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Tár: A masterful tale which lacks emotional cohesion

Womanhood, ego, passion and greed are explored in Todd Field's masterful tale, which belongs in the genre of ‘are we sure this isn’t a biopic?’

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Joining Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash in the genre of ‘are we sure this isn’t a biopic?’ is the masterful tale of Tár, which follows a female conductor as she slowly descends into self-composed chaos.

Visually, Todd Field’s film is a lot less cinematically innovative than its trailer makes it out to be, but through subtle thrills and eerie disposition it manages to hold attention through its tepid 158-minute duration. The orchestral scenes read like choreography, becoming more unhinged as the movie progresses towards its slapstick ending.

Cate Blanchett’s performance as titular character Lydia Tár is a convincing one. She easily transforms a character that doesn’t exist beyond ink and paper into something remarkably real; a woman seeking perfection in a medium where perfection doesn’t exist, where rules are described as arbitrary yet failure to comply means disaster.

Tár explores composition less than it does the composer. Womanhood, ego, passion and greed comprise the bulk of themes in this movie, yet they never seem to steer it towards anything more meaningful than a posthumous Twitter thread dissertation on cancel culture. There’s a lack of emotional cohesion only spared by the excellence of the acting.

In one scene, Tár provokes a student by effectively saying that if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his (white, cisgender) identity then so can anybody else’s, regardless of their political alignment. While a valid point, it seems less of a plea for sincerity and more a fear of the consequences preceding one’s own actions.

It’s particularly hypocritical coming from Tár, who we see constantly singled out for her gender in male-dominated institutions, and who in turn calls out male composers for the very actions she warned her students to overlook. The throes of womanhood are inescapable from misogyny, as is the separation of art from the artist. Ironically, it’s her actions, not her skills, that lead to her ultimate demise.

As such, Tár concludes on the wiles of thematic incoherence. If it has a point, it’s lost somewhere in the delusion of its flawed protagonist.

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