Arts & Entertainment

Film starring Cate Blanchett as celebrity conductor wins plaudits in Venice

By Gonzalo Sanchez

Venice, Italy, Sep 1 (EFE).- Reaching the pinnacle in the world of classical music is an arduous climb, but the challenge of staying on top – or surviving a fall from grace – may be even more daunting.

That is one of the main themes of “Tar,” the story of a celebrity orchestra conductor and composer played by Cate Blanchett that received plaudits in its world premiere Thursday evening at the Venice Film Festival.

“It’s a process movie, so the experience of making it was a process and it evolved and changed. But something that probably didn’t change, that I kept returning to, is that she was someone who was estranged from herself,” Blanchett, also one of the film’s executive producers, told reporters before the screening.

A psychological drama written and directed by American filmmaker Todd Field, his first movie since 2006’s “Little Children,” “Tar” is in competition for a coveted Golden Lion in Venice and is scheduled to be released in the United States on Oct. 7.

The movie is centered around Lydia Tar, a passionate and highbrow musician with a cold and calculating streak and a sexual desire for young women in her artistic circle.

She is world-renowned for her concerts and compositions, but secrets of her personal life come to the surface and threaten to bring down her career and the family life she shares with her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss) and their daughter.

Although the film’s protagonist is heiress to a patriarchal world previously trodden by men such as Mozart, Beethoven and Herbert von Karajan, she understands her gender will not shield her from consequences and that her actions and mistakes have led her to the edge of the abyss.

“(‘Tar’) wasn’t just written with Cate Blanchett in mind. It was written for Cate Blanchett,” Field said alongside his lead actress, who jokingly questioned whether Kate Winslet (star of “Little Children”) hadn’t first been considered for the role.

Field acknowledged the elements of terror in the film, which explores the fragility of prestige, reputation, fame and love.

“I think it’s when you reach a pinnacle – (Lydia) knows as an artist and as a human being that the only way next is down, and that takes an enormous amount of courage and that itself is a horror movie, or is horrifying,” said Blanchett, who had to learn to wield a conductor’s baton and speak some lines in German for the role.

But the film also features British-German cellist Sophie Kauer in the role of Olga Metkina, a Russian concert musician who plays a part in Tar’s downfall.

Kauer, who said her only acting lessons had come from a Michael Caine video on YouTube, said she was thrilled to have had the opportunity to work alongside the Australian two-time Oscar winner – for best supporting actress in “The Aviator” (2004) and best actress in “Blue Jasmine” (2013).

Blanchett, meanwhile, said when asked about playing a lesbian character that she “didn’t think about the character’s gender nor her sexuality at all.”

“It’s a very human portrait and I think we have perhaps matured enough as a species that we can watch a film like this and not make that the headline issue. It just is, and I found that really exciting.”

The 53-year-old Blanchett, whose first role on the big screen was a cameo in a dancing scene in the 1990 Egyptian boxing film “Kaboria,” also reflected on her staying power as an actress.

“In the dawn of time when I entered the film industry, I remember my husband saying to me in an incredibly supportive way – I worked in the theater and I never expected to have a film career – ‘Enjoy it, babe. You’ve got five years if you’re lucky.'” EFE


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