Cate Blanchett is a powerhouse performer, as proven by her two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three BAFTAs, among countless other nominations.
The Australian actress is now back with a film that strays from the mainstream but displays her talent in a way that she has never done before. “Manifesto” is extremely unconventional yet extraordinary and serves a springboard for Blanchett to showcase her talent, further convincing me to see every film she has ever been in or will ever make for the rest of her career.
Theatrical in its performance-driven style and gothic in nature, “Manifesto” is a series of vignettes starring Blanchett who recites monologues derived from famous 20th Century art movements. In every sense of the word, Blanchett carries the weight of the film on her shoulders as she is the sole focus of every scene. She takes on thirteen different contemporary personas– from homeless man to choreographer to anchorwoman– in order to “modernize” the manifestos of the past as well as show lasting relevance in today’s world.
The visionary mastermind behind the camera is director Julian Rosefeldt, a German visual artist whose past grandiose video installations serve as a precursor to this feature. In addition to directing, Rosefeldt also wrote and produced the film (although it’s fair to say that technically the script was, for the most part, already “written” since it is a compilation of various historical works from past writers.) I can honestly say that I have never seen more beautiful locations or intricate attention to detail than in “Manifesto.” I could re-watch it multiple times for visual inspiration alone.
Blanchett brings the star power and talent, Rosefeldt brings the vision, and together, they create an experimental tour de force.
As magical as the film is visually, “Manifesto” is equally as wonderful due to the many inspirational one-liners that are sure to resonate with your inner-creative. Personally, the one that most connected with me comes from Jim Jarmusch’s essay, “5 Golden Rules of Moviemaking.” His fifth rule states “nothing is original,” and he ends the manifesto with one of Jean-Luc Godard’s infamous quotes— ‘It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.’ In this scene, Blanchett plays a schoolteacher who is passionately educating her students on the freedom that art should elicit in both the work as well as in the artist. It is a memorable scene with more than one strong takeaway.
If you’re looking for a film that is neat and tidy with any sort of narrative structure, “Manifesto” is not that film and would stand a good chance of driving you crazy. With no direct plotline to speak of, the single thread tying the film together is the rhetorical question of “What is art” along with the various manifestos that seek to answer that question. The vignettes, while absolutely picturesque, have no relation from one scene to the next and audience members trying to instill deeper meaning may only be left confused. The artistic liberty that is executed here is commendable and wholly original but definitely not for the impatient.
That said, for those who enjoy avant-garde works of both art and film, “Manifesto” is a juicy bite of artistic vision. It is a colorful and vibrant call to action that stands to dissect the sanctity of art and challenges the viewer to question the authenticity of what we consider art to be today. Blanchett brings the star power and talent, Rosefeldt brings the vision, and together, they create an experimental tour de force. While on the surface it may seem like “Manifesto” only caters to niche “art house” enthusiasts, but if you consider yourself to possess any threads of creativity, I recommend exploring this unconventionally beautiful and stimulating work.
“Manifesto” is not rated. 95 minutes. Opening this Friday at the Nuart Theater.