Rattan Gujadhur

[Rattan Gujadhur] Tar - Movie Review

Rédigé par Rattan Gujadhur le Mercredi 5 Juillet 2023

[Rattan Gujadhur] Tar - Movie Review
In Todd Field’s Tar, Cate Blanchett’s acting throughout the play, is a thing to be marveled at. Scorsese’s incisive review of Tar tells us in a few brief words, what Todd Field achieved in this supreme masterpiece, ‘a masterful mise-en-scène, as controlled, precise, dangerous, precipitous angles and edges geometrically kind of chiseled into wonderful frame compositions’.

Scorsese seems to have lately, been despairing about the general boring  predictable mise-en-scene of recent movies. In most, he says, there is a plot, there is a middle and an end, what’s new? Todd’s direction seems to defy time and the classical thematic. He did not just tell a story but seem bent on telling us of a message on the intrinsic value and potency of Art. 

Cate Blanchett was the messenger/carrier of Todd’s potent message. David Rooney of the Hollywood reported had this to say of Cate’s acting: Tár marks yet another career peak for Blanchett—many are likely to argue her greatest—and a fervent reason to hope it's not sixteen more years before Field gives us another feature. It's a work of genius’. 

I was deeply moved by her work, especially after having understood Todd’s subliminal message. Note to point, that others like Richard Brody (Newyorker) have criticized Todd’s style calling Tar a regressive movie, with an erratic lack of style, with some poor attempts to discuss ‘cancel culture’. I obviously do not agree with them, and will use a Tagorean appeal to explain the reason I personally rate Tar as a unique masterclass, a must see movie, for all, young and all. 

Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian mystic, poet, writer, social activist, educator wrote from an early childhood experience, of a deep mystical event of ‘oneness’. Being a man of rationality and progress, and often even clashed with Gandhi’s anti-progressive stances, he has forever tried to communicate this unique experience via his vast artworks (painting, dance, plays, essays poetry, short stories). His art-forms spoke to us of the exegesis of his experience. 

Art thou abroad on this stormy night on thy journey of love, my friend? The sky groans like one in despair.
I have no sleep tonight. Ever and again I open my door and look out on the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me. I wonder where lies thy path! 
By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the frowning forest, through what mazy depth
of gloom art thou threading thy course to come to me, my friend?

Tagore’s work is suffused with appeals of this vast ultimate reality, whose very presence defines truth. However, he is neither a crass devotional bhakta, nor an analytic advaitic philosopher. He is interested in the ‘experiencing’ this ultimate in the common world, in teaching others, in the appeal of the natural world, and in love for all. This is what Art meant to him. A channel to explain this divine reality. Tagore expressed that having experienced this unique inner beauty, he was duty bound to relive it through his love of humanity and nature. Any transgression of this feeling was, he tells us, self-destructive to the beholder. 

In Tar, the character, renowned musician Lydia Tár is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career. She is in all matters, a fine gem that has come out of an ordinary middle class background, and like all such characters, her talent raises her to the very peak of her profession. She becomes the ‘Chef D’orchestre’ of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, which is the very summit of any musician’s career. Yet, the naturalness with which her vast talent seemed to ooze out of her pores, and Cate Blanchett here, shows all this passion, when conducting the orchestra.

What aisance and what prowess ! It is  a thing to behold, acting par excellence. Yet, with the same casualness with which this absolute genius and musical knowledge takes residence in Lydia, came this livid arrogance in her demeanor. She is to our chagrin, also a first class predator, who preyed on younger women, used them and rejected them, and often just by a sort of this deformation in her character, antagonized them and ‘canceled’ them out. If Lydia did not want you, then the world should also be rejecting you.

Symbolically, Todd seems to be telling the story of predatory western capitalism the opposite of a Tagorean-just and well harmonized society. One is useful as long as one can ‘produce’.

If you are of no use to the machine, you get disenfranchised and spatted out. I use and drew the analogy to Tagorean philosophy above, because this is what Tagore abhorred about the western or eastern ultra-determinism, that often finds itself even in the global business of creative arts and culture. Despite the love he poured for western world and culture, Tagore rejected oppressive colonial mindsets that sucked the beauty out of nature and human beings. Todd’s builds Lydia’s character to represent this dystopian force of nature. A Titan eating its own children. 

In the end, and in the most subtle way, the story is build up to catalog Lydia’s misuse of the inner genius, beauty, and talent conferred on her, it simply turns against her. The forces of nature and society plot against and reject her. Todd’s script is simply not a philosophical analysis of ‘cancel culture’ dynamics but is in fact a retelling of Tagore’s philosophy of beauty: 

‘Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror. Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony which is in the universal being; truth the perfect comprehension of the universal mind’

Lydia Tar never in fact understood   this subtle dharma. The conferring  of great talent comes with great responsibility. Hence the story, and hence Todd’s masterpiece to us ! 

- Rattan Gujadhur :  left Mauritius for higher studies in the US in 1999. He has practiced in the Pharma and Biotech world for over 29 years and is a Dr in Chemistry. He remains deeply in love with Mauritius and has published reminiscences of Mauritius via a poetry collection and a novel

Mercredi 5 Juillet 2023