Originally a multi-screen installation for exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Manifesto belongs more to Cate Blanchett than to director Julian Rosefeldt.
Split into thirteen segments, Blanchett enters the skin of multitudinous characters, each espousing another artistic principle. A showcase most thespians could only dream of, she absolutely fills the frame, imbuing proceedings with the pure joy of an artist given free reign to explore their talent.
Each segment was designed to play simultaneously with the others in the project’s original form, though the limits of cinema mean what is shown here is a condensed, free-flowing composite running just over 90 minutes. It’s easy to imagine how the work’s fundamental nature has been obscured in its transition from the galleries to the picture houses.
Covering prevailing ideologies like minimalism, surrealism, and architecture, alongside more esoteric bedfellows like dadaism, stridentism, or vorticism (don’t ask), it’s a heady, complex and often-impenetrable piece. Much of what Rosefeldt intended appears obscured behind the need to conform to cinematic expectations.
Blanchett delivers throughout, though, as a leering punk, an overbearing choreographer, a prissy news reporter, or a raging homeless man. Her performances extend beyond the heavy, showboating prosthetics and costuming into living, breathing performative creations.
Entertainment value emerges in how the philosophies espoused are at odds with the characters espousing them – such as a conservative mother praying to the gods of pop art – and some of the editing means different characters and ideas communicate in the abstract. But the cinematic form seems ill suited to such ambitions, as the lack of coherence often leads to inaccessibility and confusion.
There is only one Cate Blanchett. Unless there’s thirteen. She has never been better, inhabiting a smorgasbord of personas, but Rosefeldt’s curatorial ambitions belong in a gallery, not in cinemas.
CAST: Cate Blanchett
DIRECTOR: Julian Rosefeldt
WRITER: Julian Rosefeldt
SYNOPSIS: Cate Blanchett performs manifestos as a series of striking monologues.