Lydia Tár, exquisitely portrayed by Cate Blanchett, is a fictional female maestro of a major German orchestra, but a series of challenges threaten to derail the composer/conductor’s unfettered authority over both her craft and reputation in Todd Field’s fascinating psychological drama TÁR (B+). Field paints on an intimate and exacting canvas with occasional shades of bitter dark comedy, tackling contemporary topics about gender roles, cancel culture and the curation of one’s personal narrative. Blanchett builds a complex character, and it’s clear the music pulsing through her soul is as second nature for her as the English, German and conductor’s wand she wields, sometimes in the same breath or continuous shot. Opposite exquisite co-stars such as Noémie Merlant and Nina Hoss, she creates an icy and indelible character, fascinating on or off the podium. The unconventional soundscape by Hildur Guðnadóttir adds to the film’s off-kilter grandeur, buoying an absorbing character study and morality tale and marked by handsome production design. Once viewers get past a tinge of pretension, it’s all rather more delicious than expected. Field’s patient, singular vision including his keen writing and crisp direction is vital to creating the epic and essential space for Blanchett’s command performance.