The Me Too radically changed the world. The Weinstein case opened Pandora’s box. The testimonies of all those women put on the table an endless list of abuses and incorrect behaviors of men in positions of power. It was not only in the world of cinema, but in any industry. Also that of classical music, a paradigm of the exquisite and the elitist, but a world where egos fill theaters and auditoriums. In Spain we have seen it up close, with Plácido Domingo discovering himself as a true predator. Domingo’s case showed a harsh reality, and that is that many prefer to look the other way when it is an idol who commits crimes. Madrid received the tenor with applause while outside of Spain they asked that someone like him not be hired.
It is not surprising that the name of Placido Domingo appears in the form of a poison dart in Tar, the first serious candidate for the Golden Lion. A film about the abuses of power in the world of classical music orchestras that marks the return of Todd Field 16 years after his last film, secret games. Here he gives all the protagonism to a colossal Cate Blanchett who is in every shot of the almost three hours that this brilliant, intelligent, hypnotic and precise film lasts. Of a perfection that scares. Everything is measured down to the smallest detail to dissect the abuses of power.
Cate Blanchett is Lidia Tar, a brilliant lesbian conductor who has managed to stand out in a world of men. She is one of those women who neither manifests the 8M nor likes to be called a teacher, because the original word is ‘teacher’. Of which she gets upset if policies are mentioned to achieve equality. She believes in meritocracy. A woman who, in order to stand out in a world of men, has become one of them. She is misogynistic, manipulative and, also, a predator. She has abused her power for years without anyone saying anything to her. It is what she saw her teachers do and what she has continued to do.
All this could be present in an obvious way, showing a chain of accusations and abuses, but the mastery of Todd Field’s film is that it never resorts to the obvious, but to the subtle. To the gestures of the monster that nobody wants to see. To the looks that Lidia Tar casts at the young woman who enters her orchestra. To her dominant relationship with her assistant. To the condescending way with which she treats her partner. It is a portrait of the intimacy of the abuser told in small details until the shit splatters, and then the monster can no longer be contained.
Field shows elegance and thoroughness from minute one, a long talk with the public in which the character is asked about issues such as equality in the world of classical music. An interview on current issues and his sector with which the character is perfectly defined. We already know how this elegant and uptight woman breathes. Now it only remains to outline it. She does it with scenes that take your breath away, like the very long sequence shot in which Blanchett and a student discuss separating work and author and how identity can weigh on art. A dialectical duel where the staging helps to smell the rarefied atmosphere of that rehearsal room.
The great success of the director and screenwriter is not to be expository. There are no underlines. There is no sensationalism. There are no great feminist speeches or about abuse. His character is a woman who has become a man. The only way she has been able to get the glory that she knows she deserves is because of her talent. He does not criminalize her, but portrays her intimacy with gestures and details. A woman who is able to give up her roots for the success of her dreams.
None of this would be possible without Cate Blanchett’s talent in a character composition so thoughtful and brilliant that it should earn her every award this season. The actress transforms. She endows Lidia Tar with gestures and hobbies, with a way of moving, of being on stage. She is acid, brilliant and manipulative. An interpretation that could well earn her a Volpi Cup —which she already has for I’m not there– If that Tar It does not win the Golden Lion. It is the first great film of Venice and it will surely be one of those that mark the end of the season.