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Tar, from Focus Features, presents a story of power, entitlement, obsession, a belief of invincibility, deception, and the intoxicating thrill of control, set against the backdrop of contemporary social awareness within the international world of classic music.

Set in the tony world of fine art, Tar begins with an interview at Lincoln Center, in New York City, with international known conductor Lydia Tar, played by Cate Blanchett. She is at the top of her game, having conducted the most prestigious orchestras around the world she engages the audience with her perceptions of time, of the great composers and her future.


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Tar even controls time, as she so eloquently states during the interview, without her, we understand the timing and pleasure of the audience would be delayed or even denied, by her choice.

After the interview, we see her speaking with a groupie, who is carrying a Hermes handbag, and dropping sexual innuendo with each word, suddenly the two are engaged in a flirtatious tease around musical crescendo. Tar's assistant, Francesca Lentini, played by Noemie Merlant, tolerates yet another pretty young thing gushing over the celebrity conductor before interrupting and ushering Tar to her next appointment.

Meeting with Elliot Kaplan, played by Mark Strong, we understand that he desperately wants to see her score notes, and as he is without a home orchestra, she waves him off with encouragement at this point, as the two are working together on an endowment fund. This is the first time we hear Lydia directly explain her impression of a former student, Krista Taylor, played by Sylvia Flote.


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She has also agreed to guest teach a conducting class as Juilliard and as we see, she is of a generation where lifestyle choices of those considered the greatest composers of time, should essentially be overlooked for the art they have left the world. Those whom she teaches see themselves as a generation who can, through mass protest and social media, derail and dethrone even the most lauded.

Returning home, in Berlin, we meet Tar's wife, Sharon, played by Nina Hoss, and their daughter, Petra, played by Mila Bogojevic. We also see the red Hermes bag, the groupie at Lincoln Center was carrying. Currently, the most important event of Tar's life is quickly approaching as she is conducting Mahler's Fifth symphony along with changes in the orchestra. A second conductor, Sebastian, played by Allan Corduner, was grandfathered into the position, and she has kept him on for seven years, long enough for him to see her behaviors.

Today, the Berlin Orchestra is auditioning a new cellist. Although we can not see the competitors, Tar who is religious about handwashing notices the shoes of one of the candidates and changes her rating card.


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This is where we mee the redheaded Russian, Olga, played by Sophie Kauer, who with both youth and enthusiasm is infectious. For Lydia, everything about Olga is thrilling, her stories, appetite, talent. Suddenly Lydia finds herself in an all too familiar place, one where she has essentially resided in for many years and begins to groom the newest young talent.

Through all this, Krista, who had been blacklisted by Tar, commits suicide which causes Lydia's foundation to crack; her assistant who was passed over for the second conductor position leaves without further notice, and becomes the focus of a smear campaign, her obsession with Olga results in injury and her leadership decisions at Berlin are called into question.

Tar is brilliant. Cate Blanchette embodies the role with more than her usual expertise. She captivates and personifies this character, not simply the lesbian conductor, but the world of entitlement, the world of obsession and the belief of invincibility. Her mannerism, in each sequence, from waving off the accusations with hardly a breath, to the passion of conducting, she hits every note.

The entire cast elevate this film to a pivotal and relevant contemporary piece that showcases the ruthless competitiveness, deceitfulness, manipulation, and jealousy, and how those who can devise the destruction, downfall and total annihilation of anyone, will.

Tar is playing in select cities. It is a must see.


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Country: United States, Germany.

Language: English, German, with some subtitles.

Runtime: 158 minutes.

Director: Todd Field.

Producer: Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan, Scott Lambert.

Writer: Todd Field.

Cast: Cate Blanchette, Nina Hoss, Noemie Merlant, Sophie Kauer, Mark Strong, Sydney Lemmon, Mila Bogojevic, Allan Corduner, Dorothea Plans Casal, Fabian Dirr, Julian Glover, Christian Hocjerl.

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