Blanchett and Field grappling with power, process in ‘Tár’ | Culture & Leisure

Cate Blanchett has heard the line before. “I wrote that part for you” is a director-actor line, she said. This is generally not to be believed.

But what she didn’t know when Todd Field sent her his script for “Tár,” a modern-day parable about an extraordinary conductor and composer at the height of her career whose status begins to crumble amid allegations of misconduct is that he would. I didn’t do it without her. Production and distribution company Focus Features didn’t know either. And he was dragging his feet a bit sending it to Blanchett. Not only would it be his first film in over 15 years, it was the first entirely original screenplay he had written since 1995. It was, he said, a scary moment.

Blanchett laughs about it now. Of course, she was going to say yes. She was captivated by Field, the actor, screenwriter and director she had met years earlier about a project he was working on with Joan Didion that never saw the light of day, and by the story complex of “Tár” and the challenge of it. During the preparation for “Tár”, she would learn to play the piano, speak German and conduct an orchestra, which is what she actually does in the film.

“I’m still processing the experience, not only because it spoke to a lot of things that I had been thinking about, but I feel so expanded to have been in Todd’s orbit,” Blanchett said. in an interview with Field earlier this week. “It was a very, very fluid, dangerous, living process to make the movie.”

“Tár,” which is currently playing in a limited release and expanding nationwide on October 28, was born out of a desire to scratch the questions about power that Field had been pondering for a few years — the abuses of power, the structures of power and why these pyramids exist in the first place. And what better place to put that than the world of classical music?

“What kind of conversation is it allowed to have?” Is there room for rhetoric? Is there room for a conversation where we can put ourselves in each other’s shoes and find common ground? Champ said. “These are really high-flying questions to ask. And I’m not going to pretend that this movie asks all of those questions and definitely doesn’t answer any of them. But that was the essence of the idea.

In the wake of #MeToo, he knew that to have a more nuanced conversation, his protagonist had to be someone in an unexpected position. It had to be more of a fairy tale. Thus, Lydia Tár de Blanchett would not be the CEO of a company or the head of an architectural firm, but the first female conductor of a major German orchestra, a position that a woman has never held. . He is a genius whom we meet at a highly publicized moment on the eve of the release of his memoirs and as the orchestra prepares to play Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

The film takes us into the rarefied and privileged universe of Lydia and invites us to meet and reflect on her, from her partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), the orchestra’s principal violinist, to her assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) and to wonder about their own complicity.

“I really hope people aren’t put off by thinking this is an elitist movie or an elitist subject. You don’t have to be a connoisseur at all. This is so many other things,” Hoss said. “It makes you think about hopefully who are the people who are supporting people in positions of power to do certain things and do you sometimes do that because you benefit from it It’s also about being creative: does running an institution like this big orchestra get in the way of you doing what you really want to do?”

Merlant, in her first role in English, still wonders about Francesca, who wants to be a conductor like Tár but who, for the moment, mainly goes to get coffee, book flights, manage timetables and other administrative tasks under the guise of mentoring. . And she must consider her role in the Tár machine as the allegations escalate.

“She would do anything for her, up to a point,” Merlant said. “Which I found very interesting.”

The egos, however, remained in front of the camera. Behind the scenes at “Tár,” she said, Field and Blanchett fostered an atmosphere of respect and openness.

“Sometimes we have this feeling that to create an incredible work of art, you have to struggle”, Merlant. “But it is possible to do great things in a pleasant environment.”

The production went to great lengths to make the world of “Tár” feel authentic, not like a “toy town” version of the classical music world. They enlisted the help of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, hiring some of its members in speaking roles like Dorothea Plans Casal and Fabian Dirr, and turned to concertmaster Wolfgang Hentrich for his expertise. Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Oscar-winning Icelandic composer, designed the score. Hoss also played the violin. That Blanchett would lead, Field said, was just a given.

“I didn’t even have to ask him,” Field said. “If I said, okay, it’s about someone building a skyscraper, I knew she was going to build the skyscraper no doubt she would become Howard Roark.”

Still, it was a tense moment the first time Blanchett took to the podium at Dresden Hall to direct a rehearsal scene. Then, Field said, someone “slammed.” Everyone laughed and the ice was broken.

It was a powerful moment when it came together, however. Hoss, who was seated in the orchestra when Blanchett first raised her arm and everyone started playing together, said “we were all on the verge of tears.” Merlant also often sat and stared at his costar in awe. .

They cast an actor for the first time in the key role of Olga, a talented Russian cellist whom Tár becomes interested in. Sophie Kauer, who is currently studying classical cello at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, beat out hundreds of cellists for the part.

“The first time I met Cate was actually in directing rehearsal, so I had to play for her,” Kauer said. “It was just slightly terrifying. But, you know, you have to do what you have to do. I think the problem with musicians is that we’re very hard-working, like we’re always doing the work.

This summer, Blanchett, Guðnadóttir, Kauer and Field even got together at Abbey Road Studios to record a Tár concept album that will be released to the public.

But Field’s greatest hope is that “Tár” will be a movie that audiences want in theaters. It was designed as a sound and visual experience for the big screen.

“It’s not something to stay home and watch,” Field said.

The reception for ‘Tár’ has been utterly delightful since its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where Blanchett received the top acting award – which could be the first of many for the already-decorated actor. . But Field bristles at the mention of the awards.

“Honestly, that’s not why we made this film together. We want people to come in and we want them to come out and hopefully talk animatedly to each other in the parking lot on their way to their car or the subway or wherever they’re going, you know? Champ said. “It’s a film that begs a conversation.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.

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