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TÁR (2022) Review - Chicago International Film Festival 2022

Painting a portrait of the first-ever female conductor of a major German orchestra,Lydia Tár is a role simply cut out actress Cate Blanchett, who not only finds herself indistinguishable from the conductor herself but manages to craft a career-defining performance through a powerhouse personification. Write-director Todd Field's return to filmmaking illuminates pride and self-destruction in a character study drenched in obsession. Tár finds itself pitting pride against reality as class consciousness clashes with self-competition. Field dares to peel back the truths behind the ethics of artistic expression and how it continues to impact Tár's life outside of her musical achievements.

Field's depiction of Tár's fall from grace is founded on the complexities of power. The consequences of respect and scrutiny are examined in an extreme case of perfectionism. Blanchett's embodied shape of egoism is not a completely heartless figure, and the writer-director does not weaponize abuse or intimation; instead, it is a tool used to communicate how oblivious Tár is to her own actions. Every transactional relationship becomes so regulated that Tár herself does not recognize the harm in her own behaviors. The rise and fall of a world-class composer falls upon a bed of dense drama, upheld by Blanchett's fiery performance as its centerpiece.

Tár feels a bit overstuffed through achieves in reflecting on how personal actions must always find an equal opposite reaction. Loss of self-control to a desire to claim superstardom questions if society worships the idea of fame and power to an overindulgent extent. The film sets itself up to be deemed as a "cancel culture movie," though the phrase will be used only by those who shape the term "cancel culture" to adhere to what they imagine it to be - whereas, in reality, a "canceled" person is only meeting the consequences of their actions. Tár's on-screen demise is a response to choices made by her, and only her. Blanchett's difficult maestro paired with Field's complicated cocktail of misconduct in the arts may struggle to tie up its loose ends, though credits itself as a musical marvel. Most intriguing of all is Tár's split personality - severed between maestro and monster. The two are side-by-side enough to state a point without suggesting any way how an audience should judge her.

Tár remains to be jagged and uncomfortable as it invites conversations around creative genius and self-discipline, even if it may dissipate upon its final act. 7/10.

*This film was screened at the Chicago International Film Festival 2022.

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