Widescreen: CSO name-dropped in challenging 'Tár'; Beethoven's best on Channel 11

  • Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) tries to write new music while being distracted by constant noise -- and a global social media scandal -- in Todd Field's "Tár."

    Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) tries to write new music while being distracted by constant noise -- and a global social media scandal -- in Todd Field's "Tár." Courtesy of Focus Features

Updated 11/3/2022 11:41 AM

My love of classical music has been energized by two recent outings, the first being last month's screening of eight-time Oscar winner "Amadeus" with live accompaniment by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Possibly the greatest movie ever made, featuring some of the greatest music ever written, played by the greatest musicians in the land. Now if we can just get a 4K/HD release of the theatrical cut of the film, life will be perfect. (The director's cut? Too many notes.)

The CSO gets a shoutout, as do current director Riccardo Muti and former director Daniel Barenboim, in the second outing, my trip to the movie theater to see Cate Blanchett in "Tár."


A lot will be said about "Tár" -- a portrait of an exalted (but fictional) composer/conductor whose past transgressions come back to haunt her -- in the coming months before Blanchett inevitably wins her third Oscar. The most interesting things can't be appreciated by anyone who hasn't seen the film, and that will probably be most of us.

And many who try will give up early on: "Tár" virtually dares the audience to walk out. It begins with what would normally be the closing-credits reel, scrolling over a black screen as we hear a faint vocal performance. Then we get a hyperdetailed, almost clinical 10-minute interview with Lydia Tár about her storied career, a career that is, it bears repeating, fictional. It's all grandly pretentious, like Lydia Tár herself -- and I promise you, it does have a point. (Savvy readers of those credits will be waiting to see a certain something for the whole movie, and they won't be disappointed when it comes.)

Written and directed by Todd Field, "Tár" is an ultimately invigorating cinematic experience, one that feels both of its time and timeless. It is very much about the gulf between art and artist, and about art itself. Can you make a distinction between high art and low art when the high art is made by people of low character? If you're interested in that question, and the nature of celebrity in 2022, then "Tár" will be worth the 158-minute investment.

Please, just try very hard to get past those first 10.

Back in the real world

Known originally as Philharmonic Hall, the David Geffen Hall at New York City's famous Lincoln Center is once again open to music lovers after the titular mogul donated $100 million to renovation efforts, and Channel 11 will take us to last week's curtain-raising performance by the New York Philharmonic.

This week's installment of "Great Performances," airing at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, on WTTW, will include possibly the most revered piece of music ever written, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, as well as a new work by Puerto Rican composer Angelica Negron. Set the DVR and turn up the volume.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.