TAR – Review by Susan Granger

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Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as an acclaimed concert conductor/composer in Todd Fields’ revelatory Tar.

Our first glimpse of Lydia Tar (Blanchett) is a tall, slim, confident woman, stylishly dressed in a black suit and crisp white shirt, luxuriating in her celebrity while preparing to take the stage in Manhattan for a New Yorker talk with writer Adam Gropnik (as himself).

American-born Tar was a Leonard Bernstein protégée who became the first female principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2013. Refuting claims that she was ever held back by gender bias, formidable Tar went on to achieve success with the world’s most renowned orchestras, along with winning an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.

(I wish I knew more about the classical music world because I was mesmerized by the way in which she is meticulously preparing to record Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.)

At lunch with Eliot Kaplan (Mark Strong), whose generous investments have enabled her Accordion Conducting Fellowship for young woman, Tar adamantly refuses to allow him to see her Mahler’s Fifth notations, curtly dismissing his request with: “Do you own thing. There’s no glory in being a robot.”

Imitative or robotic thinking so annoys Tar that she flamboyantly eviscerates a Julliard student in a Master Class, a rash condemnation that will come back to haunt her.

That – along with allegations of reckless sexual misconduct with various subordinate female musicians, one who committed suicide – contribute to Tar’s eventual downfall – particularly when she suddenly turns her attention to Olga (Sophie Kauer), giving the sexy Russian cellist a solo in Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

Dutifully attended by her assistant, Francesca (Noemie Merlant), an aspiring conductor whom she mentors, Tar identifies as “a U-Haul lesbian.” She lives in a Berlin apartment with her partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), concertmaster and first violinist; they share an adopted daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic).

In developing this project, actor-turned-writer/director Todd Fields (In the Bedroom, Little Children) focuses on the concept of power and what having it does to a proven predator, touching on identity politics and cancel culture.

“If the story was about a white male, you’d known how to feel in five seconds,” Fields told the Hollywood Reporter. “But it was important to try to figure out another, more nuanced way to examine power itself.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Tar is a provocative, intriguing 8; it will be streaming on Apple TV, Prime Video, Peacock & Vudu.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.