2020s, actors, directors, Film Spotlight, music, photography, Virginia

Thinking of Tár on a Winter Walk

My mind wandered to Cate Blanchett‘s performance as the Maestro composer in the film Tár. Once again she proves how formidable she is. Will she win Best Actress?

Ruby, Jim, and I took a walk around a field by our Virginia home.

Tár. It’s a character-driven story catering to an audience that appreciates classical music and the competitive landscape of symphonies, players, and the power of the conductor. If you know little about this culture, then Tár opens the doors wide for all to see what they’re missing.

It does not matter that many of the assertions presented by Lydia Tár as the guest of honor at a prestigious interview were over my head. It was the powerful way Cate Blanchett delivered the lines with utter confidence, while seconds before, she can hardly suppress a panic attack. Cate reveals the inner turmoil and the composed exterior of her character flawlessly. You can’t take your eyes off Lydia. Cate jumps from the languages of German to English, the history of music, and the ins and outs of composers and conductors with panache.

The landscape feels English this morning.

A theme in the movie is the converging of gender roles. Lydia Tár tailor-made suits replicate the album covers of her heroes. She is manly, the father of her adopted daughter, and the husband to her partner. She reigns over her orchestra possessively. She is bored with sycophant males and male students who dare to disagree with her. She is condescending, supercilious, and merciless. She is a titan, a male.

Lydia is trapped in a world of her own making and suffers emotionally. She becomes aroused by the sensual, female cello player (Sophie Kauer), who wears green velvet boots and plays with a rare, childlike passion. She is unfettered by rules and plays superbly. Director Todd Field plays upon the visual symbolism of green for jealousy. His camera follows the boots from the bathroom to the stage. Lydia is inspired, and it begins her downfall. It’s a pivotal part of the film and Field’s best shots.

Trees rising to trees.

The unresolved relationships and perplexing ending keep me from loving the story, but the acting alone is worth a view. Lessons on how one conducts a symphony were my favorite part. Lydia is adept at showing you how it’s done as only her mentor could do it: Leonard Bernstein. Remember those Leonard Bernstein television programs? I bet Todd Field watched a hundred when he created his script. Field’s intellectual screenplay has a huge chance of winning in the Original Screenplay category.

What is certain is Cate Blanchett’s performance.

"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, Are You Not Entertained?, Dear..., directors, Film Spotlight, movies

Dear Jane Campion,

Benedict Cumberbatch has an excellent shot at an Oscar nomination/win.

I wanted to thank you for adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel and directing The Power of the Dog (2021). Your films feel like good books that beg to be analyzed. Take The Piano (1993), for instance, your signature film for the past thirty years.

I taught it in English Composition class as a visual text twenty years ago. We discussed how the piano was a character in the film. Was it not the voice of the mute protagonist Ada? Was it not a metaphor for the treatment of women in a patriarchal world in 19th century New Zealand? That is, the piano was a burden to men. It was carried, abandoned, tattooed, mutilated, and drowned at the bottom of the sea.

We compared and contrasted the spiritual connection of Ada and George Baines while the clueless colonizer Alisdair Stewart (one of Sam Neill’s best roles) attempted to control his environment, the Maori people, and his wife with disastrous results. The best character was the eight-year-old daughter, Ada. Flora was a precocious, mischievous “angel” who becomes a little demon, manipulating Christianity to punish her mother for choosing to distance their bond for another man.

You embraced the wild scenery with a passion. It was necessary for the piano to have a complex voice. Michael Nyman‘s score is still breathtaking.

Today, I’m awestruck with my favorite film of 2021. I feel compelled to write you and extend my gratitude for your adapted screenplay and direction of The Power of the Dog (2021). The emotional wrestling between the characters makes it worth many discussions. Set in Montana in the 1920s, you embraced the topography and shared to the audience the beauty and harsh realities of the cowboy culture and the ambitions of a ranching family.

Kirsten Dunst plays Rose, a fragile mother who is intimidated and close to ruin by the bossy, jealous Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch). Photos courtesy of Netflix.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, smoldering, complex, and exciting to watch.

Jane, your characters are never one-dimensional. Their motivations are hidden. Their feelings are hidden. Their narrative arcs are complete. Through the camera’s lens via close-ups, staging, and the stark lines of the setting, you flush out their feelings. To some, the characters may seem too hidden, but I’ve always been a fan of inference and subtlety. That disturbing score heightens psychological warfare. You have created a beautiful film and given me hope that the art of filmmaking has returned.

Sincerely,

Your Favorite Fan

P.S. What did Phil Burbank see in the hills? What was he staring at? Ah, the lines of the hills are hips, torsos, legs of a lover’s embrace. Perfect.

actors, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Best at directing and Acting

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. For new followers, this is about sharing your thoughts in a positive way with one another on the 13th of the month. Over the years, I’ve had co-hosts and that makes the day even better. If you are interested in co-hosting a topic about the film industry, email me at cbruchman@yahoo.com, and let’s come up with something.

Sir Richard Attenborough has been on my radar lately. He was born in 1928 and passed in 2014. He shared his long life with wife Sheila Sim. He served for five years in WW2 and was an accomplished actor and director winning many top awards for both. He was a verified presence on the movie screen for more than sixty years.

If you need a reminder of his best acting roles, read Neil Mitchell’s article about “Dickie” FOUND HERE.

 What I enjoy best about his acting are his flawed characters. He is the stereotype of the composed, polite Englishman. Yet, his characters have serious foibles. That’s a seductive contrast. Whatever the role, he elevates the film by his presence. I also respect him for wanting to make important movies. He used his star power to bring awareness of the plight of the unfortunate even if it meant satirizing his native country.

What is his best acting role? What is his best directing job? How would you rank him with other actors/directors? That is, who has had equal success as a director and actor?