Dir.: Julian Rosefeldt; Cast: Cate Blanchett; Germany/Australia, 94′.
Writer/director Julian Rosefeldt (The Creation) transposes his installation of the same name to the big screen with this tour-de-force of ideas held together by Cate Blanchett, who appears in 13 different incarnations, breathing life into the tenets of Dadaism, Futurism and Suprematism and others whose credos enlightened the 20th century.
To say this is an odd film, is not an understatement. Apart from the lack of narrative, words and ideas dominate – despite Christoph Krauss’ images (mostly panorama shots from high above), which are stunning. When watching, it definitely helps to have some knowledge of art history and its movements, since the funny side of it all can only be appreciated with this background. MANIFESTO is, after all, a head-idea; an artificial construct which can be deciphered with pleasure – but some knowledge is simply a pre-condition.
It starts off with Blanchett playing a tramp, declaiming the Communist Manifest by Marx and Engels. Later, she changes into a bourgeois housewife, who lectures her family with a tract on the superiority of Pop Art. Husband and children are required by hee to fold their hands as in prayer, while they are waiting for mother to finish so they can start eating the turkey. Blanchett also plays a Primary school teacher, not only adamant that her kids learn about Jim Jarmush’ golden rules of filmmaking, but reminding them too, what JL Godard preached: “It is not where you take things from – it is where you take them to”. For good measure, the little ones also learn about the Von Trier/Vinterberg Dogma Manifesto: only handheld cameras, no artificial light. Blanchett also gives a staggering turn as a ballet master, directing a camp Busby Berkeley imitation of glitzy Martian girls dancing to a text about money distribution. And finally, there are two Cate’s at the same time at work in a TV studio: One is the anchor, who interviews the second Cate, who seems far away in the pouring rain, being interviewed on Conceptual Art, based on the text of Sol de Witt. When the interview is over, we discover that Cate II was in the studio next door, where the rain machine is switched off after the questioning finishes. MANIFESTO is certainly a great work offering endless subject for discussion – and musings are guaranteed for those who are in the know. For the rest, Blanchett’s performance is simply staggering. AS
OUT ON RELEASE FROM 15 NOVEMBER 2017 NATIONWIDE