Let’s get this out of the way, Todd Field’s TÁR is fantastic. It’s one of those movies that’s so good, it makes you a little angry that it’s been 16 years since Field’s last movie, Little Children. Then it might even make you more angry that this is only Field’s third movie since his debut with 2001’s In the Bedroom. With TÁR, he’s three for three. But think of all the other films we could have had over the last 21 years. It’s a similar release schedule that Terrence Malick had with his first three films, but Field is quick to point out that none of this is by design. And the way movies are made and released has changed so much in the last 16 years, he can’t promise there’s anymore coming.
Cate Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, a famous composer and conductor, who, when we first meet her, is on stage being interviewed by the New Yorker, as the host reads a comically long list of accolades for the acclaimed musician. A good portion of Lydia’s life seems to be just listening to how brilliant she is, then explaining her brilliance to her many admirers soaking it in. After some troubling allegations, those verbal accolades don’t seem to happen as often. It’s a subtle decline, only put in perspective when a viewer thinks back to how she was treated before versus after. Culminating in a scene that drives home brilliantly where her new place in this world will now be (and, as we discuss below, a working knowledge of what Monster Hunter is will not hurt).
But, first, we talk about another acclaimed actor in this film who has a large role in the pop culture lives of so many people, Julian Glover, which gets us started on Field’s love of Indiana Jones. As Field points out, yes, he makes a certain kind of film, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love a good action movie.
I’ve read about all the projects that didn’t work out over the last 16 years since your last film. I just hope we don’t have to wait near as long again…
It’s very, very kind of you to say, Mike. Yeah, no, I mean I’d like to make another film, but who knows? Who knows. This film may not even open, right? I mean, we’re in a very particular moment. I’m an older guy now. I’m not who was 16 years ago. And the movie business, in terms of exhibition, isn’t what it was 16 years ago. We’re in a very, very different moment as viewers.
And you pray that you make a film that people want to sit together and watch and I think that’s a really tall order. That’s not something I would take for granted. I think as a film enthusiast, as a film geek, or a cineaste, or whatever euphemism you prefer, I think you have to ask yourself the question, “How much do I go to the cinema anymore and what do I see and how do I look at story and narrative?” I think that the answer for, I think, a lot of us is, “Not as much as I used to.” And there’s kind of a weird kind of, for me personally, a sense of regret, if not guilt and shame that I don’t go to the cinema more. So you make a film and you want everyone to show up, just like you throw a party and you hope everybody shows up. But there’s no guarantee, no matter how many RSVPs you get. So I’d like to make another film and I hope that people think it’s worth sitting around together and talking about afterwards.
Obviously, Cate Blanchett is getting a lot of deserved attention for her performance in this movie, but I love seeing Julian Glover in this. He’s the best.
Yeah, I’m so happy to hear you say that. You’re right about that. I read one thing where somebody talked about if this was a musical piece, everyone gets that one great solo. And they kind of called out Julian and Allen Corduner, who are both wonderful actors and all of us felt so privileged that they came to support the film. But yeah, Julian is an absolutely remarkable and storied performer and he showed up prepared. Boy, did he show up. I mean, it really floored us, what he brought to the port.
I don’t think people realize how big a role he plays in pop culture. He’s General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back, Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He’s the Bond villain in For Your Eyes Only.
No, it’s true. It’s true. The first day he was shooting, my camera operator, who’s British, reached into his pocket and he had a Julian Glover key chain from Star Wars. He said, “I can’t believe I’m shooting Julian Glover.” I mean, he’s done everything.
When you were doing those shots of just Cate and Julian around the table, just those two together, did you ever think to yourself, these are literally the last two Indiana Jones villains together in a scene?
I didn’t… now that you mention that, that is thrilling and potentially the last two Indiana Jones villains with Steven Spielberg directing.
I did not realize going into this movie that I was going to learn so much about Monster Hunter. I did not know this game before and I have now read quite a bit about it.
Oh, you’ve done a deep dive.
Well, you kind of have to after this. without giving too much away for people who haven’t seen it, I realized the repercussions for her, but I had to look up what that actually was referencing. It’s fascinating that that’s what you chose.
Well, it’s kind of the perfect game, I think, for where the game ends, for her.
My personal favorite scene is the one where she thinks her neighbors are giving her a compliment about her music and they just want her to not play it while they try to sell their apartment. Because it plays so well when compared to the first scene of the movie at the New Yorker talk, when he’s hearing all her accolades. Unless I’m reading it wrong, it’s such a contrast for someone who was used to nonstop compliments…
Yeah, I’m so happy to hear that. No, I wouldn’t disagree with how you’re reading it at all. I think that contrast is pretty stark.
So where does this come from for you?
I think that sometimes we self-dramatize our lives. I certainly do. But really, life happens for most of us. It’s not that dramatic. You don’t really see it coming. It’s much more domestic. And I’m glad you pointed to that scene because I think that’s a really important scene for this character. Just in terms of, it’s such, in many ways, a pedestrian scene. Somebody knocks on the door, you answer the door, who’s there? But yeah, hopefully it’s a small touch and not a hammer.
Yeah, it’s this slow shift. And now she’s begging her neighbors for accolades. And it was fascinating the way you did it…
It’s always the job of that the director is to suggest two plus two and let the viewer say four or not. You know?
Well, I feel like all your movies kind of do that, right? You can say that’s the job of the director, but not every director does that. There are a lot of movies that very much feed the audience, as opposed to being able to add two and two.
It’s true. But there are all kinds of meals. I like to be fed sometimes.
Sometimes I get to lean in and try to solve the problem myself. But there’s room for all of it. I have a wide taste as a viewer. This kind of storytelling is why I went to film school. But as a viewer, I like all kinds of films. You brought up Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film that I’ve seen no less than 400 times. I worked at a second-run movie house and I probably went through four prints because I know every cut in that movie.
I’ve read a lot about your influences from Kubrick. But you also did two Jan de Bont movies. Do you take anything from him? And yes, I’ve seen all of your movies, so I know you don’t make action movies, but he’s an interesting director.
Absolutely. Of course. Yeah, no, I mean I learned a lot working on all kinds of movies. All kinds of different filmmakers and all kinds of different actors and crews. I mean, with Jan specifically: you brought up Twister and there are a couple things that I learned on that, technical things, from Jan that I’ve used over and over and over again in advertising and that I actually used in a car on this movie. Feature filmmaking is rather glacial but you don’t really get to hang on each other’s set. Yeah, I mean I’m learned from absolutely everyone I’ve ever worked with and I have stolen from everybody.
The tempo of these few films I’ve made are very different than, say, something Jan would do. You know? But what’s fascinating about Jan’s working method from what I could see personally, I would say, is his experience being a very, very fine cinematographer. Very muscular cinematographer. I mean, he’s someone that works very, very quickly, very nimbly and that’s important to him. But he also, at least on the two films I worked with him, he does a tremendous amount of coverage. I don’t really do that.
I know it’s not by design, but you’re almost doing a Malik release schedule to your movies. Like the first two and then, “Oh, I’m going to wait almost 20 years for the third one.” I know that was not your plan, but you should start telling people that was your plan.
Well, it wasn’t my plan. Look, I don’t know if you’ve asked Terry this question, but…
He doesn’t do interviews. So, no, I haven’t.
I’m guessing that it wasn’t Terry’s plan either. I think it’s, no matter what times we live in, people have things that they want to make that are really particular to them for whatever reason. And sometimes somebody else doesn’t agree, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think there are plenty of people out there that would like to make films, and should make films. I just happen to be very lucky this time because Peter Kujawski at Focus said yes. That’s just magical, but that doesn’t happen all the time.
Well, you mentioned wide swathes of movies. When people ask me, what should I see? I have found myself saying a lot, Top Gun: Maverick and TÁR. So there’s your wide swath.
Well, I’m happy to be in the company of Joe Kosinski and Tom Cruise. I’ll take it.
‘Tar’ is currently playing in select theaters. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.