Tar Is Getting A Cinematic Universe With Todd Field's New Short The Fundraiser

In "Tár," Cate Blanchett plays the fictional Lydia Tár, chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, so it's only appropriate that — of all the film festivals in the world — the 2023 Berlinale should provide the stage for the expansion of the "Tár" cinematic universe.

You heard that right: while Lydia herself may be down and out, the adventures of "Tár" are far from over. The movie actually begins with Lydia giving an interview at The New Yorker Film Festival, and in a felicitous case of life imitating art, writer-director Todd Field recently spoke to the press at the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony, where "Tár" was named Best Film and Blanchett was named Best Actress of 2022. There, Field discussed the upcoming short film "The Fundraiser," which is set in the same world as "Tár" and which will feature select cast members, perhaps even Blanchett herself.

Blanchett will be on hand for a talk at the Berlinale next month with her German co-star Nina Hoss and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, whose soundtrack for "Tár" takes the form of a highfalutin concept album. Speaking to Indiewire in New York, Field was coy about what exactly viewers can expect from "The Fundraiser," saying only, "Is the entire cast [of 'Tar'] in 'The Fundraiser'? No, not the entire cast. You'll see a few faces and you'll see some things that I think are surprising."

Tar can play that game

"The Fundraiser" is an apt title and concept for a short film follow-up to "Tár," given that the movie charts Lydia's downfall from a respected composer-conductor to a disgraced figure in the orchestra world. She could probably use a good fundraiser, as could "Tár." Despite the mountains of critical acclaim it's received, the movie has only made $5 million on a $35 million budget. Last month, The New York Times discussed it in the context of an article about how "Highbrow Films Aimed at Winning Oscars Are Losing Audiences."

Like Martin Scorsese, I felt the clouds lift when I watched "Tár." For me, it was the perfect antidote to the franchise films currently dominating at the box office, like "Avatar: The Way of Water," which I've proudly managed to avoid seeing if only because I don't want to give it my "vote" and line James Cameron's pockets with more money. Field is an interesting filmmaker; this is the same actor-turned-director who told Tom Cruise the secret password, fidelio, in "Eyes Wide Shut" before he made "In the Bedroom."

I don't necessarily think "Tár" is the cure for what ails all modern cinema, though, and I can see how a film like this might alienate some viewers. The movie sets the viewer down in Lydia's pretentious music world and expects you to keep up with what's going on without over-explaining things. In some ways, "Tár" shows the increasing disconnect between casual moviegoers and the insular world of critics and film festivals, but maybe one way for it to bridge that gap is to get in on the shared-universe game in a tongue-in-cheek way. At the very least, "The Fundraiser" should be a nice little treat for "Tár" fans.