with power. Well, I did enjoy
the merciful bars of soaring music contained in this film.
More Mahler, say I.
wonders what is the director’s point? That being monstrously
cold while female or exercising one’s artistic standards
while lesbian is a crime? Is this meant to be seen as a politically
correct defense of lesbianism? If so, Field has certainly
taken the long road home in this edgy, disquieting, 'artistic'