What links Cate Blanchett’s new film Tár to Sissy Spacek and hot sauce?

A composer and conductor opens the door to Loretta Lynn, Wings of Desire and classic 90s rock from Goo Goo Dolls

What in tarnation?

Cate Blanchett holding a baton as a conductor in Tár …
Cate Blanchett plays a composer and conductor in Tár … Photograph: Focus Features/AP

First up, Lydia Tár is not real, and the film Tár, coming to cinemas on Friday, is a work of fiction, despite some amazingly absurd internet commentary suggesting otherwise. In the film, Cate Blanchett plays an internationally renowned conductor and composer whose life goes a bit atonal.

Field work

Todd Field
… the third film from Todd Field, director of In the Bedroom … Photograph: Getty Images

This is the third film from director Todd Field who, despite his low output over two decades, is ascending to the level of cinematic maestro. His last film was 2006’s Little Children. Before that came 2001 debut In the Bedroom; both films were poised, intelligent dramas garlanded with praise and awards.

Going up in the world

Michael Apted
… which starred Sissy Spacek, who was also in Coal Miner’s Daughter, made by Michael Apted … Photograph: Getty Images

Sissy Spacek picked up a best actress Oscar nomination for In the Bedroom; previously she won a statue in 1981 playing Loretta Lynn in a biopic about the country singer’s rise to fame, Coal Miner’s Daughter. That film was made by the English director Michael Apted, whose intriguing career spans everything from the groundbreaking Up documentaries to Coronation Street and James Bond in The World is Not Enough.

Wing tips

Viola Davis in The Woman King
… whose second wife, Dana Stevens, wrote The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, and City of Angels, a remake of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire … Photograph: AP

Apted’s second wife was the screenwriter Dana Stevens, who did some uncredited writing on said Bond film, and recently turned her hand to action epic The Woman King. Back in the 90s she wrote the screenplay for City of Angels – the one with that Goo Goo Dolls song. The film was a remake of the Wim Wenders arthouse classic Wings of Desire.

Ripley’s believe it or not

Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr Ripley
… Wenders also adapted Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novel The American Friend, while Cate Blanchett was in The Talented Mr Ripley … Photograph: Kobal/Shutterstock

In 1977, Wenders made The American Friend, one of many adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels. Cate Blanchett appeared in another, Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley, in 1999, the same year Eyes Wide Shut was released, with an uncredited Blanchett in a voice-only role. Then an actor, Field had a key role in the film, while co-star Tom Cruise and director Stanley Kubrick were inspirations for Field’s filmmaking aspirations. Which takes us back to Blanchett and Tár. And, with that, the conductor’s baton drops.

Pairing notes

Chicken drumstick

Listen Putting your own compositions alongside Gustav Mahler may seem an unenviable task, but the Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir does so with gusto, providing original music for Tár.

Eat Blanchett recently went on Hot Ones, the cult chatshow where guests eat chicken doused in sauces of increasing ferocity. With Karma Sauce’s Cosmic Disco, matters begin to get truly eye-watering.


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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