The UnManifesto Manifesto of "Manifesto" (2017)
Julian Rosefeldt is a German fine artist. He teamed up with Cate Blanchett for this infinitely fascinating movie, titled "Manifesto." I knew instantly from the trailer this would be a movie I'd rushing out to see, and at least twice in theaters. Well, it was just released today. Some quick thoughts.
It's an excellent movie. Every critique I can think of is resolved in some manner by the movie. In many ways, it's a perfect film. I wouldn't wish it on just anybody. "Manifesto" seems best suited for, as Elihu Katz & Paul Lazarsfeld call them - personal influencers: that is, a movie for artists, community leaders, philosophers, professors, critics, etc.
The most enjoyable experience in the movie is at the very begin. So, soak it up. The practical abstract cinematography, the dreamy philosophical rantings, the fast-paced Godard-esque intro titles... The rest of the movie is a series of vignette-sequences, where the primary spectacle is in Cate Blanchett's energetic transformations into other characters - into different people entirely.
Her performance is absolutely Shakespearean. Yet, there's something really interesting going on. The result is a clear combination of Blanchett's training & Rosefeldt's vision. This Shakespeare connection seems to be on purpose: Rosefeldt takes what works within Shakespeare, which is the poetically-dense rapid-fire meta-monologue, but transforms it as to be medium specific to the cinema. Where a page of Shakespeare is just words, words words, "Manifesto" merges the fireworks of this kind of dialogue art, (with psychedelic lines like, "To the electric chair with Chopin!" etc) with the purely cinematic: Blanchett's often wild performance, the deep-space of the environment / composition, etc.
My criticisms of the movie, which are few, are also curious. My immediate thought in the middle of the anti-snobby-art monologues, was how "Manifesto" looked just like a work of snobby art. Cate's various characters damn making art for the critics, yet this movie appears to be made specifically for critics. What gives? But then I remember it's called "Manifesto." The movie is a manifesto. Manifestos are read by critics. They're also read by practitioners. But also by (and for) critics. Critics & practitioners. So, manifestos are not a document written for the masses. The same goes for this movie: "Manifesto" somehow manages to pull off doing the opposite of its main message, but because of it, ends up beautifully embodying its manifesto.
And what is the manifesto? What is the message? Well. To boil the entire experience down into a few nuggets... It seems like the message of the movie hangs on this idea that we're at the end of an epoch. Things are different, now, for some reason. As a species we were once original. But now, nothing is original. Life is hard, life is drudge, in many ways, life is shit. All we have within our control is our capacity to be creative. It's this creativity which is vital to daily life. We (can) express it during the necessary maintenance of the day, or in works we create. A purely creative work is called art. Art should be bold & true (according to "Manifesto").
"Art requires truth, not sincerity" is a phrase repeated throughout the movie. This seems to be the fundamental aesthetic differentiation in the manifesto (assuming there's only one particular manifesto being expressed in the movie): that good art requires truth. Truth is defined in various ways, but this is *the thing* art needs to uplift the human spirit.
In Alain de Botton's book, Art as Therapy he gives us some ideas of how this can be accomplished: Art can rebalance us by providing aspects of our psyches we lack, art keeps us curious, art can be propaganda for higher causes (for "the good"), art provides positive role models to mimic, art provides hope in an otherwise hopeless world, art comforts sadness by mirroring it, art re-reveals the beauty of the every day moment (the truth of the present).
Another important part of the manifesto is the idea that, "All current art is fake." But we'll save that for another linguistic construct blogular...