The craft of brilliant costume designers and make-up artists can transform the most recognizable actors into strangers. Such is the case for Manifesto, a one-woman-show featuring two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett portraying 13 different roles. Of course, the production is also lucky to have one of the greatest living actors at the forefront. However, what Manifesto also displays is that sometimes the best artists overshoot their target.
Blanchett, for instance, is such a capable performer, she actually transcends most apparel. The characters in Manifesto who are limited to uniforms are the best portrayals in the film since Blanchett has to fill in the blanks with her diligent characterization. When the actor gets too caught up in the excessive volume of the physical transformation, Blanchett begins to overact and surrenders to cringing clichés (such as when she’s portraying a grungy punk or a snooty choreographer).
The multiple roles ask the actor to deliver pages of monologues pertaining to different art manifestos. To make this work, the film needs to take notes from Shakespeare; these knotty monologues are destined to be personal soliloquies. Writer/director Julian Rosefeldt understands this suggestion for a few of the roles, but too many of these personalities feature Blanchett grandstanding and even delivering her lines to a crowd of indifferent background actors who have failed to convince me that they understand the production they’re starring in. Julian Rosefeldt comes from experience as a visual artist, which would explain the film’s lack of easy accessibility for an audience who is experiencing the film cold. After all, Manifesto was originally created as an art exhibit.
Much of Manifesto flew over my head, and I have no problem admitting that. Rosefeldt has created an experience for students of art theory, as well as for completists of Cate Blanchett’s filmography. However, if you’re like me and you don’t exactly fall under those two categories, you may also consider this niche flick a bit of a slog.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie