starring Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Mark Strong
written and directed by Todd Field
by Walter Chaw Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is a monster. She's also a genius of surpassing brilliance, which begs the question--as it so often does, although the artist is usually male--of what the connection might be between genius and monstrosity. Artists and athletes get a certain pass for their behaviour. The myth of the difficult genius is a popular one fostered, I suspect, by the "geniuses" themselves to excuse their neurodivergence...or the unchecked privilege and sense of entitlement their preternatural abilities have won them. When Todd Field, who has not made a bad film, though this is only his third in 21 years, makes the genius in question a woman, there is now the possibility the monster is a victim as well. A victim of systemic misogyny who has internalized that misogyny; a victim of a patriarchal collection of values and standards for success that diminish women, one who has figured out how to manipulate and exploit those values for her own advancement. I mean, what choice does she really have? The pathway to fame and success in this culture entails climbing a ladder constructed from the bodies of those who didn't survive the journey. It's dog-eat-dog out there, people tell you--but no one tells you this cannibalism metaphor is more a literal warning than an artful turn of phrase.