MAN­I­FESTO, drama, not rated, The Screen,

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Man­i­festo Man­i­festo Cof­fee

“Man­i­festo: noun; plu­ral, man­i­festos; pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion of pol­icy and aims by a party, group, or in­di­vid­ual.”

This dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion opens Julian Rose­feldt’s film, in which there’s an in-your-face ar­ro­gance to the direc­tor’s fugue of man­i­festos from the worlds of art and pol­i­tics. “Get it or not,” he seems to be say­ing, “I don’t care.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will de­pend on your perspective. If you are in­trigued enough by the con­cept and the sub­ject mat­ter to go see this film, you’re prob­a­bly half­way to em­brac­ing it.

Rose­feldt, a Ger­man video artist, first mounted this smor­gas­bord of dec­la­ra­tions of prin­ci­ples as an art in­stal­la­tion. It has toured world cities, and was ex­hib­ited in this coun­try in 2015 at Man­hat­tan’s Park Av­enue Ar­mory. In in­stal­la­tion form, as­sem­bled a dozen screens, each si­mul­ta­ne­ously pre­sent­ing a 10-minute video of the Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Cate Blanchett as a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter, spout­ing the dec­la­ra­tions of var­i­ous thinkers on art — the ex­cep­tion, and the only en­try that pre­dates the 20th cen­tury, is from the mother of all man­i­festos, the 1848 Marx-En­gels Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo.

In the con­ver­sion of this project from in­stal­la­tion into film form, the el­e­ment of viewer choice is lost, and we move through the ma­te­rial in the hands of the direc­tor as tour guide. Some­times the con­texts he chooses seem fairly lit­eral; more typ­i­cally, they are in some strange and of­ten amus­ing coun­ter­point to the ma­te­rial. He opens with a home­less man (Blanchett) shuf­fling through post-apoc­a­lyp­tic ur­ban fac­tory des­o­la­tion and mut­ter­ing the Marx­ist pre­dic­tion of the im­pend­ing col­lapse of cap­i­tal­ism. Other Blanchet­tin­hab­ited characters in­clude a re­li­gious South­ern mother recit­ing, as an end­less din­ner ta­ble grace, Claes Olden­burg’s 1961 es­say for an ex­hi­bi­tion cat­a­log, “I Am For…” (Olden­burg de­nied that this was in­tended as a man­i­festo, ad­mit­ting, “I don’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve all those things.”) Dressed in mourn­ing as a widow at a fu­neral, Blanchett de­liv­ers an angry ni­hilist Dada ha­rangue. Again in black, she ap­pears as a tur­baned Rus­sian chore­og­ra­pher haugh­tily in­struct­ing a corps de bal­let, cos­tumed in white as space aliens, that “Life is the art­work, and the art­work is life,” from the mid-’60s Fluxus dec­la­ra­tion of artis­tic prin­ci­ples. A pri­mary school teacher moves among the desks of her class­room. “Noth­ing is orig­i­nal. OK? So you can steal from any­where,” she tells them. “I want you to re­mem­ber what Jean-Luc Go­dard said. All right? ‘It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to!’” Other philo­soph­i­cal trea­tises are de­liv­ered from such guises as a punk rocker, a stock an­a­lyst, and a pup­peteer.

A ma­jor stum­bling block for the au­di­ence is Rose­feldt’s de­ci­sion not to iden­tify the source ma­te­rial un­til the end cred­its. Some of what you hear may sound fa­mil­iar, but much of it will not, and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion gets fur­ther com­pli­cated by Rose­feldt’s mix­ing and in­ter­spers­ing bits and pieces from a va­ri­ety of sources. In a 2015 in­ter­view, the artist ex­plained:

“I started to play with the texts and to edit, com­bine, and re­ar­range them into new texts that could be spo­ken and per­formed. I like to imag­ine these texts as the words of a bunch of friends sit­ting around a ta­ble in a bar talk­ing and ar­gu­ing. They are com­ple­ment­ing each other in a play­ful way. One may say ‘Down with this or that …’ and the other replies, ‘Yes, to hell with …’ I would take a sen­tence by one artist and in­ter­rupt it with the words of an­other one. Some­times they would fit per­fectly. The words took on a new en­ergy when com­bined, and if you start to read the text like that it also be­comes more vivid and more speak­able.”

Blanchett’s chameleonic vir­tu­oso turn in these gen­der-hop­ping roles is the glue that binds it all to­gether. She’s played a man be­fore — Bob Dy­lan in I’m Not There — and had mul­ti­ple roles in and Cig­a­rettes, but here it’s all Blanchett all the time. The breadth of her range is daz­zling, as she teams up with the makeup and cos­tume de­part­ments to cre­ate these 13 characters (there are 12 set­tings, some re­vis­ited sev­eral times; and in one, she plays two dif­fer­ent characters, a red­headed tele­vi­sion news an­chor and a blonde weather re­porter stand­ing un­der an um­brella in a down­pour).

is not a one-size-fits-all pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment. It should find a rap­tur­ous fol­low­ing among those in the Santa Fe art world. In the seg­ment that shows Blanchett as a pup­peteer, she is seen putting the fin­ish­ing touches on a pup­pet of her­self. She af­fixes the wig, driv­ing long push­pins into the fig­ure’s skull. If you are not the au­di­ence for whom this ex­plo­ration of art man­i­festos is in­tended, that may prove an apt vis­ual metaphor. — Jonathan Richards

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