Strident art-school polemics make their way to the multiplex in the unwieldy cinematic hybrid Manifesto. I know what you’re thinking: Finally!
If you’ve heard anything about German director Julian Rosefeldt’s experimental new film, it’s probably because it began its life as a museum piece and features Cate Blanchett playing 13 different characters with as many accents. And to be fair, she’s totally fearless in every incarnation. But the film itself is mostly a didactic, disjointed endurance test. Rosefeldt has set out to catalog the various art movements of the 20th century with his chameleonic, Academy Award-winning muse mouthing their fiery declarations against ironic backdrops. For a few minutes she’s a homeless person wandering among blasted-out factories spouting anticapitalist situationist doggerel; then she’s a mourner at a funeral delivering a dadaist eulogy; then she’s a wasted punk rocker snarling the avant-garde battle cry “To the electric chair with Chopin!” A little of this goes a long way. At least there’s Christoph Krauss’ gorgeous cinematography.
The goal of any manifesto is making its aims as clear as possible. But it’s never clear what this Manifesto is aiming for besides a cheeky roll call of intellectual camps. Ph.D.s in art theory will chuckle knowingly as everyone else eyes the exit. C