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135: You Should Go See ‘Tár.’ Plus: lol, Elon.

November 8, 2022
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) review one of the best movies of the year that very few of you have gone to see: Tár. It’s a great movie about the ambiguities of our moment with an absolutely wonderful performance by Cate Blanchett at its heart. Go see it! Before that, we had some laughs at Elon’s expense as we wondered what will happen to Twitter as Musk realizes he’s made a huge mistake. Make sure to swing back by Bulwark+ on Friday for our bonus episode, in which we’ll discuss our favorite movies of the year, pre-awards-season division. And if you enjoyed this episode—or know there’s someone in your life who can use some non-election-related podcasting while we wait for results—share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie. I’ll present to my Bulwark Plus. I am your host, Sunny Bunch Culture Editor of Bulwark. I’m joined as always by a list of Rosenberg of the Washington Post and Peter SUnderman. Breeze magazine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:20

    Unless, Peter, how are you today? I’m fine. I am happy to be talking about movies. With friends. First up, in controversies and controversies, Elon Musk’s first couple weeks of Twitter are going pretty well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:35

    First, he posted a link to a conspiracy theory website about Paul Pelosi being attacked as part of a gate risk before deleting it, and he rolled out a new plan to charge sites most engaged users for all the free content they were providing. And he laid off a bunch of folks before realizing, ah, crap. I laid off too many folks. I gotta get them back care. And I realize we’re we’re gonna be talking about Elon’s take over Twitter.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:53

    I realize that this is a little far field from the movie isle, the titular movie isle of this podcast, but it it does deal with an impact to the culture more broadly and thus is worth discussing here plus it’s our show. Plus, we’re all slaves to Twitter. We’re all captured by Twitter, you are to admit it. And, man, you wanna talk about Elon. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:12

    Anyway, moving on from my apology or for what we’re doing today. The change causing the most consternation certainly amongst my peer set is the changes that involve the blue check system. Right? The verification system, Twitter. Elon has said he wants to roll out a new version of Twitter Blue that will charge people eight bucks a month and it will include a verification badge as part of the perk package.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:37

    Except it’s entirely unclear what the badge will actually mean. Right? Is Twitter gonna be checking IDs? Making sure usernames match up with those IDs? Or is he gonna be matching usernames?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:47

    To credit cards. What does the verification actually mean if you just give a bunch of pseudonymous accounts? The badge and look, there’s nothing wrong with being a pseudonymous account. I just don’t I don’t quite understand what it means other than like, okay, I paid eight dollars to be on Twitter blue, and now I have this badge. It’s like a it’s like a n f t except Dumber somehow.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:07

    But part of the the problem here goes way back, goes back to pre musk Twitter. Can you remember such such a time pre Elon Musk Twitter, when some dumb dumb at the Bird app decided to strip Milo Unopolous of his blue check as part of a after he did a series of bad, possibly, Nazi affiliated tweets. I can’t even remember what, but they were I mean, they’re bad tweets. It changed everything because rather than check mark simply meaning like this person is who they say they are, the decision to do this meant that the blue check actually meant This person is who they say they are and also they don’t tweet anything we find terribly offensive. We actually agree with most of what they tweet.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:43

    That’s the implication at least. Which means that every time the Ayatollah tweet something, Twitter is like, yeah, he’s he’s fine, I guess. We’re fine with the Ayatollah. Whatever. One thing Elon is definitely right about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:56

    Well, I will say this. One thing he is absolutely right about is it restricting who can get the blue check mark is idiotic restricting it by profession? Is idiotic restricting it by public notoriety is idiotic? Anyone who can prove who they and who wants to tweet under their own name, should be allowed to get
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:12

    one. They
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:13

    should be allowed to get one. And you could even make the case and it makes sense to charge for the privilege because after all, someone’s gotta check those ideas and make sure the account names aren’t being monkeyed about with and that sort of thing. But the ridiculous way that this has all played out has understandably reduced any faith anyone has in the website in general. Peter, have you set up your Mastodon server yet? Are you at Peter cocktail man one twenty seven at mastodon dot social dot three six nine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:46

    I don’t understand how that dumb site works.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:49

    Me neither. I I but that’s because I’m I’m like so over messed on already. I’ve already moved on. To gas and be real. You guys know what I’m talking about.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:00

    Right? Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:00

    Those those all sound made up. We’re gonna play.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:03

    They’re totally real social networks because we live because we live in an era of competition. And nobody has to be on Twitter and you can be on a lot of other social networks or none of them. And it’s great. And my my I I think all of this is it’s mostly a music. The people I feel worst for here, like the like, I think there’s basically no downside for the general public.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:30

    There’s obviously some downside for people who lose their jobs. And even if those people, in some cases, like, even if those are obviously, like, sort of good cuts, like, just from a business perspective, I always feel bad when somebody loses their job. Like, that sucks. It’s really unpleasant. And I, like, I don’t wanna be, like, celebrating that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:47

    At the same time, like, in like, from a discourse perspective from a, like, what does this do to how America talks to each other? And by America, I mean, like, a thousand journalists who are totally obsessed with Twitter and spent all of their time on it because those are the two those two are the same thing. Right? Like, there’s just no There doesn’t seem to be to be an obvious downside here. Like, maybe Musk does turn Twitter into something really interesting and, like, a great platform for for debate and speech where, like, we could all talk to each other and, like, feel like ideas are celebrated and we don’t, you know, we don’t, like, people don’t get banned for saying stuff that, like, is, you know, a little bit controversial but believed by large portions of the public or maybe Elon Musk has no idea how to run a social network, how to run a social media network.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:40

    Maybe he melts this whole thing down and loses what? Forty billion dollars or something? Forty four billion dollars. Forty four. Like, that’s a lot of money.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:49

    That’s like government program level money. And And then he doesn’t have Twitter and neither do we. And I I like, I would win from that scenario because the main thing I want out of Twitter is for it to be less useful. My primary annoyance with with Twitter over the last several years is that it has continued to be useful in some way and therefore I have to pay attention to it. But If Twitter could become less useful and less interesting, especially to journalists.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:16

    I think that actually might be a good thing. On the other hand, if Twitter could become more useful full and like more than more effective in certain ways, that would probably be a good thing too. And either way, it’s it’s all it’s okay unless you lose your job in which like, I I to be clear, like, that sucks and I feel bad for you. Listen,
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:36

    what do you think about this? Because I mean, I I once again, I am, like, are you I’m certainly the most sympathetic person to Elon Musk at the Bulwark. I, like, I find I find him to be an interesting figure. I am I am generally pro him in terms of electric cars and space travel and satellite technology and that sort of thing. It also seems like he clearly has no idea what he’s doing here and is much more likely to break all of this than to make it work any better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:04

    But maybe Peter’s right that it wouldn’t it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Twitter were to be forever irrevocably broken and we all had to, like, start up our own sub stacks, and we could just bring the blogosphere back. Microblogging can die, blogosphere come back. Yay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:19

    So first off, I actually want to announce that I have taken an equity stake in Gidders because they need a liberal for people to have someone to yell at. And so I will be quitting this podcast to make just enormous amounts of podcasts, being yelled out by conservatives in the end.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:32

    Wait. Is that site making money though? Aren’t all aren’t all of the conservative Trump y
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:37

    sides are making money? I’m
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:38

    not taking money. Thousand
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:40

    daily
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:40

    users, which is more than the metaverse. So maybe that tells you something. So look, the real reason we’re talking about Elan Musk’s purchase with Twitter and across the movie aisle is because it’s entertaining. Right? I mean, this is effectively reality television where the world’s richest man is having the world’s like a world historically expensive mid life crisis.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:00

    And we’re all just along for the ride in real time, man. Like, it’s amazing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:04

    Why couldn’t it be normal and just like buy a Ferrari or an island? Or Mars. Right? Like,
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:11

    Elon like, if Elon musks, you know, fortieth, like, fiftieth or whatever. I have no idea what the Elon Musk is. If his, like, big birthday present to himself was just like, I’m gonna colonize Mars. Like, I’m gonna plant a flag with, like, the Tesla logo in, you know, one of these, like, in, you know, Mon’s Pavanas and, like, conquer Mars for Elon Musk. Like, that would be awesome.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:36

    But no. Like, the guy is following around running a social media. Company. It’s ridiculous. And, I mean, again, like, obviously, I agree with everything that Peter says about it being terrible for people who are, like, losing their jobs and being asked to reapply for them just awful.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:52

    And I actually agree with Sunny that I find Musk pretty interesting and even on some level inspired Right? I mean, given how completely dorky the environmental movement has been forever, the fact that this guy not only sort of makes electric sports cars possible, but completely rebranded them as like cool and desirable and awesome. It’s like a generationally useful thing for him to have done. Like, that’s great. The serious tragedy of Musk getting sucked into Twitter is that Elan musk could be, like, actually perfecting rooftop solar that doesn’t look terrible or, like, you know, fueling a space program that’s going to let the US compete with China and achieve, you know, space dominance in a serious and a world historically important way.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:38

    This is the least useful thing that Elon Musk could be spending his time on. And it’s really depressing to see someone of this vision and capability wasting his time on this garbage. But that said just like watching him but clown himself in this fashion is incredibly amusing. Not at least because it’s just it’s incredibly funny to see someone who has basically convinced himself that he can do to wrong, that even like his habit of dicking around on the Internet is worth billions of dollars. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:10

    I mean, Matt Levine at Bloomberg has written how, like, stocks are basically worth what Elon Musk says they’re worth on Twitter. And so watching someone who is so completely full full of himself just self emulate in public is hilarious. Right? Like, This is We’re basically living in an Armando Einucci movie. Aren’t we?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:30

    Yeah. Well, I
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:30

    mean, what so the way somebody described it on Twitter was, like, it’s like every Twitter user has become the mean kids in the class when the substitute teacher shows up and we’re all trying to make them cry at the same time. Like, that And it’s working. Right? I mean, totally. I mean, like, this is this is the thing here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:46

    Is it, like, you know, everybody has everyone who has been a Twitter addict or is currently a Twitter addict. I’m not raising my hand, but I am raising my hand. Knows that feeling when you are posting too much, when you are when you have gotten into when you’ve gotten into an argument that you cannot possibly win and seven that’s thousand different people, it feels like they’re yelling at you and you’re trying to trying to answer and block and answer and block and block and block and re tweet quote, we Sunny,
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:14

    is that how you feel right now? If
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:16

    you get if you get to that point, it’s it’s like playing poker. If you get to that point, you have already lost. Like you are on till you gotta get away from the table. You just gotta close your laptop, put your phone in a safe and throw away the key. Get out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:30

    And he can’t do that now because he’s tied himself to he’s tied himself to this thing with a with the the money that will if he loses it, we’ll probably destroy the actual companies that he is good at running. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:45

    I don’t know that I think that that’s necessarily true, although obviously it’s enough money that it’s really quite significant. I think his vision for Twitter that he outlined that he has outlined over the course of the last several months as this process has played out. Is appealing in some ways. Now, I’m not sure he’s gonna be able to execute on that vision, especially given the last week or so. It really seems like he’s kind of flailing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:08

    At the same time, it’s just quite difficult to take over a large company, especially in this manner. And I think in any environment — Right. — when,
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:17

    like,
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:17

    the advertising market is collapsing yesterday. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:19

    Like Heading into session. Heading into either a a recession or at least what big business right now expects is gonna be a recession. It’s gonna be a challenging environment period. But his vision of a place for for, like, interesting not personally hostile discussion where ideas are respected, even if they are bad ideas, even if it or wrong ideas, you know, where people can actually talk to each other and have, like, and disagree is, like, there there’s a little bit of of the, you know, of this podcast DNA in that vision. Again, whether or not he can execute on that is the big question?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:03

    And who the hell knows? Like, if you’re just gonna bet whether he’s gonna succeed or fail, you kinda have to bet that he’s gonna fail just because most things fail,
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:12

    especially if this The one musk himself is the antithesis at least the way he behaves on Twitter is the antithesis of what he wants the site to be. Right? I mean, this is a guy who gets sued and, you know, ultimately wins a defamation case. We’re just, like, calling a random, like, guy working on a guy, hey, rescue a pet oh guy. Like, he’s retweeting random spiracy theories about Paul Pelosi’s.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:35

    She’s tweeting Nazi memes today. Like, I mean, his The way the way that he pronounces about politics is, like, like, the most surface level, like, I had a beer with Andrew Gang nonsense that, you know, I mean, he is, like, this is someone who is because he’s been successful in some areas, is convinced that he’s just like a world historical genius and is proceeding in such a way that reveals himself to be just wrong. Right? Like, it’s such an epic self own. It’s I mean, that’s what’s world historical about it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:11

    It’s amazing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:11

    I also think that there’s a way in which this is his metaverse. And I mean that in two different ways. So Mark Zuckerberg, you know, has plowed a huge amount of Facebook’s really considerable resources into building out the metaverse, which is this sort virtual world in which people can interact. Right? The kind of second lifestyle, but through, you know, goggles and, like, a much more immersive kind of stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:33

    Right? Like, there’s a whole big thing and we don’t need to go into all of that. His vision is that, like, the the the meta versus the thing that will follow social media that will come after social media. And so far no one is using it. They’re spending a huge amount of money on it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:48

    And Facebook has just lost a huge, huge amount of value is expected to off a ton of people this week. But the meta versus this like fantasy of an interactive future world. That’s also what Twitter is for Elon Musk right now. And a thing that I think people are underrating a little bit about Elon Musk is that he is a video gamer. And he’s a hardcore video gamer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:14

    He has talked about spending dozens or hundreds or maybe a thousand. I think he might even even mentioned that he spent a thousand hours playing elder scrolls five Skyrim, which is a a game that you can sink that much time into. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing myself. On the other hand, I’m not running Tesla and a space company. He posted a pick like a a screen cap of his Eldon Ring character, which that he’d like totally maxed out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:41

    Elden Ring fit being like a famously incredibly difficult time consuming sort twitching game with that he clearly had spent well over a hundred, if not hundreds and hundreds of hours playing. He’s a gamer. And he is obsessed with Twitter in the way that video gamers become obsessed with video games. And he’s he he wants now to own that world so that he can remake it according to his wishes. And I I think that, like, people are sort of It’s it’s not just that he is somebody who had success in one area and thinks he’s gonna have success in another area.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:18

    It’s also that he is somebody who has become obsessed with this immersive game world that is that has I don’t think it’s addictive in the classical sense, but it certainly has proper of, like, a a kind of, like, people can’t let go and people can’t turn away from it and some you know, and and sort of can’t help themselves. And in the same way that he is loves to spend hundreds of hours building his character in Eldon Ring and finding all the secrets,
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:46

    he
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:47

    wants that for for Twitter. Like, he he has spent that amount of time and he is trying now to to make that to make that thing his own. In the way that only the small number of billionaires can. But
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:58

    isn’t this part of what’s interesting about this moment about Twitter and Facebook? Is that these guys who, you know, famously were tastemakers to a certain extent. Right? Like Mark Zuckerberg invented the place where people socialized with each other, Musk made, Tesla’s incredibly popular and cool, they seem to have mistaken their own tastes for the taste of the general population. And Zuckerberg is making it bet on the future that, like, maybe we’ll pan out, although the timing is seems really terrible.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:29

    Right? To do this at the moment precisely when, like, even people who are quite COVID cautious are venturing back out into the world remembering that, like, the real world is great. That they’re happy to be in it. And Musk appears to have like, he appears to really enjoy just being extremely online. And I think most people don’t enjoy being online in precisely that way.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:50

    Right? Like, there are small number of people who are just like they live to be replied guys or whatever. But, like,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:57

    did
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:57

    he that Musk wants to sit around, like, get in stone and then, like, Let’s talk about, like, how to build a government on Mars. Pedal Guy is, like, not actually how most people want to spend their time. And so there appears to be just some level of confusion at work here and it’s like it’s fascinating to watch both of them sort of bet the farm in the
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:19

    same way. He’s maxing out his stats in the discourse game.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:22

    Yeah. Yeah. The
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:23

    thing the thing it reminded me of and we’re we’ll move on here a sec. But the thing it reminded me of was I I remember when I was like, you know, thirteen or fourteen or whatever, and I was like, if I win the lottery, if I
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:34

    win the
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:34

    I’m gonna buy my comic book I’m gonna run it. It’s gonna be great. We’re gonna I’m gonna hang out with it. And that’s kinda what it feels like he is doing with Twitter to the to the same extent that, like, I would have been doing this in, like, nineteen ninety five, which would have been the absolute height of the comic book boom. And there was nothing but downhill after that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:52

    And that is basically when he has bought Twitter is at the absolute height of the tech social media bubble that we lived in. And there’s just nothing but downhill now. It’s like I I just can’t see this ending in anything but tears for essentially everyone involved, including perhaps us, serious question. You guys gonna pay the eight dollars for Twitter Blue to to keep your to keep a check, but also be able to edit tweets and you move up and the reply, priorities, etcetera, etcetera. Peter?
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:23

    No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:24

    Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:25

    I
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:25

    don’t know what the Washington Post is going to decide to do on my behalf.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:29

    Oh, see, that’s a good question. See, this is actually something I suggested that it would actually make sense for Twitter to go to the various news organizations to be like, like, you gotta pay us as a million bucks a year and we’ll verify everybody and, you know, we’ll heighten your placements and searches or whatever, which I think would be smart of them. This doesn’t come anywhere near servicing the forty four billion dollars and, you know, purchase price, but it’s it’s at least the start. I will not be paying the eight dollars for the record. I’m not
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:00

    not gonna happen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:01

    Personally, I will
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:02

    not be spending that sort of money. But
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:04

    I I have
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:05

    other things I wanna spend. You know how many blue rays I can buy for eight dollars? One. Alright. Make sure to check out our special bonus episode in which we’re gonna pick our favorite movies of the year pre award season division.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:17

    Right? As we all know, Hollywood loves to cram every good movie for adults. Into the last two months of the year because why would anybody go see a movie that was aimed at adult audiences before November one? But, you know, whatever that is what it is. What this episode suggests is that in the preceding ten months, there are probably at least one or two good movies that could enter the best picture.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:39

    Consideration or conversation. Alright? Now on to the main event, Tarr. It’s the first new movie from director Todd Field in sixteen some years. Tar stars Kate Flanchet as Lydia Tarr, a conductor for the Berlin Phil Harmonic, whose style and sensibility has made her a bit of a celebrity, at least with the New Yorker NPR set.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:00

    Right? She looks the part. She’s wearing a perfectly tailored a custom suit that we see lovingly measured and cut and put together as the film opens. She talks the part. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:08

    She’s holding court with Adam Gopnik in a chat about what it means to be a conductor and what it means to be a female conductor in particular and what that means to her. And she acts the part, dressing down a pan vendor by puck’s student at juilliard after he suggests he simply cannot appreciate puck because the dead white man was such a misogynist. This movie is about power and power dynamics. Right? In the early going, Tarr has the power.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:31

    She has power over the donor to her fellowship program. She wheels that kind of over him because while he has the money, she has the the skill and the insights into what he really wants to do, which is to be a conductor. And she has power over her assistant conductor at the at the Philharmonic grade. She wants to replace him with somebody else. She has power over a little girl in the movie who was bullying her daughters and she, like, goes up to this little girl and I was like, if you don’t stop kicking my kid in the shins, I’m going to disappear you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:02

    And no one will tell you that I threaten you with this because if you complain about it, they will believe me because I am an adult. It’s like the most basic fundamental building block of human power of that of a big person over a little person. And it kind of fits in thematically with everything else that’s going on. But those dynamics change as the film progresses, right, when a beautiful Ellis joins the Berlin Phil Harmonic. She finds herself smitten when a former student with whom Tarr had a relationship kills herself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:27

    She finds herself embroiled in social media scandal. And when she becomes too toxic in general, she loses her job and her wife takes her adopted daughter away and eventually she’s reduced to serving as a traveling conductor at a Symphony that plays for a crowd with a dress code that is slightly different from the black tie set she is used to wowing. We’ll we’ll talk a little bit more about that. Again, there’s gonna be spoilers in this movie. So, you know, if you wanna go watch it, first, please do that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:55

    Turn his love now. Whatever. All of which is to say,
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:59

    that some
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:59

    folks have pigeonholed this movie as a cancel culture story. They look at that scene with the Pan gender biapuck kid and they’re like, oh, Well, this is about, you know, the the cancel culture and how, you know, reactionaries are unfairly treated and, you know, well, that’s no good. I don’t I don’t believe that at all. This is basically Richard Brody’s review at The New Yorker. But it’s not that actually.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:18

    It’s a it’s a me too story. This is a me too story. Lendy Lidiotar is not Justin Saco. She is Harvey. Wine’s or at least kind of a diminutive version of Weinstein of the sort that we’ve actually seen a couple of times in the classical music community.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:33

    Tar is a it’s fascinatingly thorny movie for me, one that sets up or offers up at least some real questions of interpretation. And I think Field does a pretty mass job of dealing in ambiguity in this movie. We don’t know the extent of Lydia’s transgression with a student who killed herself, but we have some idea given her assistance kind of freaking out after the girl kills herself. And then we see the emails that she scrolls through. There’s some bad stuff in there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:58

    We were kind of curious how far it all went. In the last thirty minutes, or so of the picture offer a kind of interestingly ambiguous fate for Lydia Tarr. This is this is a question we can discuss a little more, but I’m I’m curious what you guys make of that kind of final shot, that pullback in the unnamed Asian symphony. If it’s a cosmic joke at her expense, kind of designed to take her down a peg and
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:22

    reduce her
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:23

    power further? Or is it something of a synthesis Right? Like an idea that pulls together the this this notion that music can change and be different. It doesn’t have to be the staying or orchestral stuff, but it also needs to be taken seriously, needs to be taken importantly. We have to ask what the composer was thinking when he put it together.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:42

    I don’t know. I’m I’m kind of of two minds on that. But let’s hear what you guys think, Alyssa, what did you make of Tar?
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:50

    I loved this movie. And I it’s I appreciate its ambiguity. So much, not just even in what we’re supposed to think of the main character and how we’re supposed to interpret that final scene, but even in terms of some very basic plot questions. When I when we walked to when Peter and I saw it last week, I walked out of it and I asked him, do you think that Francesca, Lydia’s assistant and Olga, the cellist, are working together on some level. Or should they sort of know each other what is the connection there?
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:23

    Because, you know, you have this sense that there are two people who are documenting some of Lydia’s movements and sharing them with other people. And the movie never reveals who’s done that or what their motivations are. And that’s just like that’s a Lucuna in the middle of the movie that in a lesser film, I think would feel really frustrating. And in a movie sort of this controlled and careful and interesting you know, just opens up space in an interesting way. The, you know, the this feels like a world in which people are living and acting outside the confines of the frame.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:00

    Right? And, you know, there have been a couple of reviews that or even sort of jokey pieces that get at this in a way. You know, I think Anthony Lane talked about, you know, Lydia Targestrip being alive in a fundamental way. Vulture ran an extremely funny listical. It’s like forty seven facts about with the guitar or it’s like sort of reactionary figure.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:19

    But
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:20

    the
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:20

    the movie is sort of ambiquities and the things that it refuses to answer rather than feeling like holes really lend themselves to a sense that this is a real movie about real people. And, you know, so do its ambiguity. Right? I mean, because for all, this is, you know, a, you know, visually big, sonically big movie. It’s also very confined to Lydia’s perspective.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:44

    Right? And I think one of the things that’s fascinating about it as a me too story is that it’s a me too story from the perspective of the predator. Right? From the perspective of someone who is you know, radically compartmentalized in certain ways who uses her power in ways like she clearly, you know, is able to not think about at various times And, you know, I think that it’s very I think field can do that in part because his character is a woman. Like, if you pitched a movie, it’s like, why don’t you spend two almost three hours inside the head of Harvey Weinstein?
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:21

    Like, most people would just revolted that. They wouldn’t wanna do it. And so to have this be a woman, have it be someone who’s transgressions, if not, you know, if not illuminated, seemed to be like, it does not seem like Lydia Tarr is a serial rapist. Right? It seems like she is someone who probably has had inappropriate relationships with some of her students and subordinates of the sort that, like, may have seemed consensual to the younger participants at the time, but seem to be less so in retrospect.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:49

    But it creates this, you know, this this is a character who people are willing to spend time with. Even though she’s clearly not a good person on a lot of levels. And the movie is also very good at tricking you into sympathizing with her. Like, Sunny, you, like me, are a parent, like, tell me you didn’t crack up a little bit in that scene where she’s, like, threatening the other kid on the playground.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:09

    Right. Totally. Yeah. Right? It’s like
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:11

    it’s I mean, she’s next you know, in that scene, Lydia is expressing an impulse. So I think, like, every parent has had occasionally But almost all of us are just like too socialized, too indulged. Right? Like, neither of us would ever go up and be like, I’m gonna get you. I wanna make you disappear.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:30

    Right? Like Well, it’s funny.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:31

    The way I described that in my review was I as cathartically bitchy, Yeah. Because that’s it is it it’s, like, inappropriate on a very serious level, but there’s a catharsis to it that you feel internally that, like, maybe makes you feel bad about yourself. Yeah. You’re, like, yes. I get it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:47

    Yeah. Exactly. And, you know, if the movie has a weakness, I do actually think it’s that scene at juilliard which is really slammed it. Right? I mean, a kid who’s at martial art is gonna have like some level of interest in music.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:02

    And might, you know, render it articulately when confronted with someone sort of at Tar’s level. But the scene is so skewed. That it becomes less interesting. Right? I mean, Lydia doesn’t like, Lydia doesn’t have to defend anything here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:21

    I mean, because the argument is totally insubstantial. It’s non existent. And so, you know, the display of intellectual firepower that she supposedly unleashes on this kid is actually a little bit substance free because it’s meeting with no real challenge. And so it could be and I think the scene is defensible in the sense that the movie takes place so narrowly for most of it from within Lydia’s perspective. That to a certain extent that seem to be sort of what she hears as opposed to what the kid actually says.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:51

    But I think it actually diminishes her to have that scene written as sort of flimsily as it is. Can I ask a question
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:59

    about this? Because I feel like that’s actually kind of point of the scene. I think I think at least part of the point of the scene here is, like, she is destroying this kid. And again, while it is, like, pathetic, So as somebody who agrees with her and, like, thinks that the and it thinks that Max, the kitting question is, like, kind of a sniveling dork like, is a decent stand in for people who believe that sort of thing in general. I do I I I think that the whole point of that scene to be like, look at her essentially abusing her power.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:28

    Like, she is she is abusing her power in a very real way here because a teacher should not treat even an idiot student like that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:35

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:35

    There’s no kindness in it, but there’s something else in that scene that I think is actually really important to focus on. I liked it better, I think, than Alyssa, that particular scene. She goes up to the piano when she’s trying to show him classical sort of more classical music and the value of it. And she asked does this thing where she this schick that sort of becomes relevant throughout the whole movie is, what is the artist’s intention? But that she plays the same works several different ways.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:02

    She’s interpreting the artist. And and like in in the process, she’s showing you that the exact same thing could be interpreted multiple ways without fundamentally changing the notes, the meter, the red light, it’s the same song. It’s just played different ways. Through a different through from a different perspective. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:24

    There’s you can do it as ragtime. You can do it as jazz. You can do it as you know sort of a lush, you know, kind of a symphonic classical. And this is something that the movie is sort of, again, very tricky about in that on the one hand, it seems to be saying, well, we always need to ask what the artists, you know, What was the artist thinking? What was their intention?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:44

    And then it it’s also always telling us that the artist’s intention is not something we can necessarily access. That we are inevitably seeing and hearing everything through some sort of interpretive lens and that interpretation colors how we understand what is happening. And so the question I wanna ask you guys is, what is the worst thing that Tarr does. Because when you think about it, when you she she seems like somebody who is certainly abusing of her power in certain ways. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:25

    Like, it I I agree that the that that seen a juilliard shows, like, that’s not it’s not necessarily wildly out of bounds behavior. Right? Like, for a for a teacher to just sort of lord over their students. At the same time, it shows no kindness. It is it’s not it’s not particularly nice.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:42

    It’s not right sort of like it it’s suggestive of her character, the scene with the kid. Again, That is that is a a kind of abuse of power. Right? For sure. But it’s not It’s But as you said, Sunny, like there’s something cathartic about it, we
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:00

    don’t
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:01

    ever see her. Actually manipulating the students who she is supposed to have either sort of slipped with or whatever. Right? We don’t this is that’s all being filtered through the New York Post, which we, you know, we as journalists have complicated you know, we could, like, spend a lot of time on does it mean there’s super no, but we’re the the the way the movie presents the New York Post is, oh, that’s a gossip ride. You don’t you shouldn’t necessarily believe everything that they print there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:29

    To be clear, we don’t need to spend a lot of time on the New York Post and it’s journalist standards here. But that’s how the movie presents it. And I’m not saying that the movie is telling us, to be I I really wanna be clear. The movie I don’t believe that the movie is definitely telling us actually all this stuff is made up. But I think there’s a way in which you can look at this and come away thinking, oh, man, she’s really she’s obviously kind of a manipulative, power abusing monster.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:55

    And then you think back about what the movie actually shows us that she actually does on screen where we can see it. And it’s not it’s not that she comes across as a particularly nice person or as somebody who is very kind and supportive. But there’s also that scene, you know, with her mentor
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:13

    who
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:14

    who talks about sexual assault allegations or sort of a you know, that sort of thing in the Custical Music Community in which he says, well, you know these days, allegations are a substitute for evidence. This movie has a lot of allegations. Does it provide us with a lot of evidence? I
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:32

    mean, the the closest thing to tangible evidence, two there are two different things. One is the fact that she’s clearly haunted by this girl in her dreams. I mean, we get we get flashes of that glimpses of that. And it’s it’s hard to say. It’s it’s again, it’s up to interpretation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:46

    You couldn’t say for sure what that actually means. Anyone who has ever
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:50

    had a disturbing relationship even with an online troll can under and possibly being haunted by that person in your dreams, especially if you at one point knew that person again. I’m I’m not saying the movie is telling to clear. You ask I’m not saying that you answered the question. Can I answer the question? Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:05

    Alright. So the the the other two things, we see her deleting all the emails where she is like, clearly, torpedoed this girl’s career. It’s it’s open to question again whether or not she was being truthful. And then the the other thing is the assistant who clearly believed that they had some sort of, like, possibly, throw pull like relationship They they spent a lot of time together in that cabin. They were very close.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:31

    She doesn’t come right out and say that they were in and intimate sexual relationship, but it is very clearly, I think, on the
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:39

    edges of that conversation, that Tar shuts down immediately. It’s implied, but it’s not stated. And you can imagine that that it’s that a trio of artists might have had a different sort of very intimate ship. Though I don’t know that I necessarily subscribed to that interpretation. I’m just saying that this movie is so incredibly precise and tricky about what it presents.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:03

    And that it even if you, I think, are watching this movie very closely and sort of alive to the ways to the ambiguity and to the the the things that it doesn’t tell you. You come away with some sort of impression and then you you think back, well, what what is my evidence for that impression? And it’s always there’s something sort of not that the movie isn’t quite giving you. You’re always reading into implications, and that is the movie is in part about is the is the ways in which we inevitably are reading into implications of things. Well, and also she lies
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:34

    about being assaulted. Right? Like, that’s the movie deals with that in very strange way. Like, it’s very odd that no one in her life, like, insists that there’d be a police investigation that she, like, go to the doctor. She
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:51

    lies,
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:52

    but maybe she’s just embarrassed and she’s trying to retain control over a difficult situation. You know, she doesn’t exactly want to tell people that she followed her student. I’m I I understand that I’m, like, pushing a somewhat you know, aggressive interpretation here. At the same time, this is a movie about the ways that in which aggressive interpretation is inherent in the way we see everything and the way we understand the characters of these purported monsters. But
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:22

    that’s part of the point I’m making. Right? If this is a movie that, you know, sort of lulls you into believe it into believing something that may not be true, than to have them in character making a false accusation that we know to be false is very interesting to have on screen. Right? It’s like it’s you know, again, it’s one of those sort of ambiguity that I think plays nicely into what you’re saying.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:42

    And I would actually argue that like lying about being assaulted is one of the things that she does in the movie because it causes other people fear and anxiety, and because politically false accusations are so, you know, are a damaging thing to have
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:59

    out there. I
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:59

    mean, I think, like, actually the worst thing she does is string Francesca along and then not give her the promotion that she promised. And, like, clearly, had suggested was in the offing. No. I think the
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:12

    worst she does is the audition for the cellist solo because that’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:16

    the thing that, like,
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:17

    destroys her with with the rest of the I mean, in terms of, like I I mean, I don’t know about morally the worst, but it’s the thing that is the worst for her in the movie because it destroys her position within the symphony. It shows to everybody else that she’s like putting her thumb on the scale for this person who she’s clearly infatuated with. And it plays into all of the other threads that are kind of hanging out there about what her MO was like with younger, less powerful
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:46

    people. Sunny asked at the very beginning what we made of that final scene, that final shot, which it pans out and she’s at, like, something like an anime convention, right, a cosplay convention at the end of the final shot of the movie. And there’s this great voice over that’s booms through the music. This is something that the effect of let no let no one judge you but yourself. And I think that that scene is about one of the other big things that we haven’t talked about which is just that this is a movie about self mythology and the and whether or not someone can sort of construct an identity.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:19

    Right? So one of the big reveals late in the film is that she’s not actually Lydia. She’s Linda, that she’s comes from this very humble background. That she’s built up this myth of herself as the genius authorized, you know, a conductor who who is the the one person who makes all the difference. And of course, the movie is constantly subtly signaling maybe not so suddenly in some cases that in fact her genius is the product of all of the people who go into making the thing that she does from her assistant on down to rest of the orchestra.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:53

    This is present even at the very beginning of the film. My favorite little touch here is the credit sequence where you hear just in voice over, you hear Lititar say to someone, sing as if there’s no microphone present, something to the effect. Something like that. And then the credits roll and they’re backwards and it’s all of the the below the line production people who made this movie possible from the crafts, you know, the the craftsman and the, you know, the folks bringing the food and the the drivers and all of it. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:25

    And it is just this extended thing that you can’t help but see. This is a movie in which the in which a huge number of people went into the recording and making of it. It’s not just touch field and Cape Blanchard. Genius is it’s all of the other people and it’s sort of crediting them because they are the microphone, and they are supposed to be invisible. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:46

    They’re supposed to be out of frame and you don’t see them, but the movie forces you from the very very beginning to see that that this is a product, even this relatively small budget sort of movie that not a lot of people are gonna see. This is a product of of dozens, if not hundreds of craftsman and artisans. And it’s just a genius little touch that the movie reinforces
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:10

    all throughout. So what do we think? Thumbs up for thumbs down, Peter. Great movie. Thumbs
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:12

    up. Alyssa. Same.
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:13

    Two thumbs up. Thumbs up. Good
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:16

    movie. And hopefully, everyone goes to see it in a movie theater. I know that it’s tough to get folks. It it is long. It’s a two hour forty forty minutes or so, but it doesn’t feel that long.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:27

    So, you know, you should should treat yourself to to anything at the movies, get a get a sitter for the kids, and then threaten the kids with disappearance if they
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:37

    don’t behalf for
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:37

    the center. Alright. That is it for this week’s show. Make sure to swing by at m a dot forward dot com for our bonus episode on Friday. Make sure to tell your friends recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:48

    If we don’t grow, we’ll die. If you did not love two days episode, please complain to me on Twitter at sunybun chalkam into that. That is a backfetch show in your podcast feed. See
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:59

    you guys next week.
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