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‘TÁR’ Has Yo-Yo Ma’s Vote: A ‘Provocative and Moving’ Portrayal of Classical Music

The Grammy-winning cellist has high praise for Todd Field's Oscar-bidding drama about a classical music conductor in freefall.

TÁR

“TÁR”

Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

Todd Field’s widely acclaimed Oscar hopeful “TÁR” takes on a rarified world rarely explored in movies: classical music. In the drama now in limited release, Cate Blanchett plays the EGOT-minted conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic who idolizes Leonard Bernstein and is now recording Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony in his vein. Except, she’s now in freefall, thanks to a blizzard of accusations from protégés and peers alike.

The movie may be divisive for its morally ambiguous take on a public figure and self-styled genius who unravels amid #MeToo-worthy allegations — when she’s not seemingly grooming an ingenue, she’s stomping over them, such as Noémie Merlant’s up-and-coming violinist-turned-assistant Francesca. But the movie now has one especially coveted imprimatur: that of Yo-Yo Ma, Grammy-winning cellist.

Yo-Yo Ma exclusively told IndieWire, “Todd has created such a striking film. Cate Blanchett’s Lydia Tár demands that we wrestle with two of art’s most difficult questions: what gives art its power and what role does power play in art? Provocative and moving.”

There’ve certainly been some takedowns of “Little Children” and “In the Bedroom” director Todd Field’s first film in 15 years — and one made after many an uphill and failed battle to mount big-scale literary epics like Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” and Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity” to screens large and small. (He’s also recently detached himself from helming Hulu’s adaptation of Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City.”) Critic Amy Taubin called “TÁR” “the most racist shit I have ever seen.” The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody wasn’t a fan either, calling the film “regressive.”

Will it matter? “TÁR” is still an awards heavyweight, its achievements undeniable: Focus Features has released a nearly three-hour art film that defies expectations and easy handling, leaving you wondering if Lydia Tár’s fate is a cruel comeuppance or a sick cosmic joke. (Can’t it be both?) Yo-Yo Ma has more than a few awards on his belt, and even performed in the presence of Leonard Bernstein when he was seven years old. Taste knows taste. “TÁR” heads into wider release on October 28 but has already succeeded at the arthouse box office, if numbers are of any concern.

Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir wrote a score for “TÁR” that’s subtly heard and eerily effective in the film, but out this Friday comes an album featuring her left-on-the-floor tracks as well as other music inspired by the movie, including maestro Mahler.

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