Tar (2022)

This could be the ‘Mulholland Drive’ for this generation—a deliberately-paced hallucinatory deep dive into the physical and psychological realities of a world-famous (if fictional) composer-conductor that sees Todd Field and Cate Blanchett in extraordinary form. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #2,559

Dir. Todd Field
2022 | USA | Drama/Music | 158 min | 2.39:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for some language and brief nudity

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noemie Merlant, Sophie Kauer
Plot: The story of world-renowned musician Lydia Tar who is just days away from recording the symphony that will take her to the very heights of her already formidable career.
Awards: Won Best Actress & Nom. for Golden Lion & Queer Lion (Venice); Nom. for 6 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Distributor: United International Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Classical Music; Cancel Culture; Professional Transgressions; Instability of Mind
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres – Projector X: Picturehouse
Spoilers: No

Tar is only Todd Field’s third feature after In the Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006)—despite a 16-year absence, he doesn’t seem to have lost his filmmaking mojo one bit. 

Headlined by Cate Blanchett in another of her extraordinary performances, Tar is truly one of the finest offerings of the year, and might just be the Mulholland Drive (2001) for this generation. 

A hallucinatory deep dive into the physical and psychological realities of a world-famous (if fictional) composer-conductor, Tar invites us to scrutinise, or perhaps empathise with, Blanchett’s Lydia Tar as she finds herself fighting against cancel culture and the hauntings of past transgressions. 

The Western classical music milieu may alienate or pique the curiosity of more mainstream moviegoers, but it is the film’s intentionally slow pace that could frustrate viewers without the requisite patience. 

“Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring kind of conformity.”

The warning signs are there: we are made to sit through what would have been the end credits at the start (though this is perhaps symbolic of the tradition of reading programming notes featuring the names of each musician before the performance starts), and then a protracted Q&A with Lydia that is shot like a Q&A—a bare stage, mono sound and all.   Lydia’s at her clearest here, in mind, body and soul. 

However, the film would become increasingly layered and distorted, visually, aurally and narratively, as Field gives us a fascinating character study of a queer woman trapped in her own insecurities—and also her desires for power and control. 

Nothing is what it seems, and like David Lynch’s masterwork, Tar inevitably has to pass through its uncanny ‘Club Silencio’ phase in what might be the film’s most unsettling if head-scratching scene.  Not since Zodiac (2007) has a basement creeped me out more. 

Grade: A




  1. Totally agree with your rating.
    For me the script and the directing were the highlights, in the sense that the film begins with a boring interview with the conductor in which she spouts pomposities about Music, and then, before I knew it I found myself at the end of the film in a scene from … What?

    I then realized that what happened between these two scenes had merely subliminally registered, as the character’s background was gradually revealed through what seemed like mostly everyday scenes, but which actually depicted the step-by-step emotional and moral decay of the public persona until disorder and only a desperate clinging to her Music remains.

    Which makes this a truly impressive feat of cinema which seems akin to Greek tragedy in the seeming inevitability of the events as they unfold: it was almost over before it had begun.

    So I still can’t fathom exactly how the film took me from being bored, then cunningly led me from scene to scene, unsuspectingly, over and over, to land up baffled, and yet feeling that the outcome was exactly what it should have been, and that the in-between stuff simply had to be, at least retrospectively.

    I think your reference to Mulholland Drive was spot-on.

    Liked by 1 person


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