a woman in front of a window, writing on sheet music
Courtesy Focus Features

Todd Field first introduces us to Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) as she prepares for an interview with the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, played by himself, who precedes her monologue with a never-ending flush of accolades that includes an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony. There is no denying that Lydia Tár is an irresistible force, naturally weaved into the world of contemporary classical music. The prestigious conductor studied under Leonard Bernstein, heads the Berlin Philharmonic, and aspires to record Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony. She lives comfortably in a stunning apartment with her partner and her first violinist, played by Nina Hoss. However, Tár is deeply paranoid, struck by an unnerving sensation that her legacy is in jeopardy. In short, it is.

Motivated by her lust and obsessions, Tár’s legacy is vulnerable. Despite her austere and controlled demeanor, Tár is threatened by her impulses. She faces simmering rumors concerning inappropriate relationships with young women under her mentorship. She consistently neglects her assistant and aspiring conductor Francesca, played by Noémie Merlant, who slowly becomes disillusioned by Tár’s dismissals and arrogance. And her intoxicating affinity for a young Russian cellist complicates her artistic and home lives simultaneously. Suddenly, Tár’s legacy is melting into obscurity, leading to an explosive unraveling of contradictions, paranoia, and legacy itself. 

TÁR is mesmerizing. Cate Blanchett’s masterful performance captivates the screen for nearly three hours as the principal character precipitously heads toward her downfall or strings together her magnum opus. Blanchett is truly convincing, making the audience believe that Lydia Tár is alive. With his third film (the first in 16 years), Field’s achievement is TÁR’s immense scope. This precise, cutting story of a single conductor translates to a massive, impressively cogent commentary on power and its temptations. TÁR is momentous, despite its unfulfilled plot points, but by the end, these abandoned feints add to Tár’s fleeting legacy. 158 min.

In select theaters; wide release October 28