158 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: Cate Blanchett is magnificent, starring as an imperious orchestral conductor whose private and professional life suddenly, inexorably unravels.
The titular New York-born maestro in Tar has ascended the classical music circles to reach the pinnacle as the first principal female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Lydia Tar is as feted as Blanchett, who is tipped for a Best Actress Academy Award: It will be the actress’ third win, after The Aviator (2004) and Blue Jasmine (2013). Lydia is brilliant, manipulative and exacting, and Blanchett is a tour de force as this towering intellect in sleek tailored suits.
Lydia is preparing a recording of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that will seal her place in history. Over those three weeks, between the cello auditions and contract negotiations, allegations of her sexual predations go viral online: They say she has been abusing her position of authority to seduce young women in her orchestra and mentorship programme.
Lydia’s wife, played by the eminent German actress Nina Hoss, is the concertmaster. Their relationship comes undone, along with her prestige.
American film-maker Todd Field is back writing and directing his film since his 2006 acclaim for Little Children. His storytelling is controlled and elliptical, but watch closely, for there are signs of trouble – what are those surreal noises at night? – throughout this psychologically charged character study.
Blanchett learnt German, piano-playing and conducting for her role, but her fictitious anti-heroine seems so real also because Lydia’s fall from grace is a familiar story in today’s cancel culture. Does genius excuse bad b...