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Review: Manifesto – “There is nothing Cate Blanchett can’t do”

There is nothing Cate Blanchett can’t do. In indie arthouse film Manifesto, she is 13 different characters, 13 different personalities, 13 entirely different looks.

And she makes no sense in 13 different accents.

At least, to me she doesn’t.

Written and directed by Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto is an odd compilation of monologues. Presented in different settings, each with a different artistic style and different scenarios, the film consists of Cate Blanchett talking – and very little else.

She gives a speech at a funeral, says grace around a family dinner table, barks instructions at a bunch of dancers, teaches a group of young children about what makes great art.

She is magnetic and fascinating, funny and dark, emotional and delightfully twisted.

The film itself, however, is harder to take. Given its set-up, the film is more like an hour and a half presentation of someone’s Art History dissertation: an ambitious presentation, I grant you, but a presentation nonetheless.

To somebody with a better grasp of art, I imagine Manifesto could be life-altering, inspiring and so good that it speaks to their very soul.

To me, it was odd and hard to engage with. There are no conversations, no context, no backstory. It’s just different characters shouting at the world, one after the other. You haven’t had time to invest in the stories of these characters so it’s really all about what they’re saying – and I’m just not sure I understood a large chunk of it.

There were sections when I did connect, when a line or a look just resonated with me. However, these moments were usually because Blanchett was looking down the camera lens, right at me, bringing all the powerful yet restrained emotion she could muster. I didn’t get what she was talking about perhaps, but I certainly felt it. Sadly, though, these moments were also short-lived.

After doing some extensive research about the artistic styles, the people and movements referenced (do an online search for ‘Dada art’, seriously, it’ll help) I might enjoy the film on some deep, spiritual level. For the moment, however, all it did was reaffirm a belief I already held pretty firmly: there is nothing Cate Blanchett can’t do.

Manifesto is out in the UK on 24th November 2017.

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