Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's TÁR, a Focus Features release. Picture: Florian Hoffmeister / Focus Features
Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field’s TÁR. Picture: Florian Hoffmeister / Focus Features

[star rating=”4″] TÁR. Directed by Todd Field, with Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong, more. JANE MAYNE reviews

Another brilliant, blazing blast from Cate Blanchett. After subtly blowtorching her way through the likes of Carol, she’s learnt to synthesize complex characters and convey them with mesmeric allure. And here, director Todd Field fills virtually every scene with her potent presence, resulting in a work that’s simultaneously compelling and discomforting.

Playing the role of a conductor of a major German orchestra, Blanchett dials it up, commanding attention both on and off screen.

As her Lydia Tár character deep dives into the mastery of aesthetic otherworlds, Blanchett inhabits the maestro with a scorching intensity that hurtles towards ignition point. Harnessing all her exceptional skills, she funnels them into a focused, fanatical display of artistry – found both within her character and as actress extraordinaire.

Blanchett conveys Lydia’s obsessive zeal with distinction, and she’s also aided by great side-women such as Nina Hoss (her partner Sharon Goodnow) and Noémie Merlant (personal assistant Francesca Lentini). But for the most part, minimal stripped-down sets don’t invite the eye to wander far off from Blanchett’s direct gaze, and also serve to continuously spotlight writer-producer Field’s deliciously cerebral script.

The movie’s narrative frame hooks around the leadup to the recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. This eagerly anticipated event is coloured by much talk of the metaphysical universe of music and the nuanced role conductors have in breathing life into a score. Whilst also honing in on the rarefied air of tenured orchestras, the screenplay ultimately works as a study of a self-absorbed genius.

With running time sitting at 157 minutes, TÁR is quite a lengthy watch, and would probably have been more enjoyable having some of the storyline elements resolve in accessible ways. But overall, this is a weighty piece of work, thanks to Field’s scriptwriting and Blanchette’s formidable radiance.

What: TÁR film review – a Focus Features release
TÁR release date South Africa: Friday, 3 March 2023