“Tár” is going to get people talking, but its star Cate Blanchett has made clear that she’s “not interested in agitprop.”
The Oscar winner is in Venice for the world premiere of the Todd Field-directed movie, and was in good spirits as she addressed journalists at a Thursday press conference.
The Focus Features pic stars Blanchett as fictional Lydia Tár, a globally renowned, gay and sometimes tyrannical conductor of a German orchestra, who finds herself in the crosshairs of a perilous #MeToo scandal. The film is Field’s first movie in 16 years, following the acclaimed “Little Children” (2006) and his breakout “In the Bedroom” (2001).
Asked whether she considered “Tár” to be an important movie for LGBT representation, as her 2015 film “Carole” was, Blanchett said it “felt urgent and undeniable,” but noted: “I don’t think about the character’s gender nor her sexuality at all, at all. I love that about the film. It just is. It’s a very human portrait. And I think we’ve matured enough as a species that we can make that not the headline or issue. I found that very exciting.”
The Australian actor said she doesn’t “see that artistic practice is an educational tool,” and noted: “I didn’t think about the film as being ‘important.’ I thought about it more as being undeniable.”
Blanchett also touched on the headline-grabbing nature of “Tár’s” central #MeToo story, which will no doubt be a considerable talking point across awards season.
“With this, while there are a lot of hot-button topics that come up in this movie, it is not about any of those things. They are plot devices. The film was made in the time in which we live. There are a lot of explosive things in the films — I don’t want to sound too highfalutin — but it’s much more existential,” said Blanchett.
The actor later joked that “it’s a very special moment when Todd decides to leave the house and make a movie. That’s why we’re all here right?”
To his credit, Field hasn’t exactly been idle since 2006. As the New York Times recently reported, the filmmaker has tried to get a number of projects off the ground, including adaptations of the books “Blood Meridian,” “Beautiful Ruins” and “The Creed of Violence,” along with the Showtime series “Purity.” They have all, for various reasons, fallen through.
Field — who let Blanchett do most of the talking at the press conference — said “Tár” “wasn’t written with Cate Blanchett in mind, it was written for Cate Blanchett,” adding that he spent a few months getting to know and speaking with Blanchett before he proposed the idea.
Asked whether Field considers the film, which some in Venice have observed to have parallels with Darren Aronofsky’s ballet drama “Black Swan,” to be a horror, Field seemed reluctant to comment but eventually said he “could see” how some might construe it as such.
“It’s a very long journey in a very short period of time for her. We’re meeting her over a three-week plus period of [Tár’s] life. At the end of the film, it’s very short, but much happens. But I don’t think that — I mean, this is a character who has a very finite sense of a certain self-realization based on a very compressed period of activity for herself,” explained Field.
“She has these two things she has to achieve: the book launch and…this Mahler cycle with the orchestra…and she’s running this gigantic bureaucracy. There are external forces going on and we have a limited set of knowledge of what those forces are and what they mean, and then something happens and her life changes…[There are] places she is visiting she never thought she’d visit. But in another way, she’s able to perhaps see the world a little differently.”
Blanchett added: “She’s definitely haunted by someone, by something. She’s someone who’s definitely going to put her past in a box and through her great talent reinvent herself and be saved and changed and transformed by her music — but she’s haunted by something.”
“Tár’s” supporting cast includes Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant and Sophie Kauer, who were at the press conference. Other cast members are Mark Strong, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner and Sylvia Flote.
In addition to directing, Field wrote the screenplay and produced via his Standard Film Company banner, with Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert also producing for Emjag Productions. The film will be distributed in the U.S via Focus Features, and worldwide via Universal Pictures.
“TÁR” is scored by Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Icelandic composer whose 2020 original score for “Joker” won the Oscar.