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Monday, September 26, 2022

The ‘Women Talking’ panel and other topics of conversation were presented during the Telluride Film Festival

Telluride’s top films sometimes reach the highest possible level of cinematic quality. In 2016, when I saw “Moonlight” for the first time at a festival, I had the same feelings. After the bright closing scene, there was an eerie stillness that enveloped the whole theatre that was unlike anything else I’ve encountered in a lifetime of attending to the movies. It appeared to reflect the group’s realisation of a newly discovered sense, one that blends recognition and revelation into a single sensation.

Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” which is a loving and rigorous adaptation of a book written in 2018 by the Canadian author Miriam Toews, left me with a similar feeling towards the film’s conclusion. These are two quite distinct movies, and I don’t want to make too strong of a comparison between them. But what “Women Talking” and “Moonlight” have in common is a laser-like focus on the particulars of the tale and location, which still shed light on a huge, uncharted area of modern existence. It seems as if one has only now come to terms with a fact that has always been there.

The reality shown in “Women Talking” is that women are subjected to sexual assault. The events of the movie take place in a Mennonite colony that has recently come under scrutiny for a series of horrific rapes. These rapes were committed by some of the men in the community against dozens of women and young girls. The victims were attacked in their own beds after being drugged with a cattle tranquillizer before the assaults took place. A gathering of women takes place in order to choose an appropriate response. The option of doing nothing has already been eliminated thanks to a vote cast only by the ladies of the colony, so the remaining options are to either stay and put up a fight or pack up and go.

The reality shown in “Women Talking” is that women are subjected to sexual assault. The events of the movie take place in a Mennonite colony that has recently come under scrutiny for a series of horrific rapes. These rapes were committed by some of the men in the community against dozens of women and young girls. The victims were attacked in their own beds after being drugged with a cattle tranquillizer before the assaults took place. A gathering of women takes place in order to choose an appropriate response. The option of doing nothing has already been eliminated thanks to a vote cast only by the ladies of the colony, so the remaining options are to either stay and put up a fight or pack up and go.

The idea is straightforward and intriguing, but as the ladies discuss their choices, the intricacy of the situation in which they find themselves becomes more clear. They are well aware of the nature of the tyranny that they are subjected to, as well as the fact that it is tied to everything and everyone that they know and care about, including their religion, their community, as well as their husbands, brothers, and sons.

We also need more movies like “Tár,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie exactly like “Tár.” Its opening moments seem to promise an almost self-parodic tour of 21st-century highbrow culture. Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár, a world-famous conductor who is being interviewed by the real-life author Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker Festival. And while the air of philanthropically endowed luxury and ostentatiously understated good taste never quite dissipates — in fact, it intensifies once the action settles down in Berlin — an unruly and complicated artistic fervour rises to the surface. This is because of the fact that while the aura of luxury and good taste never quite dissipates, it also never quite disappears, either.

This fervour serves as both the topic and the impetus for Field’s work. By way of a rigorous and obsessive adherence to form, Lydia’s favourite music, which is mostly composed by Mahler, is capable of conveying intense and even tense feelings. Field, who has been away from directing for a significant amount of time, strikes a balance between Apollonian restraint and Dionysian exuberance. Similar to Lydia herself, “Tár” is both well managed and frighteningly wild at the same time. A renowned personality in culture is accused of engaging in predatory conduct, and this story serves in part as a #MeToo allegory about the need of maintaining personal and professional boundaries.

It has been pointed out by a disgruntled adherent that the surname of Lydia is an anagram for the word “art,” as well as the word “rat.” The search of beauty is fraught with danger because it forces us to reconcile our noblest goals with our basest inclinations. That is something that every person who enjoys watching movies is aware of, but it does not hurt to be reminded of it.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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