Multiple Cate Blanchetts in Manifesto, Salma Hayek’s dissent in Beatriz at Dinner and facing obsolescence in Cars 3
Even though I couldn’t get to two of the new ones (not my fault by the way, see below) I’ve had lots to write about this week.
Check out this list:
Manifesto: 2 ½ stars
Beatriz at Dinner: 4
Cars 3: 3
The Commune: 3 ½
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki: 3
All Eyez On Me: 2 ½
The Book of Henry: --
Rough Night: --
MANIFESTO: This didn’t start out as a movie and it hasn’t really become one. And yet it is intriguing to watch for a number of reasons. Number one is that Cate Blanchett plays 13 different characters, two in one section, a man in another. That’s fascinating in itself. She looks and sounds different in each role as she recites from the manifestos of various art movements that German artist Julian Rosefeldt collected for a video installation two years ago and has now re-filmed in new settings. Some are funny: a funeral oration is a rant about Dadaism. A TV news anchor talks about minimalism with a reporter standing out in a rainstorm. A choreographer demands her dancers follow her ideas, precisely. “Everything I say is art, is art.”
We aren’t told the sources until later, in a long list that scrolls in the end credits. I recognized the Communist Manifesto spouted by a homeless man and Dogma 95 about filmmaking that a grade-school teacher hectors at her young pupils. I didn’t know there was some Jim Jarmusch and Werner Herzog mixed in there or that a mother’s lengthy dinner table grace was from Claes Oldenburg. Generally you listen to the ideas. Get rid of “the clutter of the past.” “Art requires truth, not sincerity.” “All current art is fake.” “Make room for youth.” And so on. There’s repetition, obscurity, puzzling intercutting and, except for Blanchett, no real unity. Mostly it’s like a slideshow about the last 100-and-some years of art history and a well-done exercise in collation. (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
BEATRIZ AT DINNER: The topical analogies are too obvious but also delicious and fun to watch. Imagine a dinner evening at the home of a power couple hosting a rich developer (John Lithgow, all self-satisfied and Trump-like), his third wife, a like-thinking toady (Jay Duplass) and his wife (Chloë Sevigny). Now also see at the table that small Latino woman (Salma Hayek). She doesn’t belong there and in fact the developer, delightfully named Douglas Strutt, mistakes her for a servant at one point, not that he feels apologetic of course. She came there to give the hostess a massage and when she couldn’t get her car started was invited to stay for dinner. The set up is wonderful. You know there’s trouble coming.
It comes bit by bit and subtly in this film by director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White who have previously worked together on two movies and a TV series. They’re in good form. They expose the entitlement claimed by men who profit by exploiting others (and the planet too) and the wives who don’t think twice about it. It’s a wide swath. Beatriz politely tolerates a lot of boasting (“because I have money, people listen,” Strutt says) until he shows a photo of a rhinoceros he shot in Africa. “That’s disgusting. That’s sick,” she protests. “The world doesn’t need your feelings,” he says. And it escalates although Strutt manages to keep an ingratiating tone while saying vile things. Lithgow is excellent in the role. Beatriz wonders if he’s the same businessman who forced people out of the Latin American village she grew up in. The wives meanwhile gradually reveal their hypocrisy. The film artfully condemns their crowd and adds a strong environmental concern too. (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5