It’s been a while since Cate Blanchett sparked Oscar buzz. Last year’s vampy turn in Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley deserved more love than it got, but you’ll have to go back to 2016 for the two-time winner’s last nomination (the sublime Carol).
Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, a ground-breaking conductor, and the first woman to lead the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
Showered with affection wherever she goes, behind the genius persona Lydia is a manipulative and insecure person, using her favour and influence to get what she wants.
Days before a pivotal live recording, demons from her past resurface and begin to unravel the prestige she has fought to protect.
Tár is a startlingly intelligent portrait of corruption and abuse of power
Box office isn’t everything, but cinephiles will wince at the knowledge that Todd Field’s first film since 2006’s Little Children flopped spectacularly when it was released in the US last October.
To some extent, this may be understandable: an ambiguous title and poster aren’t giving too much away, and the first forty of its 158 minutes can feel somewhat impenetrable.
Once the piece fits together, however, it’s a startlingly intelligent portrait of corruption and abuse of power.
Lydia is the architect of her own downfall, but it’s not as simple as watching someone get what’s coming to them.
An early scene where she argues about identity politics with a student feels messy and uncomfortable (in a good way), while the script prods at the question of whether this behaviour was masked by her or by those who stood to gain from her.
Cate Blanchett is an incredible lead
A film this long and dense needs an incredible star to lead it, and Blanchett is exactly that.
Even when the direction of the story isn’t always clear, you can’t take your eyes off of her performance.
The armour of authority makes it seem like she’s in charge of every situation, but small words and movements betray the cracks long before the desperate fall of the final act.
While it is her show, Noémie Merlant quietly shines as Lydia’s put-upon assistant, and Nina Hoss gives Blanchett her most emotional moments as her partner.
Playing out like Black Swan at the other end of the success story, Tár is an engrossing movie that deserves the boost of a potential Oscar run.
If nothing else, it cements Blanchett as one of the best on-screen storytellers working today.
Tár is in UK cinemas from 13th January.
Have you watched Tàr yet? Let us know in the comments below.
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