The fact that Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto was born as a 13-channel art installation at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in no way diminishes the feature-film version, which is funny, mesmerizing, and one of the best films of 2017. (Even if you visited Melbourne in 2015, you probably didn’t go to the ACMI, you philistine.) In a performance that vindicates anyone who’s ever mixed her up with Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett plays 13 unconnected characters in wildly disparate situations who shout, whisper, and otherwise recite both famous and not-so-famous manifestos, including those by Fluxus, Dogme 9 — yay! — and the Dadaists.
The images, such as Blanchett in a hazmat suit inside an anechoic chamber with what appears to be the monolith from 2001 above her, are often startling on their own. Notable in its absence is one of the more notorious screeds from the last half-century, Valerie Solanas’ S.C.U.M. Manifesto — and before you say it’s not about art, neither is Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, and it kicks off the film. But this also speaks to one of Manifesto’s subtler pleasures: The alpha-male artists Blanchett recites always referred to their hypothetical artists and viewers in masculine pronouns, and many would probably be horrified by the thought of a woman speaking their precious, earth-shattering words.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.