“Tár” is a musical, but not in the way you might think.
Set to a rhythmic beat of classical orchestration, writer and director Todd Field triumphantly returns to the director’s chair some 16 years after “Little Children” (2006) and 21 years after his debut “In the Bedroom” (2001). In the process, Field proves the third time is the charm and “Tár,” which screened at Venice and Telluride, has emerged as a major Oscar contender. At the forefront of this epic drama is another fiery and near perfect turn from Cate Blanchett, who is poised to earn her eighth acting Oscar nomination and could even nab a potential third statuette.
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“Tár” will tickle the fancy of industry voters and pure cinephiles. Following the movie’s North American premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, Blanchett received a tribute that included highlights from her decades-long career, including her Oscar winning turns in “The Aviator” (2004) and “Blue Jasmine” (2013). Perhaps we’re noticing a trend for Blanchett – she wins an Oscar every nine years?
Her Lydia Tár, a lesbian composer who becomes the first woman to conduct a major German orchestra, is among her most committed and visceral turns. The woman has no limits, and the actor’s branch of the Academy will likely agree.
Many friends of Blanchett and Field came out to cheer them on, including Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway of “Armageddon Time” and Paul Mescal of “Aftersun,” who appeared alongside his girlfriend, Phoebe Bridgers. For the most part, the audience seemed enamored, albeit a bit confused. And the narrative complexity of “Tár” could be a challenge during awards season. Like “Bardo,” which also screened at Venice and Telluride, this one could be divisive. But critics were mostly meh on “Bardo,” whereas “Tár” has earned raves and seems certain to have passionate admirers. That core group of support could lift “Tár” into the thick of the race.
It’s not all about Blanchett. Field’s top-notch script could eventually rank as the year’s best, asking tantalizing questions about power, art and such hot-button topics as “cancel culture.” It’s a film that demands to be talked about.
If there’s a heart and soul of the film, look no further than Nina Hoss. As Lydia’s wife, she runs the gamut, ushering up indelible moments of love, anger, grief and fortitude. Hoss should land her first Oscar nomination in the supporting category.
Many of the below-the-line work also merits some awards love, most notably the cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister and the music by Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker”) who’s already in the race after the world premiere of “Women Talking” at Telluride. Could she be a double nominee? She’s deserving.
Focus Features will fight tooth and nail to get the film in front of the right awards voters. If it’s going to be a viable best picture candidate, it might need international voters to get behind it in a big way. For Field, who has been absent from screens for far too long, “Tár” proves that some things are worth the wait.
Read Variety’s Awards Circuit predictions to keep up with the latest Oscar race updates.
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