It should be maddening: Cate Blanchett playing 13 totally different characters (homeless woman, mother, teacher, dance choreographer and more) in entirely different locations and scenarios and speaking only words lifted from the manifestos of 60 artistic thinkers like André Breton, Claes Oldenburg and Yvonne Rainer.
But there’s something increasingly mesmerising about Julian Rosefeldt’s translation of his own 13-screen gallery piece to cinema. He’s helped massively by Blanchett, who is imediately captivating whether she’s saying prayers at a suburban dinner table, operating the machinery in a factory, reading the television news or giving a graveside eulogy at a funeral. Blanchett’s transformations keep us hooked even when the words are just flowing over us: ‘Manifesto’ doesn’t actually stoop to tell us who has written each one. ‘Hurray for everlasting architecture,’ says Cate doing grunt work in a refuse facility. ‘Dada is still shit,’ says Cate giving a speech at a burial, fighting back tears and gulping: ‘But, from now on, we want to decorate in different colours.’
It’s all very theatrically crafted, with sweeping cameras and intricate design, and feels just the right side of an art-world joke: knowing and amusing at points, serious enough, never just a gag. Call me boring, though, but it could have done with some footnotes.