When making Tár, writer-director Todd Field was given the creative freedom to write whatever he wanted. Starring Cate Blanchett in a pitch-perfect performance, Tár is the first film from the auteur since 2006’s Little Children. His directorial debut In the Bedroom earned him five Oscar nods, including Best Picture. Back at the helm 16 years after his last film, Field leads a bold exploration into power irresponsibly used with Tár, which earned a six-minute standing ovation at its Venice Film Festival premiere, generating buzz for the upcoming Academy Awards.
Field soars where others often fail with total creative control. Blanchett’s titular character, Lydia Tár, is uncompromising, unhinged, and completely unfazed by anything or anyone she deems in the way. An absolutely brutal and unbroken tangent, which was shot in one take and walks the tightrope between lecture and rant, exhibits the ceaseless presence of the character’s sharp judgment and persistent intellect. In a sense, and as needed, Field was undoubtedly the same way when writing Tár. Nothing’s held back and Blanchett’s Lydia hangs between villain and victim.
The character study was written with Blanchett in mind, appropriately so, who immediately said yes after reading the script. Relentless while not being gratuitous, Field’s focus on Lydia’s fame and talent, and the power that unfortunately follows, is challenging yet gorgeous to look at and listen to. The film’s opening interview with Lydia was shot in long, still takes, almost doing away with cutting to the interviewer. This highlights the main character’s dialogue—which is saturated with highbrow reference and mystical insight—and properly develop the strengths of her character within a single scene that plays out in real time. It’s the kind of scene that would often end up hacked to bits or left out altogether in editing, but with Field in full control, it not only remains but opens Tár.
Granting talent the authority of creative control is a gamble that often ends unfavorably, but in the case of Tár, trusting in the writer-director throughout the creative process has led to great success. The film is being critically praised and Oscar buzz is growing. Tár also has a Certified Fresh designation at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly, Field’s transparency and awareness in the quote above is the kind of leadership a film like Tár needed.