The first thing that I should mention is I have almost no interest in orchestras or classical music. Unless it’s a movie score or a classical piece in a movie (like “Ode to Joy” from “Die Hard” or “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Apocalypse Now”), I generally don’t listen to that type of music. Since this movie has a lot of scenes about composing, conducting orchestras, and classical music, it may seem sort of odd that I really like this movie.
The reason is because it’s much more than a movie about a composer-conductor. This is a movie about the woman Lydia – or Linda – Tár (Cate Blanchett). This movie is more like a character study.
The movie starts sort of oddly. After a very brief shot, the movie shows credits. Not just opening credits like you see in most movies. There is approx. 4 minutes of credits. The credits list almost everything listed during the end credits. At first, I thought that was pretty odd, but after the movie finished, I think I understood why the writer/director (Todd Field) did that. It’s because this is just a small part of her life. If there was a book about her life, this would be a chapter. The credits shown at the beginning of the movie are sort of like the end credits for the previous movie of her life – or previous chapter. Even the music that plays during the credits sounds like something she did in the past.
After the credits, the first scene of the movie is an interview with New Yorker magazine’s Adam Gopnik (playing himself) which is basically just summarizing her backstory – including that she spent 5 years with people in eastern Peru (I think that’s what the music playing during the credits is from) and that she’s an E.G.O.T. winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony).
“Tár” doesn’t really have a storyline. It’s just about her. How she interacts with her wife (Nina Hoss), her child (newcomer Mila Bogojevic), her assistant (Noemie Merlant), coworkers (including Mark Strong and Allan Corduner), and the orchestra she conducts and how those interactions change over time. What she does and what happens to her because of what she does. There are very few shots in the movie that she isn’t in (I would say less that 5% if my memory is correct). Much of the movie shows her rehearsing for a live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic and working on her about to be released memoir – “Tár on Tár”.
Cate Blanchett is incredible in this movie. It’s hard not to watch her even in the simplest scenes. For example: She practically cowers in a corner as a dead body is carried down a stairway.
One of my favorite scenes is towards the end of the movie where she returns to her childhood home for a few minutes. At first, she’s by herself in her childhood room. Then she has a brief conversation with her brother which, I think, is a great description of her at that moment.
There is also a very good supporting cast including newcomer Sophie Kauer who was selected after an international casting call for an actress that can also play the cello. It’s really surprising that this is her very first time acting. Plus, all the scenes of her playing the cello are real and were recorded live.
The directing and cinematography in this movie are very well done. For example, a scene near the start of the movie which is approx. 10 minutes long. It’s a continuous shot of her teaching a class at Julliard. The way she acts, the way the camera moves around her, and the way the scene was directed are all very well done.
The only problem I have with this movie is the lack of storyline. After the opening credits and the interview which goes over her backstory, the next 90 minutes is fairly slow although they try to add a few scenes to keep the story going. There are some scenes that are setting up what happens later in the movie and scenes where some strange things happen to her – like when she’s running through a park and hears a woman screaming.
There’s also a somewhat odd subplot involving an apartment next door which has a couple unexpected scenes I won’t spoil except to say that if you thought Daniel Radcliffe playing the accordion in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” was good – wait until you see “Tár”.
However, nothing significant happens in the story until approx. the last 60 minutes of the movie. If this movie were directed by someone else or starring someone else, I think middle 90 minutes might be slow and boring.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I don’t really care about classical music. One other review I’ve read compares this movie to “Black Swan” for ballet. If I listened to more orchestras or classical music, I may agree with that. I haven’t but that doesn’t stop me from recommending this movie.
I give it 8 out of 10.