Time is a very precious and valuable thing.

What we do with our time, how quickly or slowly life seems to go all feels set at a tempo that we conduct ourselves.

It’s also at the core of acclaimed writer/director Todd Field’s first film in 16 years, a cerebral, cold, elongated portrait of a woman convinced that she has mastered time itself.

Featuring one of the year’s most compelling performances from two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, Tár follows the titular character Lydia Tár, head conductor of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra at the top of her game preparing to achieve the pinnacle of her career when whispers of something darker begin to pervade her life and psychologically terrorize her.

It’s important to note at the outset that Tár takes its time crafting a world rather than developing a quick, speedy plot for audiences to follow. Field is not entirely concerned with how long scenes take to develop. There are numerous extended tracking shots that cover large portions, if not entire scenes, that while beautiful, elongate Tár to a languishing pace.

The same is true of Blanchett’s Lydia, a character so demonstrably in control that time is of no great concern to her. Every action, every physical flinch, movement, stroke of her hand is measured beyond all consideration to the point where Lydia truly believes she domineers over time.

It’s an interesting and engaging way to approach a character and it would completely fail in the hands of anyone other than Blanchett, an actress so cerebral in her performance that viewers can easily see the wheels turning in Lydia’s head even as things begin to spiral out of control.

Her work is especially compelling in the first act as Blanchett can chew up all the scenery around her and Lydia’s guest lecture at a Juilliard master class will certainly be one of the five best scenes in cinema this year.

Although Blanchett rightfully dominates every moment in Tár as audiences never leave Lydia’s point of view for more than an instant, the supporting cast is exceptional in their own right, especially Nina Hoss as Lydia’s partner and a member of her orchestra and a fantastically frustrated demure turn from Portrait of a Lady on Fire star Noémie Merlant as Lydia’s assistant Francesca.

Thanks to Field’s creative vision and Blanchett’s singular performance, Tár is so specific in its world-building and nuanced in detail that it feels as if Lydia is a real person and that Tár is a dramatic biopic in the vein of Pablo Larrain’s Spencer.

This truly extends throughout the craft with exceptionally cinematic visuals that feel ripped out of a European museum shot by director of photography Florian Hoffmeister and a measured, yet often roaring score from Oscar winning composer Hildur Guônadóttir that blends the work of Gustav Mahler with sounds haunting Lydia’s mind.

For as much as Tár prides itself and references time as a main theme of the film, editing is by far the weakest element of the film with a painfully slow pace dragging down the quality of the drama in the film’s back half and really making audiences feel the weight of its nearly three-hour running time.

While it’s still unclear just how well received Tár will be this awards season, Blanchett is undoubtedly the frontrunner to win her third acting Oscar and the film could easily ride her coattails with nominations for Hoss in supporting actress, Field in direction and Hoffmeister in cinematography.

The best chance for audiences to enjoy Tár is through an immersive cinematic experience on the big screen that requires viewers to maintain constant attention to what’s happening and allow the visual and auditory brilliance to play out. Unfortunately, for those unable to do so, it’s unlikely that at home viewing at a later date would keep viewers from fully investing in Tár. 

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