Cate Blanchett Is Better Than Ever in Cancel-Culture Parable ‘Tár’
Aftersun, Triangle of Sadness, and Women Talking were also on the New York Film Festival's slate.EntertainmentMovies
Are movies back? Finally? Signs point to yes at this year’s New York Film Festival, which is packed with buzzy films that may keep people buzzing throughout the movie season. Below is a look at some of what’s coming and what’s already here—both the exquisite Tár and the…less exquisite Triangle of Sadness are in theaters today.
TárThere are great performances, and then there’s the kind of possession that Cate Blanchett evinces in Tár, Todd Field’s first movie since 2006’s Little Children. Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, the kind of superstar conductor who can command a crowd by sitting down for a New Yorker interview at Lincoln Center. Early scenes establish Lydia’s possession and power—during a lecture at Juilliard, she dresses down a Black student who says he can’t take Bach’s music seriously as a result of the composer’s misogyny. The quiet virtuosity displayed in the scene—probably around 20 minutes captured all in one shot as the camera glides around the lecture hall in an unhurried and tangent-prone, 180-degree turn—lets us know we’re in the hands of masters.
For a good while, Tár lets Lydia (and Blanchett) be the virtuoso that she is as she prepares for the recording of a Mahler symphony in Berlin, controlling the politics of her orchestra with the unsparing and severe approach she takes to music. The movie resists condemning or praising her arrogance and interpersonal brusqueness—that’s as much a product of her high status as it is, perhaps, necessary for maintaining it. (In the aforementioned interview scene, she brushes away any suggestion that she’s struggled with gender bias in the male-dominated field of conducting.) But then, the past comes back to haunt Lydia. Field ensures we see her cancellation only from her perspective, and she merely glimpses those who protest against her or give her feedback. Does she deserve what happens to her? Are the allegations of “grooming” tinged with homophobia? (Lydia’s matter-of-fact queerness is rare not just in movies in general, but specifically for a character of this age.) What exactly is she entitled to?
Conversations about cancel culture so often frame things in extreme terms for the sake of catching those Substack subscriptions and Twitter likes; they tell people exactly how to be outraged. But Field conducts discourse like a symphony. Blanchett’s tics-and-all embodiment of Lydia, who leads her orchestra with her full body and soul, is astounding. It’s just another day in the office for her, but if she doesn’t get the Oscar for this, a robbery will have taken place.
Morvern Callar. Don’t take my word for it, but what other people see in this movie about white people merely existing until they (maybe) don’t is beyond me.
Finally, a movie whose title delivers! The women, they talk. A lot. Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toews’s 2018 novel is set in an isolated religious community that shuns modern conventions like technology, poly blends, and the education of girls. When the men leave the village for a period to defend someone who attacked one of the women, the women convene to decide what to do about their cultural plight: stay and fight the men for power, or leave. The caucus allows for lengthy philosophizing about power and keeps the action all contained in one place to give Women Talking the feel of a filmed play. This is a movie of broad strokes about a literal rape culture (the men are out defending a rapist whose drugging-and-assaulting of a local woman is a standard practice) in which a character literally says the words, “Not all men.” The performances are strong—particularly feisty ones by Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley—and the desaturated picture gives the impression of a directorial vision. This is a movie that lays out its stakes and finds tension in its characters’ determination for a resolution, an uncommonly articulate statement whose conclusion aligns with what was suggested in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Utopia is achievable only without men. The rationale is ironclad.