Separating art from the artist, that is something fans of all genres have been trying to process since the dawn of time. As a horror fan, my first thought when hearing that statement is the film series, Jeepers Creepers. Writer/director Victor Salva made a really excellent and interesting monster in that movie. I wanted to see many sequels and prequels to get to know this demonic entity a little better, as the film seemed to fall flat at the end. However, as it was released in the early 2000s when the Internet Age was in its infancy, not many people knew of Salva’s past.
But after a few years, people became more aware of his abhorrent behavior in the ’80s, leading to a division among horror enthusiasts. Personally, I was able to separate the man from his creation and love every single installment of the franchise we can get. However, for a great number, the real monster of Jeepers Creepers is not seen on-screen but sits in his home receiving payments every time his film is publicly shown.
That brings us to the topic of today’s review, Tár. The film stars Cate Blanchett as the titular character, Lydia Tár, a world-renowned composer/conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. She is married to her concertmaster, Sharon (Nina Hoss), and always relies on her assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant).
She seemingly has it all going for her. In addition to being the conductor of a major orchestra, Lydia also teaches at Julliard, and she also starts a fellowship program overseen by her friend, Eliot Kaplan (Mark Strong). However, she lets power go to her head, having sexual affairs with students in exchange for preferential treatment. One student, Krista (Sylvia Flote), becomes so grief-stricken after the affair ends, that she commits suicide. Her death is only the beginning of the end for Lydia as more information comes to light, and even the closest people in her life leave her floundering.
While Tár is a fictional piece of work, it raises many questions, but mainly falls back to my original inquiry: Can you separate art from the artist? Through its 158-minute runtime, Lydia’s world is torn asunder. Stories come out about her complete lack of self-control when it came to abusing her rank. She ruins the lives of people when they no longer hold a purpose for her. But even as all of this horrible news came to light, her narcissistic ego would not allow her to admit any fault.
Even with all of this subterfuge and refusal to accept blame, she reaches the level of fame and notoriety off her hard work and skill. Her abilities are far beyond those of many of her contemporaries, leading many to just accept her behavior. This level of enableism is what led to Tár’s downfall. Had the right people intervened when they had the chance, her legacy might have been salvageable. But they let her corruption fester to the point of no return.
As for the film, it went a little too long. Keeping an audience intrigued and caring for two hours is a tall order by itself, but Tár meanders for more than two and a half hours. There is a lot of fluff with little in the way of further character-building. Director Todd Field seemingly wanted to ensure that he filled in the blanks for the entire downfall of his character. However, in this case, it would have been better to let some fall to the cutting-room floor. Let the audience fill in the blanks. Not everything has to be spoon-fed to them. When you do, time becomes your enemy, as interest wains.
By the time the end credits rolled, I was already thinking about things outside of the film.
For these reasons, I give Tár three out of five stars. The story is very good and does relate very well with the notion of separating people from their works. Cate Blanchett played the role to the top of her acting skills, but the long runtime killed my interest in the story. Cutting the film down about 45 minutes would have been worth at least a single-star increase. With that being said, Tár is still a good film and worth the time to watch if you have a few hours to kill.