TÁR’: Cate Blanchett on Challenges and Privileges of Acting in Todd Field’s Superb Drama (Vence Fest 2022)

 

Todd Field didn’t write “TÁR” with Cate Blanchett in mind. He wrote it for Cate Blanchett only. If she didn’t want to do it, it wouldn’t exist.

The film, which had its world premiere Thursday night in competition at the Venice International Film Festival, looks at an extraordinary artist at the peak of her career. The fictional Lydia Tár is a celebrated composer, musician, philanthropist and conductor, and the first ever woman to preside over an important German orchestra.

When first seen, she’s preparing to debut her autobiography “Tár on Tár” and complete the Mahler cycle with the orchestra.

“TÁR” was one of the most anticipated films of a festival full of major filmmakers. It’s Field’s first film in over 15 years and features what is already being hailed as a bravura performance from one of cinema’s most celebrated actors.

It’s also a film that has been a bit secretive — there is no real easy logline to describe “TÁR” or even tease what happens, but it’s one that reveals itself to you as you go along.

“She’s haunted by something, by her past, by herself, by past deeds,” Blanchett said. “You experience someone who has put her past in a box and who through her immense talent has tried to reinvent herself and be saved and changed and transmogrified by the music.”

And there’s not even one definitive reading of the film, which is rather complex and multu0nuanced.

Even the director himself allows that Tar is deliberately ambiguous in the meanings that could be attached to it, or the way it is perceived.  Field says: “I see a different film every time I watch it, and, believe me, I’ve watched it many many times.”

But, using his words in describing the persona, “Lydia has external forces going on which we have limited knowledge about–what they are or what they mean. Then “something (which cannot be disclosed) happens and everything changes.”

To play Lydia’s wife, Sharon, who is violinist in the German Orchestra, Field said he and Blanchett “like a jinx” both said “Nina Hoss” at the same time.

Blanchett laughed that she’d been stalking the German actor known for her frequent collaboration with Christian Petzold “for about 10 years now.” “It’s unhealthy but it’s true,” she said.

Blanchett has played LGBTQ characters before, perhaps most notably in a film made by another director named Todd–Todd Haynes’ “Carol,”

But Blanchett, who is 55, and has been happily married to the same man for 25 years, emphasizes that “the importance of that particular kind of representation on screen is not something I take into consideration when choosing roles.

“I don’t think about the character’s gender or her sexuality,” Blanchett continued. “And I love that about the film. It just is. It’s a human portrait. I think we have matured enough as a species that we can watch a film like this and not make her sexual identity the headline or the main issue.”

With “Carol,” she said she only realized after the fact that it was unique in its portrayal of two women in a relationship and that it did become important to people.

But TÁR was a very different experience than Carol.  “It just felt urgent and undeniable and while there are a lot of explosive things in the film, I am not interested in any kind of agitprop.”

“TÁR” is competing for the festival’s Golden Lion award, to be given out on September 10 by a jury led by acclaimed actress and Oscar winner Julianne Moore (Still Alice, 2014). And it’s expected to be a major contender come Oscar season.

Focus Features is releasing the film in theaters in North America on October 7.

Field has coaxed great performances from his female protagonists before. His first film, In the Bedroom, featured an Oscar nominated turn from Sissy Spacek, and his second, Little Children, did the same for Kate Winslet.

But Tar is a slightly different beast: “It is Cate’s film,” the director declares firmly, proudly, and unequivocally.

“She is a master supreme,” Field elaborates. “Even so, while we were making the picture, the superhuman-skill and verisimilitude of Cate was something truly astounding to behold. She raised all boats. The privilege of collaborating with an artist of this caliber is something impossible to adequately describe.”