Since bowing in the fall, Tár quickly became an Oscar frontrunner, as well as a fixture of social media jokes. (It’s also worth noting that its impressive Tomatometer is a few percentage points behind the one for M3GAN.) But it has its detractors. Among them is one of the female conductors referenced by Cate Blanchett’s cancelled figure, who is calling the movie “anti-woman.”
In a new interview with the U.K.’s The Times (as caught by Variety), Marin Alsop, music director laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, was asked what she thought about the film. It was a good question: Not only does Blanchett’s Lydia Tár namecheck her in the film’s opening interview sequence, they have a lot in common. Both studied under Leonard Bernstein, both are lesbians, both are married to orchestral musicians, and both were, until recently, the only women to lead a big orchestra. (Tár leads the Berlin Philharmonic.) One significant difference: Unlike Tár, Alsop has never been accused of sexual misconduct.
Some reviewers have noted the similarities. But Alsop was not flattered, not the least because writer-director Todd Field has not alerted her that she had likely inspired the anti-hero of a major awards season titan.
“I first read about it in late August and I was shocked that that was the first I was hearing of it,” Alsop told The Times. “So many superficial aspects of ‘Tár’ seemed to align with my own personal life. But once I saw it I was no longer concerned, I was offended: I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian.”
Alsop went on:
“To have an opportunity to portray a woman in that role and to make her an abuser — for me that was heartbreaking,” she continued. “I think all women and all feminists should be bothered by that kind of depiction because it’s not really about women conductors, is it? It’s about women as leaders in our society. People ask, ‘Can we trust them? Can they function in that role?’ It’s the same questions whether it’s about a CEO or an NBA coach or the head of a police department.”
“There are so many men — actual, documented men — this film could have been based on but, instead, it puts a woman in the role but gives her all the attributes of those men. That feels antiwoman. To assume that women will either behave identically to men or become hysterical, crazy, insane is to perpetuate something we’ve already seen on film so many times before.”
Tár is now in theaters. If you want to see a film about Alsop, you can check out the 2021 documentary The Conductor.