Cate Blanchett is said to deliver the performance of her career in the forthcoming TÁR. The versatile actor is being tipped for her third Oscar in this intensely emotional drama that traces a noted orchestra conductor's emotional fallout.
Blanchett plays the eponymous Lydia Tár, the noted leader of a prestigious Berlin philharmonic orchestra. Tár revels in her commanding ability to control time with her conductor's baton, but very soon, her personal demons, accentuated by a contentious university discussion about cancel culture, start to get the better of her.
Critics say the subsequent psychological tailspin, marshalled by writer-director Todd Field, is both riveting and harrowing with Blanchett putting on yet another acting masterclass.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this is a movie richly steeped in the history of classical performance, Blanchett couldn't fake her role as one of the world's best conductors. She had to step up and step into the skin of the individual responsible for controlling the upbeat and downbeat, every diminuendo and crescendo.
Which orchestra did Blanchett learn to conduct?
German orchestra the Dresdner Philharmonie was used in the movie. The orchestra has existed since 1870 and is currently conducted by Marek Janowski. For the purposes of the movie, Blanchett stepped into Janowski's role, assimilating Lydia Tár's intoxicating sense of power and control.
How did Blanchett achieve this?
She tells The Playlist: "When you raise your hand, you get the downbeat, and the sound starts, and you find your own way with them. So, they had to act. It was outside their comfort zone, and I had to conduct them, which was also outside of my comfort zone. And so, somewhere, like any conductor in any orchestra, somewhere between us, the music happened."
Who did Blanchett work with?
"I was working in Budapest and I was taught piano by an incredible concert pianist, and I learned a lot about the process of conducting from her," she says. "And Ilya Musin, who’s one of the great conducting teachers, it’s amazing what you can find on YouTube, particularly during a pandemic when you couldn’t meet face to face.
"I watched his master classes over and over and over again to understand the concept of what the right hand did and the left hand did. The woman who was teaching me German teaches German to opera singers, Francisco Roth, and so she was really across the musical language and the relationship of the conductor to the orchestra.
"And so, I had all these amazing people, various different points of insight, and also then, for me, having gone to a lot of classes of music concert myself and having heard the music, I then watched every single conductor I could get my hands on from different generations, from different cultures in different sized orchestras, their different way in to see.
"I realized very quickly that their form of communication was entirely idiosyncratic, and then there are textures in the film which aren’t, as I said, in there."
What other preparation did Blanchett have to undertake?
"Initially, [mine and Todd's] conversations were intensely practical," she explains, "because before I could get to even first base with playing the role, there was so much groundwork that I had to do in order to be able to play the scenes, in order to even approach who she was, just technical stuff, in terms of languages, and I don’t just mean German.
"The musical language and reigniting my ability to read a score and revisiting piano, and then, of course, the art of conducting, which I had to put my toe in that very deep and complicated water. So, it was very practical at first."
What music is Tár preparing to record in the movie?
She's preparing to record Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 5, composed from 1901 to 1902. The piece runs for nearly 70 minutes and is noted for its opening trumpet solo. The piece made its world premiere on October 18, 1904 in Cologne with Mahler conducting the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.
The following is a video of the piece being performed by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Will Cate Blanchett bag her third Oscar for TÁR? The movie is released on January 13 and the Oscar nominations are announced on January 24, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can check out our Oscars 2023 predictions.