You must, in fact, stand in front of the public and God, and obliterate yourself.
Love, tragedy, and the thinly sketched line between the two that dances lithely in the recesses of our fragile psyche. To some, life is a slow decay that ends in hollow, forgotten emptiness, a labored lament of detachment from reality. To others, life a brilliant, blinding display of ferocious passion, to aggressively seize everything in sight until your name is inked in history. Legacy etched in blood or eroded by the tide of time, the metronome of existence slowly ticking as it awaits you conduct the symphony of life. Lead the movements, work tirelessly to complete the cycle. Fall in line with the rest, constrained by conformity and noise, or obliterate yourself in front of them all as an act of selfless submission to the music while a monument to all your sins is constructed out of the abandoned ego, so self-absorbed in the blind journey towards the sun that the wings combusting into a spectacular shower of ashes becomes little more than a footnote.
Lydia Tár’s (Cate Blanchett) carefully constructed monolithic status and leviathan celestial presence is a destructive gravitational force, ensnaring everyone in her periphery and carrying them alongside her downward spiral into complete oblivion, spectator included. Tár’s presence is so immediately magnetic that it’s hard to look away from the inevitable obliteration she promises, ever toeing a razor thin line between joining the pantheon of musicians she deifies and being crushed beneath their infinite weight. Introduced by a verbose and eloquently flowered description of her perfect rise to greatness, Todd Field’s TÁR constructs an almighty being, an unassailable master of her craft preparing to push symphony towards adoration while the music carries her towards perfection.
For the rest of Field’s symphonic character study, it all slowly and methodically unravels, an ineffable examination planted firmly within a framework far less interested in moralizing than it is in presenting life in all its endlessly complex intricacies, a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic portrait through a lens of projected internality. Everything here lives within personal response, a truly conversational work of art that would rather interrogate your reaction to Tár’s black hole of organic void than provide you any definitive statement on what you should be taking with you. It resides in an era of progressivism and destruction of persona, of defining by action and not by result, but it would rather offer the rumination of those thematic throughlines via the year’s most well realized character than present anything as rote and simplistic as a lens of binary celluloid.
The film is an examination of the complete annihilation of contrition and culpability by way of blending Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s pensive reservation and Olivier Assayas’s deft protean chaos, filmically mercurial brilliance always shifting before you have a chance to pin down exactly what it’s all building towards or working at. Largely indebted to Cate Blanchett’s stunning and completely captivating performance, fully embodying the emotionally magnetic pull that surrounds and destroys every one of her facades of relationship. Limitless vigor envelops Blanchett and Tár, a slow crescendo of raw, emboldened energy just awaiting the inevitable while a brilliantly woven web of intersecting motivations and ideologies cross before her.
Tár forges a hateful and destructive path for herself, one wherein she abuses the goodwill of others in order to ascend to the dizzying heights of artistic status, only to become so absorbed within the folds of that status that all she knows how to do is obliterate like her idols, problematic and deceitful men whose artistic legacy has supposedly absolved their failings. Her infinitely patient wife Sharon (Nina Hoss) once a stepping stone to the elevated status of classical music in Germany, her demure assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) a means to a vile end that’s burning up in the stratosphere faster than Tár can continue delaying the inevitable. Tár’s life is transactional, viewing each relationship as an exchange that will one day feed into her ultimate ascension until they instead become her downfall.
TÁR is unflinchingly captivating and commanding cinema, reaching a core of deeply resonant humanity despite its equally disturbing depravity. Love or tragedy; maybe it’s not so simple. We consider that there must be a simplistic explanation and not that it is coexistence that makes human nature so fascinating to deconstruct, that perhaps both can exist simultaneously when one is so egregiously consumed with a singular vision of elevating above the rest. In the microcosm of Todd Field’s world of conducting and composition, there is no absolution, and there is no condemnation, but the weight of conscience lingers. A legacy successfully etched in the blood of suffering. Was it worth it?
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