Wednesday, March 29, 2023



EGOT winner Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) has everything she could ask for career-wise, blazing a trail as a renowned conductor and touring various Philharmonic orchestras around the world before settling in Berlin as its chief conductor. She is living with her wife, violinist Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss), with whom she is raising a daughter named Petra (Mila Bogojevic). When young Russian cellist Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer) joins the group, feelings and urges that are hard to shake off overwhelm Lydia, which causes grave concern among her orchestra who seem to know about some past misbehavior on her part. The suicide of a young conductor accusing her of intentionally tanking her career after she refuses her sexual advances puts Tár’s career and family life in a standstill. Is she innocent or guilty? If she were, will she commit the same mistakes again? Will she get out of this new challenge unscathed?

Without a doubt, Blanchett’s tour-de-force turn as Lydia Tár is evidently one of the best roles of her career to date, although I will have to disagree that it is her best. I still believe that her Oscar-winning role in Blue Jasmine as well as what should have been her first Oscar win as Queen Elizabeth are way up there where Lydia Tár won’t reach them. Still, what you get from Blanchett here is a masterclass in acting further exalted by the witty one-liners and monologues I could imagine the screenwriter had one hell of a time writing.

The ending does not make much sense to me if you analyze it. The Asians she was arranging her Southeast Asian stint with were obviously Filipinos because they were speaking Tagalog. However, once she reaches Southeast Asia, the accent of the people she interacts with as well as the cityscape are all screaming Thailand. Perhaps this was an honest mistake from the director thinking that nobody will be able to tell the difference because Southeast Asians all look the same? Or maybe this falls well within the boundaries of theories online insinuating that the ending is all happening in Tár’s head?

It is a psychological thriller after all, albeit quite subtle. The supposed victim of Tár’s alleged sexual assault is never introduced onscreen, but we can all assume that the redhead appearing in several scenes is actually her. Digging up discussions of the ending online, I stumbled upon a well-written article with screencaps showing how this redhead actually makes an apparition in places where she shouldn’t be in a handful of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scenes. It’s creepy when you think about it.

This brings us to one of the strengths of the film, which is the smattering of not so obvious psychological thriller flavor here and there. There are scenes which are hard to explain and could only be assumed to be figments of Tár’s imagination or, better yet, conscience. Whether she is innocent or guilty seems to be beyond the point. Hers is a mind riddled with guilt, transcending effectively through the screen thanks to Blanchett’s bravura performance.

The narrative also opens up an avenue for discussing sexual assault as seen from positions of power. For most of cinema’s history, the abuser has always been male, white, and heterosexual. This film shatters that box and shows you how sexual abuse knows neither race nor sexual orientation, but is rather triggered by status and the power play between the two individuals involved. Some will see that as too progressive or shout WOKE, but denying or ignoring this does not mean it doesn’t really happen.

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