“Tar”, film on power or “misogynist” portrait of a conductor?

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Paris (AFP) – It’s a role for which Cate Blanchett could win her third Oscar, but her character as a toxic conductor in the feature film “Tar” angered Marin Alsop, a pioneering “maestra”, who saw it as a portrait ” misogynist”.

Todd Field’s film is a psychological drama centered on the downfall of star (and fictional) conductor Lydia Tar, who prepares to record Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic.

This work, thanks to which Blanchett has just won the Golden Globe for best actress and which will be released in France on January 25, has been hailed by critics and by Martin Scorsese, who saw in it a glimmer of hope in “the period dark” that the cinema goes through.

But as the film progresses, we discover a narcissistic, tyrannical character, with predatory behavior -suggested rather than shown- and who will ultimately be accused of abuse.

“It serves women”

A portrait that is reminiscent of the MeToo movement and the scandals that have stained the world of classical music, in particular the conductors James Levine and Charles Dutoit, or the legendary Placido Domingo.

With one difference: Lydia Tar is a woman, and a lesbian.

Something to offend the American Marin Alsop, a pioneer since she was the first female musical director of a renowned orchestra in the United States, in Baltimore (and the only one, until the recent appointment of the Frenchwoman Nathalie Stutzmann in Atlanta ).

The current principal conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, aged 66, had estimated in the columns of the British Sunday Times that the film was “anti-woman”.

“My concern has nothing to do with Cate Blanchett, who is an impressive and accomplished actress,” she clarified to AFP.

“My concern is that this is yet again a misogynistic portrait of a woman in power,” she adds, adding that the fact that “the character becomes hysterical reinforces these age-old stereotypes that men have on women”.

American conductor Marin Aslop conducts the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra on October 22, 2019 in Vienna, Austria © ALEX HALADA / AFP/Archives

According to her, there have been “historically so few opportunities for women to be at the top”, especially on the big podiums, that showing an “abusive” conductor only “disadvantages the cause of women”. .

During the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, Blanchett said that she hadn’t thought about the character’s “gender” at all and that it was not a “film about women but on humans”.

Recently on BBC Radio 4 she reacted to Alsop’s comments, saying it was a ‘meditation on power’ and that ‘power had no gender’.

According to the New York Times, the character of Tar is partly inspired by Marin Alsop (the two had Leonard Bernstein as a mentor, are lesbians and recognized leaders), but Cate Blanchett assured that the character was entirely fictional.

In the film, Lydia Tar humiliates a student at the prestigious Juilliard School, who criticizes classical music as being dominated by dead white men. She shows favoritism towards a pretty soloist and would have caused the suicide of a musician.

“I would have hoped that a film whose star is a conductor leading a large international orchestra would open the doors” to more women, regrets Marin Alsop, who created one of the first support programs for conductors. ‘orchestra.

“I know that there are many people who liked the film, but for once we have the opportunity to see a woman in this position, (…) why choose a woman when there is full of examples of abuse of power by men?” she asks.

According to the Maestra, the first international competition for female conductors created in 2020 at the Philharmonie de Paris, the percentage of women conducting orchestras in the world has increased from 4.3% in 2018 to 8% currently.

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“Tar”, film on power or “misogynist” portrait of a conductor?

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