Fabelmans will never be as disputed as Tár, but there is much to say about Pleasure of Art| Charlotte Higgins

For a movie that has, if you want to be honest about it, at the box officeTarr sparked a disproportionate amount of conversation. The discourse on the film — about a powerful, wildly successful, and deeply problematic conductor named Lydia Tarr, played by Cate Blanchett — is likely to be as interesting as the movie itself.

I’ve heard multiple, conflicting interpretations of Tarr: he’s an outrageous misrepresentation of the field of classical music; This is all very real. This is all very surreal; It carries an intellectual heft rare in cinema. He’s not half as smart as he thinks he is. that it’s not about delivery, it’s about power; that it’s not about power, it’s about narcissism; that it is about Ethics clash Intergenerational that’s it Third-Wave Feminism; That its central character, with all his “negations”, is Remarkably complex; that its central character is irreparably hated; It’s a wonderfully balanced anatomy of “cancel culture”; It is a “retro” film that takes “bitter aim” at identity politics. Then there is broadband Online discussion Dedicated to deciphering the dreaded final act. There is something exciting about a movie like this open text, which warrants a lot of discussion.

However, it is not without problems. The classical music world talks about Tarr, and not in a good way. (A leading London conservatory, for example, has politely declined to host the UK premiere.) The concern stems, at least, from the fact that the central character’s biography bears more than passing resemblance to that of the conductor. Marin Allsopp. Like Tarr, she is American, was mentored by Leonard Bernstein, is lesbian, is a partner and co-conductor with sometime orchestral performers, and created a foundation for female conductors early in her career. Alsop herself has it Criticize the movieAnd I have some sympathy for her. Tarr is, among other things, a bully and abuser, and Allsopp is not. However, her broader view is that a small handful of women have struggled to land big leadership roles. And among those who “succeed,” some are definitely happier and better-behaved than others. But among them, none are shaped as literally as the fictional Tár. The kind of abuse that Tarr commits—black harassment, using force to extract sex—is woefully present in classical music, but the perpetrators, known largely from rumor and word of mouth, are men. Women in classical music can be bullies and act horribly. But there are not to my knowledge any allegations of ill-treatment hovering over them of the kind which led, for example, to the dismissal of the late. James Levine from his position at the Metropolitan Opera.

Mark Evanier, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Kathryn Keener in The Late Late Quartet (2012).
Mark Evanier, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Kathryn Keener in The Late Late Quartet (2012). Image: artificial eye/Allstar

A counterargument to this perspective is that the film is not really about classical music in any meaningful way, and that its setting is incidental to its purpose. But that is to overlook the fact that the film does, in fact, want to tell us something about art, and art-related artworks often have an interesting meta-story to tell. Consider other films set in or adjacent to the world of classical music. There is Amadeus, of course. Michael Haneke piano teacherFrancois Truffaut Shoot the pianistDenis Dercourt page turnerDu Pré Biography, Hillary and Jackie, shineAnd late quartet (Unforgettable with Philip Seymour Hoffman as an embittered second violinist). What do they have in common? Here’s a clue: the main characters in George Cukor’s Gaslight – the movie that contains given its name to a full form of abuse – an aspiring opera singer and pianist.

Not all of these movies are about abuse and violence, but all of them deal in one way or another with obsession and mental illness. I can’t escape the notion that, for filmmakers, classical music offers a way to represent some of their most ambiguous and misguided ideas about art and creativity. In a way, one can see why: Of all the intertwining corners of artistic worlds, classical music, along with ballet, requires the most rarefied and intense form of lifelong commitment. It offers fantasy creators an extreme version of art making.

By contrast, films about cinema tend to be colored with nostalgia or emotion (think La La Land, or the new Sam Mendes movie. The Empire of Light). latest Steven Spielberg movies, Fablemans, co-written with Tony Kushner, has a little bit of both: It really is, Spielberg’s Bildungsroman, even origin legend, and — of course! There is an early moment when the main character, Sam, goes to the movies for the first time as a child. Naturally, we see the light reflecting off the screen play on his face; Naturally, through these means, tap magic works indelibly on him.

“The Fabelmans is poignant and nuanced about what art actually is, what it feels like, and what it is composed of.” Photo: no credit

The Fabelmans are more interesting than this description suggests, and like Tár, they have something to say about power, in this case what is invested in the movie camera bearer – the unwilling owner of secrets, the hero-maker, the manipulator. classic music It’s also mentioned in the movie, by Sam’s mother, a thwarted pianist, once again occupying that familiar thematic territory of loss and mental illness. Nevertheless, Fabelmans is poignant and precise about what art actually is, what it feels like, and what it is composed of. There’s a nice hint of this in its patchwork name: Spielberg’s name is reminiscent of the German or Yiddish for “play.” The word Fableman is from the word “story”. In this film, the stories arise out of play: there’s a clear line from Sam’s first films, squishy for fun with fellow scouts, to the work the real Spielberg is best known for.

Joy, playfulness: these are qualities that are completely absent from the vision of art that Todd Fields Tarr presents, perhaps on purpose. Lydia Tarr is a dictator—a model of power for leaders in sharp decline and, in fact, largely beyond the reach of women, and one that builds heavily on traditional male power patterns. Most encounters between conductors and orchestral musicians function, at their best, through collaboration and, yes, fun; Conductors instead tend to use persuasion and charm rather than outright command to present their ideas. The balance of power is not entirely on the side of the conductors: orchestra players can be pitiless to conductors who disrespect them.

There is one film I did not mention about conductors and composers, as well as about ballets: Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948). Here too there is abuse, obsession and mental illness. Like Tár, The Fabelmans suggests that art and domestic life may be impossible to reconcile. But unlike Tarr, in her darkness, she offers a delightful portrait of what it means to love art, to be an artist, to be part of a company of performers. Unlike Tár, who evokes, rather than have anything particularly interesting to say about Mahler, The Red Shoes contains a strange and wonderful work of art in its own right in the ballet-within-the-film form also called The Red Shoes. It is a film that has made generations of impressionable youth grow into artists. Will Tarr have this galvanic effect? Debate.

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