Good afternoon everyone! Three new interviews from Manifesto‘s press junket. Read them below!
Another way of portraying humanity. Cate Blanchett and Julian Rosefeldt on Manifesto
The role of the Manifesto animals as being “another way of portraying humanity”, how the changing of the settings each day “was a bit like Alice in Wonderland”, the importance of finding “points of intersection”, and having the characters evolve “organically” were revealed inside the Crosby Street Hotel before Cate and Julian had to rush off to walk the red carpet for their Tribeca Film Festival première at the Festival Hub in Spring Studios.
Anne-Katrin Titze: How did you decide on the accents to go with each Manifesto cluster and with the visuals? As the third part, really, in the decision making?
Julian Rosefeldt: Will you answer that?
Cate Blanchett: It was very night-before, random. There was, because we had to shoot so quickly, an incredible amount of preparation that went into the planning of the work. You know, there was one point where Julian and I were both in New York and we sat down and he had come up with sort of about fifty characters, about fifty, sixty different scenarios. And then seeing which ones would both align and which manifestos lend themselves more to conversation, to monologue, or to an inner monologue.
And then, once we’d found those points of intersection between those three elements, then it was like, okay, what about we … because obviously they all had to be in English because I can’t speak Mandarin, unfortunately. And that might cross a boundary, a culturally sensitive boundary, anyway. And then it was just, okay, why don’t we make this one from here? Why don’t we make this one from there?
JR: Sometimes it was kind of natural. The teacher seemed to be. We both have children – not together. It seemed to me like a person that we could create quite close to Cate herself – like, she’s Australian. And then the stock exchange, of course, happens on Wall Street. And the funeral, why not select a light Canadian accent? Or the homeless man in a Newcastle one?
So it kind of evolved organically. Although we gave up on many beautiful ideas for scenes. But when I’m asked, “Can you tell us about the scenes that you didn’t realize?” I have a hard time of remembering them all. Because once you start doing something, you live with what you have.
I remember us bargaining, like, I wanted to do at least ten, so I asked Cate to do 20. And she said “Could we do maybe seven or eight?” Then we ended up doing twelve. It sounds very pragmatic, but this is also a part of filmmaking – that you have to make it happen. And you have to deal with time and money and children.
CB: But I was frustrated. You know, as an actor, there was an exercise we did at drama school where you tried to … You did Neutral Mask. So you tried to get to a point of neutrality from which you could go in any different direction. So that you don’t impose your own energy, you don’t impose your own way of thinking, your certain approaches upon a character so that the character can be a thing separate from you.
Obviously though you are the instrument that you’re using. And I was very frustrated, you know, because the inner voice and the connected tissue that’s really clear in the linear version is: This is my voice. This is my natural accent and I found that very frustrating. It’s almost like I wanted to make it more neutral. You know, unfortunately, you can never truly eradicate yourself.
JR: It was a beautiful trip and we had a lot of fun, although [there was] all this pressure of time and circumstances. I remember meeting her every morning in the makeup wagon with a completely new character and accent. She was of course already rehearsing the accent.
And then we started to talk about the text while she became a newsreader. We had six or seven pairs of different teeth in the film. The settings were very different, of course, every day. It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland. From day to day you encountered different worlds.
AKT: Quick question about the animals – You already put a lot on your plate and then decided to add ravens…
CB: A baboon!
AKT: Exactly! A monkey, dogs, three dogs at the funeral. Why the animals?
JR: The animals are just another way of portraying humanity, I would say. They’re just a different species. If you see them altogether over the film, it’s just us, over there. I like them because they are a mirror to us in a way. Because they can’t know what’s going on in the world but they are there all the time, faithful and testimony of what we’re doing here in this world. So they are testimonies. They’re just there.
via Eye For Film
Cate Blanchett Transforms Into 13 Different Characters in the Subversive Film Manifesto
Next week, the work will open in cinemas in New York and then in additional cities on May 26. The theatrical version of the work has been edited down to about 95 minutes. (If you watched all 13 of the films in the installation, it would take over two hours.) And a sort of linearity has been imposed. But, as Rosefeldt acknowledged when I met him and Blanchett last week, the film that will open in theaters doesn’t exactly have a plot. “When you’re watching a movie,” he said, “you’re expecting a story to be told, and that story, of course, isn’t there…. And so you have to develop a visual narrative.” But rather than a hindrance, Rosefeldt and Blanchett see this element as a means of liberation. “It’s rare that you get to sit in the cinema and allow your brain to unwind and free associate,” Blanchett said. “You’re propelled, usually, by narrative point to another narrative point, to an end. And that’s not this experience.”
But if the film is without a narrative linearity, it’s not without a point, even if those points arise, in part, from circumstance. When Manifesto was screened at a film festival earlier this year, the audience burst out in laughter when one of the archetypes—a frizzy-haired elementary school teacher, complete with craft-fair jewelry—tells her students, “All current art is fake. All of man is fake.” Accusations of falsity have been rife in recent months, of course—albeit in a different context. “There were a few moments in the film,” said Rosefeldt, when “all of a sudden it became connected to actual situations, without it being intended, of course. Who would’ve guessed two years ago that such a man would be president?”
And there’s a larger point in the way that these mainly male-authored manifestos are voiced and given new life by a woman. “You have a very present female perspective on those now great members of the art establishment,” said Blanchett. “It felt like it was an active…not protest, but an act of political response.” To have a woman at the center of these manifestos “responding to it, subverting it, and getting to voice it,” gives them “a freshness or a new relevance.” But for her, personally, the effort to encroach on male territory was not entirely unfamiliar: “As a woman working in cinema and in the theater,” Blanchett reminded me, “I am well versed in speaking the words of men.”
Cate Blanchett on the ‘Disappointing Failure of the Political Process’
The dedicated actress and her adoring director spoke with The Daily Beast about creating Manifesto, as well as the myriad joys and challenges of making art—not to mention political art—in 2017.
Could you tell me a little bit about your collaboration, and how Manifesto came about?
Julian: We met six years ago in Berlin in an exhibition of my work. We wanted to do something together, and then it took about three years for me to finally come up with the idea for Manifesto. And during those three years we had maintained contact a little bit, but nothing was clear. From the moment we talked about Manifesto to the beginning of production was probably a year and a half or something. It evolved over quite a long time. It was even in danger, the project, because you won the Oscar.
Cate: Yes, and then my price went from $2.50 to $3.00 an hour.
You couldn’t afford her anymore?
Cate: In order to work as quickly as we did, there was a lot of rigorous and meticulous preparation that Julian had to do, and then it was just carving out the time to do it consecutively. But as you can imagine there was a long postproduction process, figuring out how voiceover was going to be treated—and then of course there was another layer, because there was always the possibility of turning it into a linear work. But then seeing how this evolved, it ended up being another thing entirely. So it’s had several different lives.
Julian: And it’s a still ongoing process, because now you have the audience today.
Cate: Well, are they still there? [laughs]
Julian: But two years ago, we had an audience that still believed in politics. It’s really amazing, if I think about it, what happened during the past two years in this country but also in European countries, in Turkey and the Philippines and Brazil—
Cate: Do we know what’s happened in France? Was the election today?
Julian: It was Sunday!
Cate: Oh, but I thought they were voting now, again. When are the actual votes cast?
Julian: Between the two, not for a few weeks, I think.
But back to the politics of the piece, I think it’s interesting that you feature all of these political statements, but they’re stripped of their contexts in a way that makes them less urgent, more playful, sometimes even silly.
Julian: Well I think it was more innocent two years ago when we started thinking about it. Yes, we did feel when we were working on the text collage that many of these texts are highly actual, and it interested me which of them are still actual today, or are applicable today. But I of course couldn’t foresee what happened. And so it became in the eyes of the audience, the installation and the film now, I think kind of a call for action, and an encouragement for a lot of creative people. Art was always political, but all of a sudden there’s this immediate urge to use it as a tool, almost as a weapon again, which I find very exciting.
Do you feel an increased responsibility as artists to be political in your work, and focus on political projects?
Cate: I think that that’s also supposing that an artist is entirely responsible for a work’s meaning. I’m acutely aware of that working in the theater, that you don’t fully understand the meaning of a work until the audience responds to it. Because the audience completes the circle, and adds a whole other shade of meaning. Whenever you view something, and this is why great works of art survive decades and centuries, is because there’s a door within the work that allows the audience to walk through and complete the meaning of the work. An audience isn’t passive, nor are they unintelligent. I think the exciting thing about making a work, especially something like this, is that we couldn’t have foreseen what would happen in the world, and where the ripples of response would be. Even in that first opening manifesto, you know, “What is the responsibility of the artist in the wake of capitalism exploding?”
Julian: That’s a text from 1996.
Cate: Yes, and I had certain responses to the historic nature of the text even in the time that we made it, but two or three years on, it has a whole other, more acute layer of meaning.
Julian: And now what I find interesting is this ricochet effect, and with this work I can observe it very well, that the audience perceives the work and then does something with it, throws it back to the world, and there’s an ongoing interaction between work and audience, which doesn’t belong to the artist anymore—from the moment you release it, it doesn’t belong to anybody.
Cate: And I think that it’s interesting because with a work like this, but also in general, artists absorb influences and are constantly referring to the historic connection that their work has or is breaking with as these manifestos do. But I think part of the disappointing failure of the political process today is that it’s asking us to forget countries’ historic connections to other countries, or to the laws that have been made. They’re willfully asking people to forget their country’s history, and focus only on the present. It’s bizarre.
Hearing you say that, it’s interesting that these manifestos are presented in the film deliberately stripped of their context. But I’m assuming that as the creators, you both did a lot of research into those historic specificities?
Julian: I’ve never worked so intensely on text as I did for this project, certainly, but I don’t know if I got…
Cate: Me neither!
Julian: I don’t know if I ever can “get something” I read. But it was very fascinating to start collaging these texts, and making the contributors talk with each other, that’s how I saw it. An ongoing discussion with voices that don’t necessarily agree, but they sympathize with each other.
Cate: But it’s not a history lesson or an art history lesson. I think particularly in the linear context where you search for a narrative, you search for meaning, you attend to the words—and I think there’s a kind of a panic that the audience might feel initially: “I’ve somehow got to have an intellectual response to this.” But I think because of the barrage of words, the words in a kind of a flow make sense and nonsense and you give up trying to make sense, so you end up making a different kind of sense out of it; a rhythmic sense or an emotional sense as much as an intellectual sense.
There’s a lot of drag in this film—not just because you play male and female characters, but also these vivid, flamboyant, larger than life characters. Which I found interesting, especially in light of your recent drag performance that you did at Stonewall.
Julian: You did what?
Cate: Jason Hayes, he’s been very active in the Newtown Action Alliance, for Sandy Hook families, and they’re a complete and true charity, they have no money. So he was throwing a benefit at Stonewall and he said would I do something. And a whole lot of his friends were flying in who are incredible drag performers, so I was terrified, and I said, “Oh god, I’ll try.” And he said what about a Dusty Springfield? And so in the taxi on the way there I was listening on my iPod to the song…it was so fun.
But yes, there’s lot of drag in this film. It will be interesting to see the audience’s response to this tonight; certainly in the museum context, in the multi-channel work, I think the sense of masking and de-masking, there’s a kind of ironic playfulness with the ridiculous notion of someone inhabiting thirteen characters. Whereas I think people…I’m hoping they’re not seeing these as performances—they’re not characters, they don’t have backstories. There’s a sort of a self-conscious construction and masking that goes on, that’s different to a conventional feature film. But you just need to see if an audience responds to that or whether they’re looking to be transported by a performance.
Julian: The installation’s probably much more performance, more like a set of performances…but here, I think this is a trip. It’s a very trippy experience.
Cate: I guess it’s a trip that I’ll never have. That’s pure torture—that’s waterboarding in there.
You can’t watch it?
Cate: No, never.
Julian: When I sit next to Cate…I could feel it now, down there, and also when we watched it on my laptop a few months ago. She’s so self-critical, so she would never enjoy it. And then eventually I don’t enjoy it either anymore, because I see it through her eyes.
Cate: I ruin it for everybody.
via The Daily Beast