Song of the Day #5,358: ‘Apartment for Sale’ – Lydia Tár job

Continuing the countdown of my favorite 2022 movies…

Best Films of 2022
#5 – TÁR

I was so ready to dislike TÁR.

I missed the film during its initial theatrical run and by the time I got around to seeing it at home I had been subjected to an endless stream of online praise by an often-annoying fanbase.

I also heard a steady drumbeat of predictions that Cate Blanchett was on her way to her third Oscar while never-nominated Michelle Yeoh would have to settle for second place. That didn’t sit well with me either.

Then there’s the fact that the film’s writer-director, Todd Field, was responsible for 2001’s In the Bedroom, a movie I was seemingly alone in hating as it received lavish critical praise. Sure, I liked his 2006 follow-up Little Children well enough, but I’d been bitten once by this guy.

Well, I was 35 minutes (and just four scenes) into TÁR when I realized that, far from disliking it, I would actually be joining the hive.

The film starts with a prolonged interview of celebrated composer Lydia Tár by real-life New Yorker journalist Adam Gopnik, who introduces her with a comically long recitation of her accomplishments (including a stint living among Indigenous Peruvians and an EGOT). Blanchett’s Tár commands the crowd of sophisticates with practiced monologues on gender dynamics, the role of the composer, and her upcoming performance of Mahler’s Fifth.

She’s convincing, but it’s clear she is putting on an act, that this version of Lydia Tár is something she wears as expertly as her custom tailored suits.

Two quick scenes later, Field and Blanchett deliver the film’s standout moment, as Tár guest lectures at a Juilliard class. Shot in a single unbroken take, the composer challenges the students’ refusal to worship at the altar of a bunch of cis white male composers. Alternately playful and vicious, she tears into the idea that identity matters more than art.

To be a great conductor, she argues, you must “sublimate yourself… your ego and, yes, your identity.” She goes on, “You must, in fact, stand in front of the public and God and obliterate yourself.”

For the next two hours, we will watch Lydia Tár do exactly that.

What most grabbed me about those early scenes was the film’s refusal to take sides. Tár makes some excellent points in her Juilliard lecture, but also some cruel ones. She is clearly a thoughtful artist, but also a blowhard drunk on her own celebrity. She is principled, but not above doling out pearls of wisdom in exchange for a ride on the private jet of one of her benefactors.

She is fascinatingly, frustratingly human, and one of the most interesting and complex characters to grace a screen in ages. There’s a reason viewers took to Google after the film’s initial release to find out if Lydia Tár was an actual person.

TÁR goes to a lot of places after its bold setup. Lydia faces accusations of sexual impropriety, tension in her marriage over her pursuit of a pretty young cellist, and scandal over the suicide of a former protégé. She is visited by strange noises and visions as the film takes on shades of gothic horror.

Blanchett is spellbinding bringing all of this to vivid life. She absolutely deserves that Best Actress Oscar, even if I’m still rooting for Yeoh.

And I have to tip my hat to Todd Field, whose direction is confident and creative. Maybe it’s time for me to give In the Bedroom another look.

I think the best sign that TÁR is a modern masterpiece is that no two people seem to agree on why it is one. I’ve seen it called both a blistering attack on cancel culture, and a defense of it. I’ve read passionate arguments claiming Lydia Tár deserves our sympathy, and equally passionate arguments dismissing her as the ultimate girlboss villain.

This is a movie that makes you think and makes you feel, and one that sticks with you for weeks after you watch it. Now that’s why I go to the movies.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,358: ‘Apartment for Sale’ – Lydia Tár job

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I know I am in the minority with audiences and my family, but I was not a fan of Tàr.

  2. Peg says:

    Wow I just love this review! There is so much to think about in this film and I agree that besides being entertained a movie should make you “think and feel”. I would be happy if she wins this especially since the woman I wanted nominated is not in the running.

  3. Doug says:

    A whole lot of stuff going on here, all of it deeply provocative.

  4. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I echo your sentiments almost entirely. Admittedly, in addition to the hype that was seemingly coming from every direction, audience and critics alike, I had the personal curiosity of wanting to find out what made my father hate this film so much. Needless to say, although I share my father’s taste with many movies, this is one where I strongly differ. It’s not often that a performance is so captivating yet so grounded. As you articulated so well within those first couple scenes, you’re not only sold that Cate Blanchett is Lydia Tár but convinced that this must be a real person with just how lived in the character feels.

    Todd Field had a strong story he wanted to share through this vessel which is so symbiotic with Blanchett’s performance. Field and Blanchett are so assured in their approach never once backing down from the challenge of making a complex, cold, confident character study that you can’t help but fall in love with. It would be deserving of earning any of the gold that it is up for and I’ll be applauding like it’s Mahler’s Fifth!

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