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‘Tár’: A Utopian Portrayal Of The Classical Music World

“There is NO more obvious expression of power than the performance of a conductor,” Elias Canetti says in his study of phenomena, Crowds and Power (1960). “Every detail of his public behavior throws light on the nature of power. Someone who knew nothing about power could discover all of its attributes, one after another, by careful observation of a conductor.” He then describes how the conductor subdues the music from a standing position while the orchestra sits in front of them, and the audience sits behind. “His hands decree and prohibit [. . .] and since, during the performance, nothing is supposed to exist except this work, for so long is the conductor ruler of the world.”

Canetti was referring to conductor Hermann Scherchen (1891-1966), but his words could just as easily introduce Lydia Tár, the protagonist of Todd Field’s very long and highly acclaimed movie starring Cate Blanchett, who received a best actress nomination for her performance. But Canetti’s beautiful and anachronistic profile, which he develops in the third volume of his memoirs, The Play of the Eyes, has little to do with the vulgar parody of a conductor portrayed in the film. Canetti’s precision in describing Scherchen, based on scant biographical data and accentuating a few character traits such as a hunger for knowledge, a passion for difficulty and an eagerness to control, contrasts with the superficial, egomaniacal, tic-ridden woman depicted at the beginning of Tár.

Field introduces Lydia Tár in an unlikely public conversation with The New Yorker journalist, Adam Gopnik. Gopnik comes over as authentic, but the interview is anything but. Aside from being a leading ethnomusicologist and a multi-award-winning composer who has won the EGOT – the four most important awards in the entertainment industry: the Emmy, the Grammy, the Oscar and the Tony – Lydia Tár has conducted the US’ five greatest symphony orchestras – Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and New York – and has been at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic for almost a decade. Needless to say, this is an impossible trajectory for a conductor, be they male, female or extraterrestrial. Then Lydia Tár touches on the composer Gustav Mahler and his Fifth Symphony, whose order of movements continue to cause controversy, but whose “mystery” is no less than that posed by the Sixth. But even the famous dedication of the Fifth to his wife Alma, to which Lydia Tár refers, becomes more mysterious in the Sixth: a musical portrait in F major.

She then comments on a reference to Mahler made by Leonard Bernstein, who was supposedly her teacher. She relates his view of Mahler to Judaism, but forgets the explanations he gave in his famous Norton Lectures at Harvard in which he considers him a kind of prophet who predicted the horrors of the 20th century. Most amusing, however, is her reference to the tempo and duration of Mahler’s famous Adagietto. Lydia Tár rejects Bernstein’s slowness, alluding to the rendition at Robert Kennedy’s funeral, and opts to conduct it much faster. She proposes it last seven minutes, which is faster even than Bruno Walter’s 1947 New York recording. But the tempo we hear in her rehearsal, and which is included on the Deutsche Grammophon CD featuring the film’s soundtrack, is even slower than Bernstein’s.

Much more serious is Lydia Tár’s portrayal of orchestral conducting. Apart from the easy laugh at a student’s expense, Tár speaks of a utopian world where there is no gender issue on the dais. Would it were so, but the reality is quite different. In response to Field’s film, British conductor Emma Warren used an anecdote in an article in The Guardian challenging this view: “Recently, I conducted a concert in a long-sleeved, full-length, loose-fitting dress – not that it should matter what I was wearing – and afterwards was approached by an older audience member, who told me that he liked watching my bum wiggle as I conducted.”

It was just seven years ago that EL PAÍS wrote about the appointment of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla in Birmingham – who will make her debut next season at Madrid’s Royal Theater – a conductor who embodies a new female archetype on the podium. But the dominant stereotype associated with conducting is male, and the presence of a woman at the helm of a major orchestra is still news. The film Tár does nothing to address this fact if it simply reproduces the worst attributes of the egomaniacal, manipulative, alpha-male conductor in female form.

The deliberate emulation of the male conductor is clear from the start of Tár in a sequence in which Lydia Tár selects the image she is going to assume in her next recording. Among multiple Mahler LP’s lying on the floor, mostly featuring great conductors of the past – the most current being Gustavo Dudamel – she opts for the famous recording of Claudio Abbado conducting Mahler’s Fifth in Berlin.

Lydia Tár’s conducting is stilted and implausible when we see her during rehearsals in front of musicians from the Dresden Philharmonic, who are representing the Berlin Philharmonic in the movie. And the gesture that marks the start of funeral march of the first movement of Mahler’s Fifth, also used as a poster in the film, seems as overacted and superficial as Lydia Tár’s entire character.

Cate Blanchett is not credible as an orchestra conductor at any point during the film. And everything around her merely adds to a distorted image of the profession. Her assistant Francesca as a disciple is not believable, the character of Eliot Kaplan – in reference to the benefactor Gilbert Kaplan – is ridiculous, her veteran predecessor Andris Davis becomes tiresome with his saccharine anecdotes from the past, no conductor has an assistant as old as Sebastian and the relationship she has with her wife and concertmaster, Sharon, is not plausible either. Perhaps the only believable character is the mysterious Olga, played by the Anglo-German cellist, Sophie Kauer. Missing is the presence of the executive director, who manages the relationship of any conductor with an orchestra.

It is clear that the character of Lydia Tár is fictitious. Field tries to make her authentic but the result is a clumsy, old-fashioned portrait of orchestral conducting. There are simply no conductors like her anymore, male or female, however much the history of her downfall feels familiar. The myth of the maestro has been relegated to the past. And, for quite a few years now, major orchestras have been more interested in conductors who motivate and inspire, who come to the job with a mature rather than glamorous approach. This became clear in 2015 when the members of the Berlin Philharmonic chose a complete unknown, named Kirill Petrenko, as their new incumbent.

Nicholas Logie explained this change of mentality, in 2013, in The Role of Leadership in Orchestra Conducting, published by Scholars’ Press. Cristina Simón, meanwhile, is working on a doctoral thesis at La Rioja University, where she applies the theory of transformational leadership to explain the current collaborative relationship between orchestras and conductors. It is precisely this change in the conductor’s leadership style, together with the disappearance of such harmful characters as Lydia Tár, that is allowing us to see more and more women on the dais of the best orchestras in the world.

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How Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins Is Revolutionizing The Fashion Modeling

Emergence of AI-Generated Virtual Twins

The Voice Of EU | In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion modeling, a groundbreaking innovation has emerged: the creation of virtual twins through the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This technological advancement has already made waves in the industry, exemplified by the case of Alexsandrah, a renowned model who has seamlessly integrated her AI counterpart into her professional endeavors. The implications of this development are far-reaching, reshaping not only the creative landscape but also the economic and ethical dimensions of the fashion world.

Alexsandrah, known professionally by her first name, stands as a pioneer in this new era of modeling. She proudly shares that her digital twin mirrors her appearance “even down to the baby hairs,” blurring the lines between reality and simulation. This symbiotic relationship between the human model and her AI counterpart signifies a transformative shift propelled by AI technology.

Advocates of AI-generated modeling argue that its increasing prevalence promotes diversity and inclusivity within the fashion industry. By showcasing a wider range of body types and underrepresented demographics, AI models empower consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions, ultimately reducing fashion waste stemming from product returns. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of digital modeling presents economic opportunities for both companies and individuals seeking to leverage this innovative technology.

However, amidst the promise of progress, critics voice concerns regarding the potential ramifications of AI modeling. The displacement of human models, makeup artists, and photographers looms large, raising questions about job security and ethical implications. Furthermore, there is apprehension that unsuspecting consumers may be deceived into mistaking AI models for real individuals, undermining transparency and authenticity in the industry.

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

London-based model Alexsandrah has a twin, but not in the way you’d expect

Sara Ziff, a former fashion model and founder of the Model Alliance, underscores the pressing need to address these concerns. She highlights the risk of distorting racial representation and marginalizing models of color through the uncritical adoption of AI technology. Indeed, data indicates that women, especially those from underrepresented groups, are disproportionately affected by the advent of AI in modeling, further exacerbating existing disparities in the industry.

The case of iconic denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. illustrates the nuanced stance that companies are taking towards AI-generated models. While initial experiments with AI models aimed to diversify representation, backlash prompted a reevaluation of their approach. Levi reaffirmed its commitment to live photo shoots and human models, signaling a cautious approach to AI integration in its operations.

Despite varying responses from industry players, the demand for AI-generated models continues to grow. Companies like Lalaland.ai, founded by Michael Musandu, are at the forefront of this technological revolution. Musandu emphasizes the complementary nature of AI models, envisioning them as supplements rather than replacements for traditional photo shoots. He underscores the potential of AI to enhance the shopping experience, reduce product returns, and create new job opportunities within the industry.

The journey towards ethical AI implementation in fashion modeling is fraught with challenges, as highlighted by the experiences of models like Yve Edmond. Concerns regarding consent, compensation, and labor rights underscore the need for robust regulatory frameworks. The Model Alliance advocates for legislative measures to safeguard the rights of fashion workers, including provisions for informed consent and fair compensation in the realm of AI modeling.

Amidst the complexities and controversies surrounding AI-generated modeling, individuals like Alexsandrah navigate this new frontier with a sense of optimism tempered by vigilance. By fostering transparency, ethical use, and equitable compensation, AI has the potential to expand opportunities for models of color and revolutionize the fashion industry. As stakeholders grapple with the ethical and economic implications of this technology, the journey towards a more inclusive and sustainable future for fashion modeling continues.


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Top 10 most profitable places in Britain for holiday rentals

The most profitable locations in Britain for holiday rentals has been revealed – and the majority are not located anywhere near a beach.

Staycation favourite Cornwall is top of the rankings, with an average price per night of £84 for a room and £117 for a whole house.

A total of 476,910 bookings were made via popular holiday rental companies in the area last summer, according to analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the money website Wealth of Geeks.

The figures suggest that holiday lets in Cornwall took bookings worth £40million between the beginning of July and the end of September last year.

However, most of the top 10 are located in inner London, the research showed.

The most profitable locations for buy-to-let have been revealed, with staycation favourite Cornwall at the top of the rankings

The list of top ten places also includes several areas in London, including Westminster in second place.

The average price of renting a holiday let in Westminster is £133 a night for a room and £435 for a house.

With 304,790 holiday let bookings, it produces a revenue for the area in the heart of London’s west end of £34,441,270 for the summer period last year.

The calculations were based on bookings on Airbnb, Booking.com and the Expedia Group, with data taken from the Office for National Statistics.

The rental prices, meanwhile, were taken from Airbnb across 388 British towns, and the total revenue was calculated by multiplying the number of nights with the nightly cost of a room on Airbnb.

The revenue did not take into account any costs of running a holiday let, such as repairs and maintenance, nor did it factor in property prices.

All of the remaining locations in the top ten were in London except for one on the south coast.

This was Brighton and Hove, where average rental prices per night were £100 for a room.

In total, the data suggested that the British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023.

Michael Dinich, of Wealth of Geeks, said: ‘Holiday rentals play a vital role in the UK’s tourism industry by supporting local economies, providing accommodation to enhance visitor experience, and promoting tourism in diverse regions across the country.

‘Tourism also helps to promote awareness of lesser-known areas, helping to distribute tourist spending more evenly across the country.

‘While some destinations may experience seasonal fluctuations in tourism often in the summer months, holiday rentals attract visit year-round, helping to sustain economies and businesses during off-peak seasons.’

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year's Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped

The findings show that those looking to invest in the holiday lets market need to do their sums carefully before taking the plunge and committing to a particular area.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, explained: ‘This data shows that it’s not just the prospect of beaches and more reliable weather which drives profitability.

‘It’s not just traditionally popular holiday destinations which produce the best returns so it’s vital that would-be landlords do their research carefully before investing.

‘The ability to make money depends on supply and demand, not just the attributes of an area.

‘At what level a landlord can rent their property for, after taking into account all expenses, is key and explains why areas such as Westminster and Camden are proving profitable, where they may lack the charm of a traditional UK holiday destination such as Cornwall.’

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

The British holiday rental market made £739,211,390, during the summer of 2023, according to the latest data

Tax crackdown

The data on the most profitable holiday lets follows a crackdown on the sector by the Chancellor.

Jeremy Hunt announced in this year’s Budget that the tax relief available for furnished holiday lets would be scrapped to help improve the availability of long-term rentals.

The move is due to come into force at the beginning of April next year and is widely seen as a way of bringing the tax regime of shorter-term lets more in line with longer term rentals.

Experts operating in the sector insisted that holiday rentals remained in demand ahead of the changes.

Graham Donoghue, of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: ‘Staycations have been growing in popularity over the past decade and right now demand for our UK holiday cottages is higher than ever, with the average annual income of a holiday let owner up as a result.

‘Hotspot locations like Yorkshire, Cumbria, and Cornwall continue to see considerable demand and bookings across the UK for our holiday cottages have been up 11 per cent during the current Easter school holidays.

‘The demand we’re witnessing is particularly good news for our holiday let owners who have faced their own set of challenges recently. Despite changes, which we are carefully guiding our owners through, it’s clear that holiday letting remains a profitable and rewarding long-term business model.’

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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel makes directorial debut with a delicious stab at action cinema

Dev Patel has always had an intelligent glint in his eye. From his big screen debut in Slumdog Millionaire to his role as a journalist in Aaron Sorkin’s series The Newsroom, the British actor usually brings a sense of peace, calm and intelligence to his performances. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that, at 32, he has made his directorial debut with a film in favor of social outcasts, which he also produces, co-writes and stars in. The surprise is its genre: Monkey Man is a fierce action and martial arts film, revolving around hand-to-hand combat, dismemberment and knife fights.

Patel returns to India, the land of his ancestors, for his story of revenge that is strengthened by the creative arsenal applied to its sequences — and not only those of combat. While there was a serious lack of design in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, one of the worst choices for Oscar for Best Film in Oscar history, Monkey Man has at its heart a physical and moral entanglement, involving a sadistic police chief, a luxury brothel that serves as home to both fornication and power, and a ragged young man who seeks to atone for the death of his mother through the most savage forms of violence.

Monkey Man is also set in a slum overrun by gambling and fights, with Patel earning a few rupees as an underground bare fist fighter wearing a crude monkey mask. With its colors and the camera’s handling of Bombay’s chaos, the movie has echoes of Brazil’s City of God.

Image from the movie 'Monkey Man.'
Image from the movie ‘Monkey Man.’Universal Pictures

A comparison can also easily be made with the John Wick saga, which has revolutionized commercial action and martial arts cinema in the past 10 years. Patel even mentions John Wick in one on-screen exchange. Yet, despite the similarities, the staging and editing of their spectacular fight sequences set them apart. In the four installments of the John Wick movies starring Keanu Reeves, the choreography regarding the confrontations is developed through a paradoxically harmonious staging of continuity, with general shots extended in time. The dynamics of their contenders and their movements are visualized with hardly any editing, almost like a classic fifties musical but instead of dances, there is physical destruction.

The action in Monkey Man, on the other hand, is not one of continuity, but of rupture. The cuts are incessant and move at an unrestrained pace; the shots come in quick succession, with barely a second or two between them. Patel’s handling of cinematic language is brutal. For a novice director, he displays a dazzling energy, cadence and expressiveness. This is demonstrated by three of the only four fights in the ring, each one based on a dynamic sense of space and narrative. The first is defined by the close-up shot, with the camera directed at the waist of the opponents or even lower — giving the viewers a sense of overwhelming closeness. The second offers a very different vision of the fight, which is both more poetic and exquisite. And the third uses surprise as the main exponent, and is raw and concise.

With rough textures, contrasting colors and ochre photography, reflecting the social mud in which most of the characters are stuck, Monkey Man only slips off kilter in the second half, when the Hindu demigod, Hanuman, assumes the tragic halo that envelops the protagonist. Although it gives him authenticity with respect to his lineage, the visualization is tinged with a somewhat tiresome messianic muddle of lyrical ambition.

Monkey Man

Director: Dev Patel.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhuliwala.

Genre: Action. United States, 2024.

Duration: 121 minutes

Release date: April 12.


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