“TÁR” is now the target of an “anti-woman” debate.
The satirical film starring Cate Blanchett as fictional conductor Lydia Tár came under fire from very real female conductor Marin Alsop, who is even mentioned in the movie. Blanchett’s character, an acclaimed lesbian conductor, is accused of preying on young musicians, and the film charts her fall from grace in both her personal and professional spheres. Critics have drawn comparisons between Alsop and Tár, with both being Leonard Bernstein prodigies, both married to fellow musicians, and both leading prominent orchestras.
“I first read about it in late August and I was shocked that that was the first I was hearing of it,” Alsop told The Sunday Times. “So many superficial aspects of ‘Tár’ seemed to align with my own personal life. But once I saw it I was no longer concerned, I was offended: I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian.”
Blanchett as Tár mentions Alsop during an opening sequence in conversation with real-life New Yorker journalist Adam Gopnik, saying Alsop is an example of a lack of gender bias and that conductors like Alsop, Nathalie Stutzmann, Laurence Equilbey, and JoAnn Falletta have “nothing to complain about” given the history of female pioneers who forged the way for their respective success in the industry.
“To have an opportunity to portray a woman in that role and to make her an abuser — for me that was heartbreaking,” Alsop said. “I think all women and all feminists should be bothered by that kind of depiction because it’s not really about women conductors, is it? It’s about women as leaders in our society. People ask, ‘Can we trust them? Can they function in that role?’ It’s the same questions whether it’s about a CEO or an NBA coach or the head of a police department.”
Alsop, who starred in feature documentary “The Conductor,” continued, “There are so many men — actual, documented men — this film could have been based on but, instead, it puts a woman in the role but gives her all the attributes of those men. That feels anti-woman. To assume that women will either behave identically to men or become hysterical, crazy, insane is to perpetuate something we’ve already seen on film so many times before.”
Lead star Blanchett previously told IndieWire that the character of Lydia Tár was born out of a conversation with writer-director Todd Field in September 2020 about the state of the world. “The character came out of those rich conversations,” Blanchett said. “When I read it, I was so daunted by the ask of it — not just what was necessary to play the character, but also the depth of questioning in the screenplay and my relationship to it, which kept shifting depending on which scene we were shooting or which relationship we were focused on that day.”
Field added, “The classical music world is a rich and interesting one for me, but in terms of the story, it’s a backdrop. It could’ve been any kind of pyramid scheme, any kind of power structure. It could’ve been a multinational corporation or an architectural firm. Pick your poison. In all our conversations, we talked about this examination of power — how we look at power and how we decide the way we look at it. If you really want to talk about power and the long reach of history — the abuse and complicity of power, how it corrupts, all these clichés we’ve grown up with — you have to reckon with the idea that there is no black or white. To find the truth of something requires a little more rigor.”
Director Field is set to expand the “TÁR” cinematic universe with upcoming short film “The Fundraiser,” which will debut at 2023 Berlinale.