AP

Q&A: Todd Field and Cate Blanchett go deeper into ‘Tár’

Oct 26, 2022, 7:27 PM | Updated: Oct 27, 2022, 7:48 am

Director Todd Field, left, Nina Hoss and Cate Blanchett attend the premiere of "Tár" at Alice Tull...

Director Todd Field, left, Nina Hoss and Cate Blanchett attend the premiere of "Tár" at Alice Tully Hall during the 60th New York Film Festival on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

When Cate Blanchett stepped out of her first screening for ” Tár,” she wanted to immediately go back and watch it again.

Sure, she might be a little biased considering she stars in the film ( and learned how to speak German, conduct an orchestra and play piano for the role ), but it’s not an uncommon sentiment either. Writer-director Todd Field’s dense, literate drama about the fall of an artistic genius in a #MeToo scandal is one that begs discussion and another viewing. As Field has said, he sees a new film every time he watches it.

This weekend, “Tár,” which is sure to be a top contender this awards season, is expanding in theaters nationwide. Field and Blanchett spoke to The Associated Press about the inscrutable Lydia Tár, their inspirations and NOT showing her hands playing the piano.

Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: The film introduces Lydia at a New Yorker Festival-type event, with Adam Gopnik reading her introduction to a big auditorium. Was that just a way to give us her bio or is this commenting on the ideas conference industry and its complicity?

FIELD: The important thing was how do we meet her? You know, if you meet her at her very height, in a very public way, there’s an opportunity to see it in the same way that we’re in this interview right now, like we’re trying to have an honest conversation, but we’re performing for you.

BLANCHETT: Hey! This is ME. This is who I am.

FIELD: It’s an aspect of her. Then we see her sitting with her business partner, this investment banker and would be conductor (Mark Strong), and you can tell she doesn’t want to be there. Then you see her roll up your sleeves and she’s teaching, which is the thing that she truly, truly loves doing. But it’s not until 40 minutes into the film that we see her brushing her teeth. Then it’s, “Ah, she’s like me.” We learn a lot of back story about her, but it’s really about how and when we meet the person. There are all kinds of narrative rules about when we’re supposed to meet the person. Syd Field would tell you we have to know by page ten. But that’s not how this thing works. It was important to meet the character as they’re perceived in these other ways before we were allowed to have access to her.

AP: At one of the screenings in Venice, the audience was cheering for Lydia when she’s dressing down her Julliard student for dismissing Bach as irrelevant to him, which I don’t think they’d do on a second watch. Does that response surprise you?

FIELD: I don’t think it surprises me. But what you’re saying, that I don’t think that they would do that on the second watch, that’s kind of the idea. That scene can be seen through many lenses. The lens that we started with was simply the age-old question, if you could speak to younger self, what would you say? I think that this character, when she was 24 years old and in a similar position as Max is at Juilliard when she was at Harvard, she was trying to break the boundaries that were set up in terms of the German Austro canon. But she’s not 24 years old anymore. She’s turning 50.

AP: Though she pushed boundaries, is she also a woman who maybe only achieved this kind of success by playing within the rules of the patriarchy too?

BLANCHETT: That’s part of it. But she believes in the power of her being the exception. Once you surmount a mountain, you think, God, it’s beautiful up here. And the beauty makes you forget how difficult the journey was. She’s a consummate musician. And she’s a believer, a great believer in the grand narratives, in the grand tradition. She’s earned the right to play those big works. It’s the same thing that they teach at college. It’s like, sure, you can abstract, but first you have to learn how to paint the form. You’ve always got a buck against your teachers. But you forget.

AP: This film does a good job at making you feel like an insider in the world of classical music too.

FIELD: There’s not a lot of footage of conductors doing extensive rehearsals and it’s so much more interesting watching them rehearse than watching a performance. Our goal was can we take the viewer and make them feel like they’ve been in the front of the house, in the back of the house, and that they that they’re going through some kind of process with this character?

BLANCHETT: I learned a lot from watching the documentaries (on the likes of Carlos Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan). There are all of these backstage moments I found really fascinating. Abbado, after his first concert when he took over the role of principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, he came off and someone went to talk to him. He was covered in sweat and he moved away and he walked way up the corridor and just stood really still and put one hand against the wall. It was such a lonely, lonely image. You felt the burden that he was carrying, the responsibility for creating the sound and carrying that orchestra to the to that audience.

FIELD: We stole that image for the end.

AP: You cast some professional musicians here, but you also made the radical choice to have your actors, like Cate and Nina Hoss, learn how to play as well.

FIELD: The finest actors I have known and the finest musicians I have known are very similar because they understand very practical principles about touch and tempo and dynamics and sound. It was important that everyone who makes music on screen makes the music. There’s a kind of long-standing sort of joke, well I call it a joke, but maybe Cate feels differently about this, where she get rather bothered that I don’t show her hands at the Julliard scene playing the Bach.

BLANCHETT: (laughs)

FIELD: If it was Leonard Bernstein or somebody like that, you wouldn’t feel obliged to do it. If you go back and look at those Young People’s Concerts that he did in the 50s at Carnegie Hall, they’re not showing his hands. My point was that the only time we ever feel obliged to show actors hands on pianos is when they’re faking it.

BLANCHETT: Or if it’s for Academy consideration.

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie on the 10th hole during the second round of the ...

Associated Press

No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler: From the course to jail and back after Friday arrest

Top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested after police say he dragged an officer while trying to get around a fatal accident Friday.

20 hours ago

Photo: Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next...

Associated Press

Seattle Times CEO to step down after 4 decades in charge of family-owned paper

Seattle Times publisher and CEO Frank Blethen announced he will step down at the end of next year after four decades of leading the paper.

2 days ago

Image: Andy Jassy, Amazon president and CEO, attends an event on Aug. 15, 2022, in Culver City, Cal...

Associated Press

Comments from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy about unions violated federal law, NLRB judge rules

A federal judge ruled Amazon CEO Andy Jassy violated labor law by making certain anti-union comments during media interviews two years ago.

15 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New Yo...

Associated Press

Judge raises threat of jail as he holds Trump in contempt, fines him at trial

Former President Donald Trump was held in contempt of court at his trial Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order.

18 days ago

Photo: The seal of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seen before an FCC meeting to vot...

David Hamilton, The Associated Press

Net neutrality restored as FCC votes to regulate internet providers

The FCC on Thursday voted to restore "net neutrality" rules that prevent broadband internet providers from favoring some sites over others.

23 days ago

southwest airlines...

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Southwest will limit hiring and drop 4 airports, including Bellingham, after loss

Southwest Airlines will limit hiring and stop flying to four airports as it copes with weak financial results and delays in getting new planes from Boeing.

23 days ago

Q&A: Todd Field and Cate Blanchett go deeper into ‘Tár’