Rape Jokes: Tár (Todd Field, 2022) // The Perfection (Richard Shepard, 2018)

You cannot start without me. See, I start the clock.

Rape Jokes: Tár (Todd Field, 2022) // The Perfection (Richard Shepard, 2018)

Tár is maybe the funniest movie of 2022, although I am still not sure whether I'm allowed to find it funny. The movie begins with Adam Gopnik reciting a long list of protagonist Lydia Tár's achievements — she's a conductor! A composer! An EGOT! The author of Tár on Tár! — in a way that makes her sound like a household name, something that has not been true of any orchestra conductor for at least fifty years. It goes on to showcase Tár making many, many, self-important and sophisticated(TM) monologues, in which she says things like “it is always the question that involves the listener, it's never the answer” and “but Mahler gives you the directions himself! [ABRUPT CONVERSATIONAL GERMAN].”

Lydia Tár falls down. Lydia Tár terrorizes kids. Lydia Tár calls people “robots" on multiple occasions. The viewer begins to wonder if the movie Tár is simply a very long episode of Frasier, starring Lydia Tár as Frasier. (I defy you to read the line “I fear the architect of YOUR soul is SOCIAL MEDIA!!!” without hearing it screamed in Kelsey Grammer's furious baritone.) Someone meant to represent the youths of today and their cancel culture says “as a BIPOC pansexual” in full earnest.

Lydia Tár gets cancelled. Lydia Tár has no idea why Lydia Tár is getting cancelled, although to the audience, Tár's sins (sexually exploiting the power she wields as history's most important orchestra conductor; yelling at a BIPOC pansexual) are clear. Tár's ultimate downfall involves playing music for video-game-loving rubes like you and I, a harsh punishment to be sure. The marketing for the movie apparently rested on the premise that Lydia Tár was real, and for some reason I cannot name, it’s literally irresistible to invent facts about Tár (she guest-starred on Monk! She paid for a blue check on Twitter!) wending her problematic, sophisticated, [DENSE STRING OF CONVERSATIONAL GERMAN] way through life.

Again: The movie plays this whole thing with an exceedingly straight face. I cannot figure out whether my laughter was intended or even remotely appropriate. As far as I can tell from director Todd Field's statements, Tár is serious; it wants to be saying something about #MeToo, or cancel culture, or how #MeToo is an outgrowth of cancel culture (or is it????). I acknowledge this, even though the breathless intensity of these ambitions, and the goofiness with which they are realized, leaves me — leaves a lot of people — feeling that Tár is camp. However, it was not until I saw The Perfection, a few weeks later, that I learned that “lesbian camp romp about the sexual exploitation of cello players” may be its own genre, and that, of these movies, Tár might not even be the best one.

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