Cinema Review: Tár (2022)

Cinema Review: Tár (2022)

Written and directed by Todd Field

Produced by: Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong etc.

Cinematography Florian Hoffmeister

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Tar (definition): a dark, thick flammable liquid distilled from wood or coal, consisting of a mixture of hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols, and other compounds. It is used in road-making and for coating and preserving timber.

Todd Field’s classical film masterpiece, Tár (2022), was hailed by critics when released late last year in the U.S.A and made many top ten film of the year lists. I saw it in the first week of 2023 and while I don’t always concur with the gushing hyperbole of professional film critics, I have to say if I see a better cinema release all year I will be amazed. Let’s hope I do.

Tár (2022) is a film which works on many genre and narrative layers. It is a psychological drama, an absorbing character study, a backstage musical, a complex morality play, with suggestions of hallucinatory horror during the final act of the film. It is a triumph of filmic brilliance expertly delivered by Todd Field. It is incredible to think this is only the third film he has directed. Certainly a case of high quality over quantity. But Field confirms himself an auteur, exerting absolute control over the material. Such is his, and the production team’s, meticulous research, writing, planning, design and execution that if I hadn’t seen the credits, I would have said the maestro Stanley Kubrick had made this film.



Tár (2022) opens with haunting singing over the imaginatively presented credits that slowly fill a black screen. Field demonstrates control from the start before we are introduced to Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). Now, I thought the film may have been a story about a female conductor attempting to break into a traditionally male dominated world. However, Lydia Tár is at the top of her game as a conductor and composer, heralded for her genius interpretations of the music of Mahler and own oeuvre. Plus, having won numerous awards for her cinema, theatre and television compositions. Lydia Tár is soaring and about to release a book Tár on Tár and conduct a live recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony for the Berlin Philharmonic. So, where’s the drama? What could go wrong?

Field structures the linear narrative around Tár’s day-to-day working and family life and the process of rehearsing Mahler’s Fifth. Methodically we are then introduced to actions from Tár’s recent past which threaten to haunt her. As a character who is so revered and in control of her world, Tár’s talent and confidence is magnetic and admirable. However, having no doubt been a force of nature to make it this competitive world, her arrogance and lack of awareness of a changing culture threatens to cancel her prodigiously built dominion. I won’t say anymore but Todd Field brilliantly explores resonating themes of the zeitgeist with razor-sharp intelligence. There are no easy answers either.

I could not take my eyes or mind off the screen during Tár (2022). It is cerebrally, aesthetically and psychologically all-encompassing. The stark cinematography, exhilarating classically-driven soundtrack, imposing Berlin architecture and claustrophobic feel of the Philharmonic offices and rehearsal spaces collude to create further emotional tension. Further, the film not only works impressively as absorbing drama, but also as interpretive ambiguity with subtle and mysterious suspense. Lastly, if Cate Blanchett does not win a best acting Oscar for her performance in Tár (2022) I will be stunned. Never less than metronomically astounding, Blanchett has taken Field’s precise writing and breathed physical, mental and spiritual vivacity into a challenging personality. Thus, take many-a-bow maestros, Blanchett and Field. Encore! Encore! Encore!

Mark: 10 out of 11


THE CINEMA FIX PRESENTS: 10 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2022!

THE CINEMA FIX PRESENTS: 10 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2022!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2023!

I am slightly tardy on the list of my favourite films of 2022 as I had a couple of latter 2022 reviews to catch up on, plus the day job has been quite hectic.

Well, I thought it was a great year for cinema releases. It started slowly but improved steadily throughout with some tremendous films released in the latter half of 2022.

I say cinema releases, but we are now in an era of the streaming platforms threatening the multiplexes with their existence. I treat them all the same now and my list contains choices watched both at home and in the cinema. As long as they are new releases and I saw them in 2022, they qualify.

Obviously, I have not seen every new release from 2022, so if there are any glaring omissions from my list please recommend away!

As an aperitif I include my ten favourite films of 2021. Good luck and bon voyage in 2023!


TEN FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2021

ANOTHER ROUND (2020)
THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021)
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (2020)
MINARI (2020)
PIECES OF A WOMAN (2020)
THE POWER OF THE DOG (2021)
THE RENTAL (2020)
SOUND OF METAL (2019)
WEST SIDE STORY (2021)



TEN FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2022!

In alphabetical order for your consideration. . .

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (2022)

“I loved everything about The Banshees of Inisherin (2022). The look, the performances, the pacing, the locations, the script, the themes, the humour, the tragedy and Carter Burwell’s phenomenal score are all absolutely first class. . .”


BONES AND ALL (2022)

Bones and All (2022) is directed with glacial majesty by Luca Guadagnino. He expertly blends the genres of horror, period drama, rites-of-passage, romance and road movie with a well-balanced approach to tone. Extracting attractive performances from Chalamet and Russell, their onscreen chemistry is potent and touching.


CODA (2021)

“Unashamedly manipulative and occasionally cloying, Coda (2021), is a big-hearted familial comedy-drama with many powerful messages. Following your dream, respecting those around you and loving your family are integral to this feelgood film. . .”


DECISION TO LEAVE (2022)

“. . . did the exquisitely directed and intelligently scripted, Decision to Leave (2022), need to be so evasively complex and full of radiant ambiguity? The ending especially is both poetically exquisite and frustratingly cryptic. With a Park Chan-wook film, would I have it any way?


DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Doctor Strange 2 (2022) is a big, dumb, fast-paced, scary, fantastic, mystical, surprising and funny chunk of visually stunning fantasy cinema. Benedict Cumberbatch is on superb hand-waving, cape-throwing, shape-shifting, death-defying, hair-flicking, multiverse-jumping, father-figuring form magically anchoring Sam Raimi’s directorial box of tricks!



ELVIS (2022)

“I cannot praise Elvis (2022) enough as a cinematic biopic and musical spectacle. While the choppy editing style is jarring at the start, once the film settles down into a groove, Butler’s stunning incarnation shines through amidst the gospel, rhythm and blues, rap, rock, pop, ballad and protest songs throughout the scintillating soundtrack.”


EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE (2022)

“. . . Kwan and Scheinert succeed with Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (2022) because as well as a machine-gun splattering of hilarious ideas and gags combined with some pretty lofty themes, this film ultimately has a hell of a heart.”


THE MENU (2022)

The Menu (2022) is a fantastically twisted and funny genre film. Fiennes, Taylor-Joy, Hoult and Hong Chau are on terrific acting form. Further, the production design and cinematography make the visuals succulent and palatable. Ultimately, for those who love food, fear and vengeance, this film is certainly best served hot!”


RRR (2022)

“. . . the scale and ambition of the film is to be totally admired, as is the vibrant direction by S. S. Rajamouli. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, as the lead revolutionaries, are bona fide film stars. Their energy, physicality and charisma on screen really grabbed me, but amidst the kinetics there is also a big emotional heart within RRR (2022)!”


TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2022)

“. . . while the characters may not be the most likeable, that is never Ostlund’s aim. His desire is to critique capitalist hegemony through both high and low brow humour, style and form. He succeeds, making Triangle of Sadness (2022) one of the most thought-provoking and exhilarating cinema experiences of the year.”



FILM REVIEW: RRR (2022)

FILM REVIEW: RRR (2022)

Directed by S. S. Rajamouli

Screenplay by S. S. Rajamouli and Story by V. Vijayendra Prasad

Produced by D. V. V. Danayya

Cast: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, Olivia Morris, etc.

Cinematography: K. K. Senthil Kumar

Music by M. M. Keeravani



I have a couple of confessions to make before reviewing the exhilarating action-period-musical-drama-martial-arts-hybrid extravaganza that is RRR (2022). Firstly, I did not see it at the cinema. It was only a recommendation from a work colleague that there was an amazing and spectacular three-hour Indian-produced epic film on Netflix I should watch! I am so glad I did as it is a tremendous work of genre entertainment.

My second confession is, that while I call myself a film fanatic, I have not watched many films that could be classed as part of the Bollywood oeuvre. This is a massive admission of guilt because initial research reveals that Bollywood, the informal name for the vast Hindi-language cinema, is one of the world’s largest film producers. Yet, it is important to state that RRR (2022), the most expensively budgeted Indian film of all time, is not technically Bollywood, but rather ‘Tollywood’, being an Indian Telugu-language film.

Further research reveals the traditional Bollywood-style film will most certainly be a musical, full of scenes with joyous singing and dancing. Moreover, standard narratives involve family dramas, unrequited love, rich-girl-poor-boy romances, dividing settings between urban and rural landscapes. Conversely, RRR (2022) certainly has stunning song and dance set-pieces, but it is so much more than that. It is stupendously energetic and inventive, with so much amazing action I was left breathless. Arguably the songs get in the way of the high-octane brilliance, although one spectacular dance sequence at an English garden party left me with a massive cheesy grin.



The story is set in India, 1920, during the British Raj. This, if you were not aware, was part of the Empire, with the Crown ruling in India from 1858 to 1947. Safe to say that the British, aside from one main sympathiser, encapsulated within monstrous characters portrayed by Ray Stevenson and Alison Doody are the big baddies. Because, this is a film about overcoming oppression through the heroic and revolutionary acts of two larger-than-life characters named Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan). The inventive, if at times predictably structured screenplay, is inspired to incorporate the lives of these two real-life Indian rebels, who never met, but challenged the Raj and the Nizam of Hyderabad, respectively.

RRR (2022) is not an accurate historical epic. Who cares! This three-hour behemoth is a thrill-ride that successfully establishes not one, but two, kick-ass heroes. Bheem, who takes the name Akhtar, is introduced fighting a tiger in the jungle, while Ragu, an Officer in the British Army — for reasons which are revealed in a tremendously moving flashback later in the film — is launched into the story fighting a baying crowd of insurgents. The two action men are initially on opposing sides as we get plot strands which echo Infernal Affairs (2002) / The Departed (2006). As the two form a bromantic friendship we know that the script is building to a big face-off between them. It is certainly worth waiting for as S. S. Rajamouli and his production team deliver a gob-smacking action centrepiece midpoint that involves Akhtar and Ragu battling amidst wild animals, vehicles, British soldiers, explosions and bullets aplenty!

RRR (2022) is not without issues. The boo-hiss stereotypical British colonialists simplify the complex politics of the era. Having said that, the British did asset strip India of valuable resources, essentially enslaving and murdering the Indigenous population during its rule. So, any negative emotions against the British are deserved. The female characters, aside from one, were a tad one-dimensional. Moreover, the film is way too long with one or two songs too many. Finally, the CGI, while actually impressive in its own way, did not always gel perfectly with the live action. However, the scale and ambition of the film is to be totally admired, as is the vibrant direction by S. S. Rajamouli. N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, as the lead revolutionaries, are bona fide film stars. Their energy, physicality and charisma on screen really grabbed me and never let go with fight scenes reminding me of the heart-stopping acrobatics of Tony Jaa . Amidst the kinetics there is an emotional heart within RRR (2022), but where the British once ruled India, now it’s the spectacular that reigns.

Mark: 9 out of 11



CINEMA REVIEW: DECISION TO LEAVE (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: DECISION TO LEAVE (2022)

Directed by: Park Chan-wook

Written by: Jeong Seo-kyeong, Park Chan-wook

Produced by: Park Chan-wook

Main cast: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Lee Jung-hyun, Go Kyung-pyo, etc.

Cinematography Kim Ji-yong

Edited by Kim Sang-bum

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Park Chan-wook is a proper filmmaker. Like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, he embraces the artifice of the visual and aural medium crafting intelligent, thematically surprising and stylistically dazzling works of cinema. While watching his work one can see the clockwork precision of his filmic mind devising every frame, sound, camera move, cut, character action, acting nuance, being thought out expertly. In short: Park Chan-wook’s films are always an event for me and demand attention.

Chan-wook’s only Hollywood directed film was an under-rated gem of a noir thriller called Stoker (2013), after which he returned home to direct erotically charged period thriller, The Handmaiden (2016). This was a bigger-budgeted and thematically richer affair, taking a complex con-artist-twisting-plot and interweaving an explicit feminist love story. Of course, lest we forget Chan-wook’s classic early work, notably the gonzo revenger, Old Boy (2003). I re-watched it recently at the Raindance Film Festival and the furiously inventive exploitation film retains its beautifully transgressive power.

Like The Handmaiden (2016), Decision to Leave (2022) is a romance story set within a complex genre plot. While the former was a period crime film, Decision to Leave (2022) is a contemporary set police procedural with a central premise highly reminiscent of Basic Instinct (1992). Tang Wei as Song Seo-rae is suspected of killing her husband and as investigating cop, Park Hae-il as Det. Jang Hae-jun, delves deeper he finds himself more and more attracted to her. Where The Handmaiden (2016) and Basic Instinct (1992) used nudity and sexual imagery liberally, Decision to Leave (2022) is far more subtle and cerebral. The compelling romance is built on two fine lead performances, the cunning twists in the crime plot and Chan-wook’s masterful visuals with mountain, coastal and city landscapes being employed to powerful impact.



Now I must admit after watching Decision to Leave (2022) I was left slightly underwhelmed at the end from an emotional perspective. The visuals and storytelling were phenomenal, with Chan-wook and his writing partner crafting a devious series of inventive cat-and-mouse set-pieces. The suspense and doubt instilled as to whether Song Seo-rae is a murderer, despite her cast-iron alibi, is palpable. Simultaneously, the arc of the married mid-life crisis-detective, drawn to the suspect, flirting with disaster through flawed choices, creates much tension also. However, I didn’t immediately warm to the detective’s persona and wasn’t sure if I really cared. But I suspect, due to the complexity of the passion on show, a further watch will cement Chan-wook’s specific and symbolic vision.

Beneath the melding of romance, crime, mystery and action genres, I also considered the potential subtext in the screenplay. I wondered if Decision to Leave (2022) sought to explore the socio-political relationship between the nations of South Korea and China via the characters? Song Seo-rae is a Chinese migrant who came to Korea and via marriage was able to remain. An enigmatic soul she uses her wiles to survive, serenely attracting a series of men. But death follows her as closely as the male. Detective Hae-jun is drawn to her both professionally and romantically, no doubt thrilled by the danger. Yet, Chan-wook denies displaying physical consummation, and this makes the film more erotic than endless sex scenes do.

Lastly, Decision to Leave’s (2022) examination of language, both bodily and verbal, is deftly presented as a theme within the romance. The central crime of murder creates suspicion between the Korean and Chinese characters, but there’s a mutual and irresistible pull that cannot be denied. Song Seo-rae’s use of her phone translation application during her exchanges with the Detective create both a barrier and paradoxical intimacy. It’s just one of the fascinating bits of business, as well as the chainmail gauntlet used by the Detective, which elevate an already impressive script. But did Decision to Leave (2022) need to be so evasively complex and full of radiant ambiguity? The ending especially is both poetically exquisite and frustratingly cryptic. With a Park Chan-wook film, would I have it any other way?

Mark: 8.5 out of 11