At the Venice Film Festival, Cate Blanchett won the Volpi Cup for best actress, for her starring role in Tár, Todd Field’s long-awaited third feature film. In it, Blanchett plays a composer-conductor, Lydia Tár, who lands in some kind of trouble. The logline describes her as a “promethean artist eventually hoisted on her own petard", while many coming out of Tár’s screenings at Venice and Telluride threw around the term “cancel culture”. The first trailer, which premiered yesterday, paints the film as a psychological thriller set in the high-class world of symphonies and classical music, and it appears something or someone is haunting Lydia Tár. It looks great, and it probably is great, given the ecstatic reviews, but also this being the work of writer-director Todd Field.
Field broke out with 2001’s In the Bedroom and followed that with 2006’s Little Children. Both films resulted in numerous Oscar nominations, including acting nominations for Marisa Tomei, Kate Winslet, Jackie Earle Haley, Sissy Spacek, and Tom Wilkinson, as well as a Best Picture nomination for Field for In the Bedroom, and screenplay nominations for both In the Bedroom and Little Children. Basically, this guy made two movies, got nominated for almost everything, scored a bunch of actors nominations, landed on top 10 lists all over the world, and then…disappeared.
I mean, not entirely. Everyone knew where Todd Field was. And he was working the whole time, attached to numerous projects over the years, including the now-scuppered Purity, an adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s novel of the same name, which would see Field, Franzen, playwright David Hare, and star Daniel Craig collaborate on a twenty-hour series with a rumored budget of nearly $200 million. Given the massive budget, it wasn’t entirely surprising when the project quietly dissolved into the ether. But for the last sixteen years, Todd Field, despite his dazzling arrival as a filmmaker in the early 2000s, didn’t make a new film, or anything. Tár isn’t just his third film, it’s his comeback.
And maybe it’s Cate Blanchett’s third Oscar, too. She’s already a frontrunner, because she’s CATE BLANCHETT, and if she sneezes on camera, Oscar odds will be given. But Blanchett working with Todd Field after his own long fallow period, on a film that people cannot stop raving about, well, it’s an effective algorithm. And Tár looks good, nervy and tense and sophisticated, the kind of arty genre piece the Academy goes for now and again. The Best Actress race is already crazy competitive, and we still have three months of awards season to get through, but who wants to bet against Cate Blanchett when she’s got a great role? Not me.
Oh, and you know what Todd Field is doing after this? The Devil in the White City. He’s a producer and is set to direct several episodes (maybe the whole series, it’s not quite clear). Todd Field directing Keanu Reeves? That’s going to be interesting to watch.