Earlier this week, while browsing Film Forum’s website, I discovered a little movie called Manifesto, and it sounded so delightfully bizarre that I simply had to buy a ticket.
Cate Blanchett, inhabiting a variety of roles—including a mother, a grieving widow, a factory worker, a bum, a teacher, a news anchor, and a dance choreographer—recites a handful of political and artistic manifestos, reframing them as, among other things, a eulogy, a toast, a prayer, a drunken rant, an announcement over a public address system, and the mad ravings of a homeless lunatic. But to what end? What is Manifesto’s greater purpose?
Beats me. In fact, the lack of a concrete goal could very well be the point. After all, the act of re-contextualizing these “mission statements” inherently renders their words meaningless, reducing them to abstract poetry at best and self-important prattle at worst.
In any case, the juxtaposition between the narration and imagery provides a bountiful source of absurdist humor; I laughed out loud as Blanchett lectured a classroom full of children on the finer points of Dogme 95. I don’t know if this balancing act between avant-grade and sketch comedy necessarily makes Manifesto some sort of cerebral masterpiece, but I certainly dug its whimsically nontraditional vibe. And, when it comes to judging art, isn’t that what really matters?
[Originally written May 17, 2017.]