As of this writing, the incredible Cate Blanchett has just received her eighth Oscar nomination. With two golden statuettes to her credit, she is just around the corner from Katharine Hepburn, whom she played with Leonardo DiCaprio in Pilot Martin Scorsese. And just one from Meryl Streep, one of her absolute idols. Whether she wins on March 12 in Hollywood or not will not change anything: in Tar, at 53, she delivered one of the most memorable performances of her career. Probably the most confusing.
When Todd Fields’ film came out, many American internet users were looking for information about the conductor played by the Australian star. Not only because his impressive resume is quickly revealed to us during a master class given by a real journalist, Adam Gopnik, a famous pen New Yorker. But above all, because the actress seems to have borrowed the voice, appearance and facial expressions of a very real person. Real American conductor Marin Alsop may have taken offense at the film, but the director and actress have nothing to do with it.
Building crumbling before our eyes
Thus, Lydia Tar is an American pianist prodigy, one of the rare musicians who have been simultaneously awarded the Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar – the four main award ceremonies in the United States. The first woman to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, she is also a respected ethnomusicologist who has done very serious scientific research on the Shipibo-Konibo tribe in the Amazon. Sorry a little…
However, from the shot before the credits, where the heroine is being filmed without her knowledge on the iPhone by her security guard, we understand, however, that something is wrong. In the quiet realm of classical music, his personal life is no secret. An open lesbian, she shares the life of Sharon, her first violinist, with whom she raises an adorable little girl. But from the very beginning, we feel discomfort from Francesca, his assistant, played by French actress Noémie Merlan.
Lydia Tar is really the character, the image, the building that Maestro Todd Fields will destroy before our eyes in a methodical as well as Machiavellian way. First, with small touches – a shaky gesture, a sidelong glance, a catchy word. Then, more frankly, during a lecture, where the artist, as acerbic as he is passionate, humiliates a non-binary student who refuses to play the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, considering him a symbol of patriarchy on the grounds that he has twenty children.
This uncomfortable and electrifying episode, which can be seen as a very nasty commentary on the gender debate fashionable in American cultural circles, would later play a major role in Lydia Tar’s descent into hell. Previously, Todd Fields has dispelled the great neuroses and little secrets of an icon who thinks he can do anything to keep his untouchable status.
In a masterful swaying motion, Tar then becomes the definitive film about the mechanisms exposed by the Weinstein case and the #MeToo movement. Cate Blanchett, who spearheaded the Time’s Up association to support victims of sexual harassment, probably took on this role not by chance. Beyond her personal commitment, this is an opportunity for her to deliver a subtle performance that questions the responsibility of the men and women in power. But also the unsettling fascination they have on their fans and society at large.
>> Tar Todd Fields. Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlan. 2h38. In theaters this Wednesday