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Why the Oscar favorite with Cate Blanchett is not a good film

Perfect pitch - people who have it know this - can be a torture.

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Why the Oscar favorite with Cate Blanchett is not a good film

Perfect pitch - people who have it know this - can be a torture. You sit there, for example, someone rings the bell somewhere or someone plays something. And you know it's a major third.

It gets bad when something is wrong with the third because the cellist playing it has slipped his finger a millimeter. And if you also get tinnitus, so you hear the absolutely real and the absolutely unreal at the same time. Makes you crazy. As crazy as Todd Fields "Tár" makes you. Because he suffers from both.

Lydia Tár is a conductor. She is fifty. Arrived at the top, where no woman has ever been. At the head of the best orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic. From a poor background near New York, she - protégé of Leonard Bernstein - has risen to become the first woman in the "EGOT" league, has won Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar and Tony. She gives seminars at the Juilliard School, the elite forge of the classical music scene.

She wrote a book called "Tár on Tár". She lives with Sharon, her concertmaster, and with a Syrian refugee child they adopted. She is advised by a foundation that should finally enable young female conductors to get to where young conductors have always been. She recorded a Mahler cycle with the Berliners. A symphony is still missing. The fifth. The one with the Adagietto.

The Visconti Symphony. “Death in Venice”, extended to twelve minutes by Bernstein to Dying, Lydia Tár wants to be over it in seven. A music of the crisis that was not music of the crisis at all until Visconti.

Lydia Tár hears everything. The major third from the phone next door. The cellist who plays wrong. Sometimes she hears things that aren't there. But she doesn't hear the creaking that heralds the collapse of her career – even though Todd Field penned her in with warning signs from the start. Something like failure, a crash, doesn't appear in the picture she took of herself, that she wants to show, it's not allowed.

The American conductor Marin Alsop, protégé of Leonard Bernstein, the first woman to lead a top American orchestra and a possible role model for Lydia Tár, felt almost insulted by “Tár”, as a woman, as a conductor and as a lesbian. This is of course a misunderstanding. “Tár” is only partly about gender and actually not at all about sexual orientation (the weakest thing about “Tár” is the story of the married life of Lydia and Sharon, which despite Nina Hoss as a life partner remains a mere assertion).

It is about the analysis of a power system and what power makes of people. It was almost inevitable that it is a woman who uses the mechanisms of this system, who abuses her and in the end is destroyed by them and the murderous possibilities of the new media. Because it sharpens the view of the fundamentals of having power and its consequences. In fact, Lydia Tár didn't necessarily have to be a lesbian.

At the same time, "Tár" is a science fiction story (a woman at the head of the Berlin Philharmonic at the top of the Thielemann-Barenboim league) and an analysis of a power apparatus that no longer exists in this form, even for women. Orchestras have become increasingly democratized, the way conductors treat them, the job description of a maestro (Tár insists on the masculine term) has not just changed since MeToo.

It's always like that in "Tár". Pretty much the smartest thing said about classical music that has ever been said in a Hollywood film about classical music. And then, at some point during the rehearsals, Lydia Tár remembered that they should perhaps put a little more before Mahler's symphony, which in principle is full-length. She knows - because she wants to make Olga, her budding love interest, the young cellist who she has just sponsored into the orchestra, dependent, as she has already done with a number of others whom she then threw away - also something.

Elgar's Cello Concerto. Of course that's great. And one also likes to hear Sophie Kauer, the trained cellist who plays Olga. But of course this contradicts all the mechanisms of the classical business, in which concert programs are usually planned years in advance, especially with the large orchestras.

Everything is always somehow. Something always depends on everything. Field always reflects something from the side into his story. Lydia Tár's fall from the summit of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and from the golden community of Deutsche Grammophon corresponds to her fall from the cold temple of solitude from Christian Boros' Berlin art bunker, in which she lives with Sharon and her child, to her cozy old-style composing apartment with the decaying one woman next door into the spooky underground of the city, to which she follows Olga.

It's easy to believe that Field - the actor, writer and director who almost became a jazz trombonist - played the pianist in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. That it left its mark, too.

Everything tells stories. Everything speaks to you. The rooms, each of which tells its own story, each of the robes that Lydia Tár dons, each of her textile productions. Even Lydia Tár's walking pace and her relationship to that of her assistant are composed.

One could write treatises on the feet alone, their depiction and their meaning. About all the nice questions that Field asks in between - from the dispute about the allegedly misogynous white composer Johann Sebastian Bach at the Juilliard School and why a nonbinary student of color doesn't feel like playing his music, to the consequences of one about it unleashed media witch hunts that contribute to Tár's downfall as does the suicide of a once-loved student whose career she destroyed.

And of course about Cate Blanchett, without whom this film would never have existed. "Tár" is a Blanchett show. She conducts like no one before her has done in a film (and still hits wrong). She tears you through all the horrors of this story with a cold face. You can't help it. You follow her resignedly and with a disgusted fascination. Over all insipid over-determinations, all excess lengths.

In the end you still don't know whether what you saw and understood really became a film. Gets – this often happens in stressful situations – tinnitus. And if you don't have anyone with you to clear your head with over wine, which you should absolutely avoid, you just want to hear Mahler. Or even better: Elgar.

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