Capsule Review: Tár (2022)

Remember Todd Field? The Eyes Wide Shut actor-turned-director first garnered attention when he made one of the best films in 2001 titled In the Bedroom. His 2006 sophomore follow-up, Little Children starring Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson, continued to prove his subtle directing prowess. I have been anticipating his next feature film ever since.

Anticipating and waiting. But as year after year went by with no confirmed film projects from Todd Field, even though he was attached to several of them ranging from Tawni O’Dell’s bestselling novel-turned-movie adaptation Back Roads to the gangster heist drama Hubris, it looks as if his third directorial feature remains elusive.

That is until the arrival of Tár, which I initially thought was a biopic of a real-life composer and conductor Lydia Tár. Well, it turns out to be a biopic of a fictional character. Cate Blanchett plays the titular character and she’s a magnetic presence from the moment the film introduces her during a full one-on-one interview on stage with The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. We learn that Tár is a renowned composer and conductor, who earned the rare distinction of becoming an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards) winner. She is also the first female chief conductor of the prestigious Berlin Philarmonic in Germany and even teaches at Julliard in New York.

A scene from "Tár" (2022)

Interestingly enough, the long interview session is shown in real-time and shot with a combination of long takes and close-ups. It was a promising start that made me instantly hooked on Lydia Tár and what follows next is another maestro of first-class filmmaking with the second impressive long-take sequence. Only this time, it takes place inside the classroom at Julliard, where Tár gives a lecture to her students. There’s a scene where she confronts a BPOC pangender student (Zethphan D. Smith-Gneist) in debating identity politics. No doubt the first 35 minutes of Tár showcases Todd Field’s direction at his very best with cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister deserving equal mention.

For a while there, Tár seems locked as another successful directorial feature for Todd Field for the third time in a row. The film even received near-universal acclaim ever since it premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival in September this year. Unfortunately, the rest of the film after the aforementioned first 35 minutes nosedives into a series of drawn-out and repetitive scenes of Tár doing her daily routines. Sure, we are subsequently introduced to his concertmaster-wife Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss) and their adopted daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic).

And yet, none of them really matters when the film’s unhurried pace seemingly goes around the circle. All to the point it makes me feel like I’m sitting for 158 minutes watching an uncut version of a reality show of her mundane life. It’s not like Todd Field didn’t try to elevate his lengthy film with Tár’s alleged sexual misconduct against the former member of her fellowship programme, Krista Taylor (Sylvia Flote) and her current relationship with a young Russian cellist, Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer). But the execution lacks the necessary dramatic heft to turn the film into a compelling narrative and what I have here instead is a tedious outcome desperately in need of some serious trimmings.

Given the tremendous level of promises in the earlier scenes and Blanchett’s sure-to-attract-award-attention performance, it’s hard to believe that Tár ends up more of a long-winded misfire than a potentially great film.