Reel Time with Sister Rose

Tár 

In this psychological drama, Cate Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, in a performance that is sure to score her a Best Actress Oscar nomination—if not her third Oscar. 

The film opens onstage with the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik interviewing Tár. He is deft at eliciting details of her brilliant life, career, and persona. Tár teaches a Julliard class of musicians and hopeful conductors. She starts off challenging them but then turns to grating humiliation that is never a good pedagogy. 

Tár’s assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant), is exceedingly competent but has a crush on her boss. Tár has a fling with another young musician, Krista (Sylvia Flote), who turns out to be unstable and obsessive. Tár enlists Francesca to erase traces of Krista’s involvement in her life, but goes a step further by giving Krista negative references so that she cannot get a job.  

In the elegant chaos Tár creates and effortlessly swirls in, she gossips with Elliot (Mark Strong), with whom she created a program to promote female conductors. She also schemes to force out Sebastian (Allan Corduner), her faithful, aging assistant conductor. 

Tár’s messy life is covered up by the force of her incredible talent, but her wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss), a concertmaster, sees through her narcissism. After encouraging their relationship, Sharon refuses to let their adopted daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic), become a pawn. When Tár manipulates the hiring process so that a young Russian cellist, Olga (Sophie Kauer), is hired for the orchestra, things begin to rapidly fall apart as the conductor’s predatory machinations come to light. 

Tár, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, is a masterpiece written, directed, and coproduced by Todd Field. He’s amply supported by the award-worthy cinematography of Florian Hoffmeister. But nothing can detract from Blanchett’s utterly convincing performance as the self-sabotaging maestro. Even when she is down, she is never out. Tár may leave you in awe, but it doesn’t inspire as much as it reveals the psychopathology of a character’s terrible, selfish arrogance and talent for reinvention. 

Not yet rated, R • References to suicide, cruelty. 


White Noise

Based on Don Delillo’s 1985 apocalyptic, darkly comedic novel of the same name, White Noise opened the Venice Film Festival this year, setting the bar for the most quality films that I have seen in my four outings as a jury member at the festival. 

Professor Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle) teaches a class on the pervasiveness of car crashes in US movies, whether they are needed for the plot or not. His colleague Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) is a Hitler Studies professor who is married to Babette (Greta Gerwig), a pill-popper. They have four well-adjusted children in their odd and blended family. Jack and Babette exchange banter fixated on which of them will die first. The kids seem more grounded than the adults. When a truck filled with explosive chemicals crashes into a train and produces a huge, toxic black cloud, no one, from the officials to the Gladney family, seems especially bothered. They keep waiting for someone to tell them to evacuate. 

There is no doubt that writer, director, and coproducer Noah Baumbach’s latest film is a clever piece of cinema—a prophetic satire filled with themes taken from a kind of rising middle-class stupor—that highlights today’s disposable consumer culture. Because Baumbach is a creative who loves to juggle ideas with plot and character, it gives the audience much to chuckle over and talk about, though the film’s appeal may be limited. The ending supermarket ballet celebrating meaninglessness and superficiality is priceless, if a bit overstated. 

Not yet rated • Peril, language, drug use. 


Bones & All

Another 2022 Venice Film Festival favorite is director Luca Guardagnino’s film about lovelorn teen cannibals on a road trip across America in the late 1980s. 

Eighteen-year-old high schooler Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) lives with her dad and has trouble fitting in. Her dad deserts her, leaving a cassette tape explaining who she is and why. On her quest to find her mother, Janelle (Chloë Sevigny), she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), an older man who tries to befriend her. But she’s rightly afraid of him and drives off. She then meets an outsider, Lee (Timothée Chalamet), and they fall in love while trying unsuccessfully to not “feed” on people. Netflix’s Bones and All is a graphic horror film that wants to be an analogy for kids who are different and marginalized. Its problem is that the extreme gore is ironically unpalatable and overshadows any sympathy we might have for the characters who cannot change who they are. 

R, Violence, language, drug use. 


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