ALL CURRENT ART IS FAKE!
It’s time for more articles and interviews for the linear version of Manifesto. Read them below!
Cate Blanchett says ‘My dreams are like dog dreams.’ Find out what she means.
Apart from Tilda Swinton, there is really no other instantly recognizable, Oscar-winning actress who can shift so easily from tentpole Marvel blockbusters to avant garde experimental cinema like Cate Blanchett.
Manifesto (now in theaters) is most definitely the latter — an operatic 94-minute movie version of a gallery installation by German artist Julian Rosefeldt. It’s the only Blanchett that audiences are going to see onscreen until Thor: Ragnarok (out in November) and Ocean’s Eight (next year), but luckily it’s a lot of her. She plays 13 characters, in fact, all speaking different manifestos, from Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” up to Lars von Trier’s “Dogme 95.”
The art installation was a sensation when it played at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. The film is a different but unexpectedly robust experience, with some segments that are hilariously droll. In the funniest one, Blanchett plays a newscaster named Cate speaking via satellite to a weather person, also played by Blanchett, also named Cate. It might not be for all tastes — as Blanchett and Rosefeldt admitted when they sat down with EW last week — but those who casually dismiss a challenging and unique project like Manifesto probably shouldn’t consider themselves real fans of the actress.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Cate, when I was watching Manifesto, I thought about Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, where you play Bob Dylan, and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, where you’re yourself and your punk, lower-class cousin.
CATE BLANCHETT: Yeah, for me, this is probably akin to those experiences.
JULIAN ROSEFELDT: I’m Not There actually plays a really important role in the genesis of this project. Cate and I first met three years ago at an exhibition of mine.
BLANCHETT: We were looking for something to do together.
ROSEFELDT: We talked and talked. I remember we talked about Andrei Tarkovsky films. And she was so sweet and started to compliment my work.
BLANCHETT: It was all bulls—. I just wanted to work with you and I’d say whatever it took.
ROSEFELDT: [Laughs] But I felt like a little boy. I’m being complimented by Cate Blanchett! So I brought up that scene at the end of I’m Not There, when Cate as Bob Dylan looks right into the camera. I was talking to [I’m Not There cinematographer] Ed Lachman last night and he said that it was you who decided to do that, not Todd Haynes.
BLANCHETT: Oh, really. I can’t remember.
Also there’s the ending of the other Todd Haynes film that Cate starred in. She look right into the camera in the last seconds of Carol too.
ROSEFELDT: Ah, that’s true.
BLANCHETT: Nah, I’m not looking into the camera there. I’m looking at Rooney [Mara]
ROSEFELDT: But that glance in I’m Not There for me is one of the strongest moments of anything Cate has ever done. Amazing, amazing. You can feel it’s not overly scripted, it feels like it’s just happening. So I mentioned to Cate that I found that moment to be particularly extraordinary. But, of course, right away she started talking about Todd’s earlier film.
BLANCHETT: Superstar? The Karen Carpenter film. It’s brilliant.
ROSEFELDT: Yes, which I hadn’t seen at the time. And so she was telling me all about it.
Cate, how much do you love the opportunity to play more than one character?
BLANCHETT: Oh, I love doubling. And when you’re working in cinema, you rarely get to double. It’s often done on stage but much more rarely on screen. On film, you’re usually inviting an audience into a very literal narrative experience. So to allow an audience to free associate and find points of common reference is very exciting.
There’s that one sequence in Manifesto when you’re the news reporter and the weather person.
ROSEFELDT: That maybe reminded you of Coffee and Cigarettes.
Yes, I loved it. And it’s really hilarious. How much did you both allow yourselves to have fun with all this heavy material?
BLANCHETT: The material is absurd. And actually we laughed a lot. It’s also slightly hysterical because of the pace we were working at. For me, doing it all in 11 days was quite hysterical and instinctual. So there was that natural absurdity that was built-in.
ROSEFELDT: Sometimes I’m asked if I’m making fun of those certain manifestos where there is comedy. It is not mockery, because I do love all these texts. But the humor does help discover that some of these texts were not written with 100 percent total sincerity. I mean, the guys writing “Dogme 95” were, of course, having a big laugh. Or at least an amazing fun time.
BLANCHETT: Oh, for sure. They are provocations. As in, ‘What are you gonna make of this, huh? I’m gonna blow it all up!’ But now most of these artists — and of course most of them are male — are part of what we perceive to be the establishment. But at the time they were outsiders, which is always the place of an artist. So they can be outside and look in, challenging us to look at the way we live and breathe and work and think.
Cate, you play 13 different people, including a homeless man. But were there any ideas that you considered but decided against because they were too gonzo? Like playing different ethnicities, for example.
ROSEFELDT: We had a post-coital scene at one point, with a man falling asleep while the woman is still talking.
BLANCHETT: We talked about having me speak different languages. It would have been great if I could’ve spoken Mandarin, but then there is a cultural sensitivity to crossing those lines. Art still needs to be liberated from notions of bureaucratized thinking. I mean, look at the work of Cindy Sherman. She crosses ethnicity boundaries and that’s part of the provocation.
ROSEFELDT: Let me actually ask you a question. You say you liked the “news show” scene, where the text is very comprehensible. But in some of the other scenes, where the material is much more dense, were these texts understandable for you?
No, to be honest. But I thought the experience was more about sinking into those worlds and not paying attention to every word.
BLANCHETT: I know I didn’t! [laughs]
You weren’t paying attention to every word?
BLANCHETT: I couldn’t. But each of them has a particular energy, so it made much more musical sense to me than intellectual sense. It’s like a ballet of words.
Cate, you mentioned how quickly you filmed this. I’m curious about when you’re playing all of these characters, what do you dream about at night?
BLANCHETT: My dreams tend to be like dog dreams. I’m usually so tired that I hardly dream at all. In a way, I do think that the zone one performs in — without getting too ooga-booga about it — it’s like that moment when you wake up in the morning and you’re emerging from a dream state but you’re not quite up. Where are you? Can you hear the birds? Or is that the traffic? It’s that zone in which I perform. It’s like one foot in reality and one foot in a dream state. I spend most of my life in that state!
Do either of you think that events in the world have changed this picture? Do I, seeing it for the first time now, have to interpret it somewhat differently?
ROSEFELDT: You have to.
BLANCHETT: Just by force of circumstances you do. That’s what art does. It has very specific meaning at the time that it’s made. But a great work of art mutates and it’s meaning is porous enough to allow an audience to place themselves in it.
ROSEFELDT: And now after every Q&A for the film, I’m asked about populism. In Turkey, in France, in Sundance, in New York. When Cate as the newscaster says “All current art is fake,” everybody laughs because you think about “fake news” now.
BLANCHETT: Of course you do. Language is so powerful. Artists are like temperature takers of their time. And we need them more than ever.
Interview: An Art History Lesson From 13 Different Cate Blanchetts
Manifesto is a bit of a high-minded Frankenstein’s monster, an unwieldy, electric project from German artist Julian Rosefeldt that is as hard to explain as it is unable to explain itself. Originally an art installation, Manifesto morphed into a film (but even that isn’t the right term), a collection of 12 voice-overs and monologues culled from history’s great manifestos, explosive calls to action and destruction from the world of art, architecture, film and beyond. And, naturally, for 12 different vignettes the artist enlisted 13 different Cate Blanchetts; the two-time Oscar-winning chameleon and soon-to-be Marvel menace appears as everything from a tattooed punk rocker to a news anchor speaking to a weatherwoman (both Blanchett) to a mud-covered homeless man shouting Situationism theory into a bullhorn. It’s a dazzling experience, and one that, for someone whose experience with art extends mostly to the paneled page, is continuously overwhelming.
So, I went to the source. I met up with Blanchett and Rosefeldt at SoHo’s Crosby Hotel for what turned into a widespread discussion on art, acting, empathy and, dare I say, the meaning of life…and how it all boils down to a baboon sitting on a trash can.
What drew you to the idea of manifestos? I had no idea there was just…so many of them.
Julian Rosefeldt: The starting point was another project where I studied Feminist theory and read two manifestos by a French futurist, Valentine de Saint-Point, who had a really interesting, crazy life. She ended up as a Muslim in Egypt but before that, she wrote a really radical feminist manifesto. “Lust is a force.” I had already met Cate, and we had the idea to do something together. My own interest in artist’s writings started when I was a young high school student, I got into it, read hundreds of manifestos. Not only visual artists, but political manifestos, feminist manifestos, filmmakers, architects, theater makers. The idea was to do, on one side, an homage to these writings because they have been mostly forgotten or covered over by the visual work of those artists, but also trying to find out if they are applicable, if they can be used today, and what they mean to us. But it was very much driven by the beauty, the pure poetry of these texts. When I read them, I got the idea that [Blanchett] could do them because I could already sense them being performed, hearing her voice saying them instead of just reading them as art history.
In the hundreds of manifestos that you read, and the dozens that you performed, did you notice a throughline?
JR: There are many things that connect them. Insecurity —
Cate Blanchett: Assertion of their individuality. [laughs]
JR: It’s surprising because they’re all so angry so they seem secure, but if you see when they’re written you find out they can only be insecure and fragile at that moment in life. Manifestos are a wish to create utopia, ideas that can never be fulfilled but because they are so large they need to be drafted down and shouted out into the world.
CB: There’s a desire for them to change what they perceive to be the status quo. It’s an energetic response to what they percieve to be the institutions that are forcing them to be outside the system.
JR: Nowadays, it’s not so risk-taking to write a manifesto. Manifestos have certainly transformed into different possibilities of saying what you want to say. The art scene is global and massive and you do these things, like interviews and panel discussions, publish them on a blog.
CB: When I first discovered manifestos, I was at university studying art history. Part of the pleasure and the excitement is to take these assertions out of their historical context and to see what sticks. So [Manifesto] is deliberately…it’s a subversion in and of itself, but also it’s quite perverse because the characters are often antithetical to what the text is saying, or what the text is asserting. In doing that, I personally found an energetic similarity to all of them, the texts, that was quite often angry, but very youthful, and idealistic. Even though they were talking about what they wanted to irradicate, they were also talking about building something new. It was kind of a positive forward-looking, creative sense of what could come. Which doesn’t seem to be very alive in the world at the moment.
So much of the language is hyperbolic — “I want to destroy this, do away with this.”
CB: Yeah, but a much as you’re wanting to provoke change in the world around you, you’re wanting to provoke and challenge yourself.
Did you have to shy away from performing each character in that loud, overblown way or, I guess, separate the words of the manifestos from what you were actually doing?
CB: Well it was quite forensic in the planning, like which part of these manifestos lent themselves to be more dialogue, monologue and conversational, and which parts would be said from an interior voice. And when it was an interior voice, who was the voice talking to? What was the attitude, or the reason for saying it? So I found the parts that we filmed were much more easily ascribed than doing the voice-over. Because the voice-over is speaking directly to the audience…or are they speaking to themselves? We played a lot with that.
JR: The inner voice, although she speaks with the same dialect, often becomes a comment on the whole project, almost like a goddess who looks at the scenery.
CB: We talked a lot about it, because they’re not really characters, they’re just masking and then unmasking, but the voice is quite unmasked. So does that go to a neutral place? And if so, given that each person is inhabiting each of these personas, each of these situations, what then becomes neutral? Is that me?
Was there a lot of room to play with how you did each vignette?
JR: We had a very tight window for scheduling, about 12 days with Cate so it had to be prepared very well. Cate, with her experience, and her sensibility, and empathy for human beings, saw things in the text that weren’t there before. She experimented. I remember you [to Blanchett] were playing with the School Teacher, quoting Jim Jarmusch’s “Golden Rules of Filmmaking,” after saying “nothing is original. You can steal from architecture, books, random conversations…” and when you say random conversations, you used that moment to apply it directly as a teacher speaking to a student.
CB: It was a way to try and find…it’s like a piece that I saw in Berlin called “Murmeln Murmeln,” which means “Mumble Mumble,” and the actors were all basically saying “mumble, mumble, mumble” but, as children who learn language do, they intone it in different ways. Oftentimes, the texts, for me, became like that; I didn’t think about what I was saying, it was about the intention. I could be speaking Swahili right now, but you could glimpse what I was talking about by the stress, or the way I’m using my hands. But it was very instinctual. I just had to have no shame. Because we had no time, there were no rehearsals, per se. The night before we’d talk and I’d say, “Okay, let’s make this one Scottish! This one will be, I don’t know, a bit Cockney.” We talked a lot, so you can make very quick decisions because you feel like you’re all singing from the same song book.
There are surprising moments, though; I was walking through that derelict series of buildings as the Homeless Guy. I knew I’d be walking past Julian’s camera, but they were busy focusing on a baboon sitting on a rubbish tub [laughs]. That’s what the piece is. I do something, Julian does something.
JR: I remember you saying, “now we’re doing art.”
CB: That’s art.
JR: What I learned from Cate in Manifesto is that the curiosity doesn’t end with rehearsing the text. It’s neverending. Her curiosity for the human nature is never-ending. It goes on, and on, and on. I think that’s what makes an actress extraordinary. You never stop being curious. You want to keep loving humanity more. If you’re cynical, if you detest life, you will be very limited in your language. If you embrace life, if you see all things happening as surprises in front of your eyes, you can’t stop learning.
Manifesto is now playing in theaters.
Cate Blanchett Talks Playing a Punk Rocker and a Puppeteer in the Multichannel Movie Manifesto
“It’s… is it a film?” It’s a fair question Cate Blanchett asks. Manifesto is now playing at New York’s Film Forum, and it screened as part of the Tribeca and Sundance Film Festivals, and yet the tricky epistemological matter of what exactly it is remains. The work—that’s a nice neutral noun, right?—began as a multichannel video installation by the artist Julian Rosefeldt, with Blanchett playing a dozen different characters reading texts compiled from sources ranging from Marx and Engels to Lars von Trier. The “linear version,” as Blanchett and Rosefeldt call it, condenses those channels into one, and further trims the installation’s collective two-plus hours of footage into a tidy 90-odd minutes. The result is neither fish nor fowl, no longer video art but not quite a coherent theatrical feature, even an abstract and non-narrative one.
One thing Manifesto, in any manifestation, is: a showcase for Blanchett’s prodigious talents. In the course of the movie (let’s just call it that), she plays a frumpy hausfrau, an imperious, Russian-accented choreographer, a shambling, raccoon-eyed punk singer, and a bearded homeless man. (The first list of potential characters numbered around 60.) Although Blanchett’s personae sometimes match up to the words she’s saying—a patiently tsk-tsking schoolteacher instructs grade-school children in the elements of von Trier’s abstemious Dogme95 manifesto—the scenes weren’t conceived as dramatic set pieces, Rosefeldt explained alongside Blanchett at a New York hotel last week, nor was there necessarily an intellectual rationale for placing a given scene in a given setting. “An analyst might find a reason for it,” he said, “but that wasn’t really the recipe. The aim was always peeling out the original core of the idea and context.” His slice-and-dice approach to the original texts, with bits of a dozen or more combined into a single monologue, strips the manifestos of their intended prescriptive meaning, leaving a kind of urgent, all-purpose exhortation. “There’s a heavy, thick layer of dust, of interpretation, throughout history. If you blow this away, all of a sudden, you find a very fresh text that not necessarily connects to the visual work, but therefore is beautiful to discover or re-discover as pure poetry and utopia.”
Although Manifesto’s characters were conceived without any psychological underpinnings, Blanchett didn’t find it especially difficult to grasp them through their actions, even though the entire project was captured in only nine days of shooting. “The thrust of the character was very much about what they did, and what they said, rather than how they felt,” she said. “It was more about making a mask that could be taken on and off. It was much more interesting for us to elaborate them as part of a mosaic that creates society as a whole, like a puzzle.” Blanchett’s fitness for projects like Manifesto or Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There makes you wonder if she’s not an avant-garde actress who is only incidentally a movie star. Much more challenging, she says, was recording the movie’s voiceover, in which Rosefeldt’s bricolage monologues had to be spoken as a continuous whole. “I thought my eyeballs were gonna drop out, or my ears were gonna start bleeding,” she said. “When you’re not distracted by the visuals, you have to make sense of these things, which are often nonsensical. It was really hard to find a psychological attitude toward something that doesn’t have one.”
Perhaps the most charming of Manifesto’s segments is the one in which Blanchett plays a puppeteer who creates and then interacts with a puppet version of herself. The interplay between real Blanchett and puppet-Blanchett is so fluid that I wonder if she’d previously honed her skills on some past project. Blanchett chuckles. “What puppetry skills?” But Rosefeldt was equally impressed. “After you did that scene,” he says to Blanchett, “there were rumors in the crew, like when did you learn this?” He turns towards me, and away from her playful oh-you scoff. “She says, ‘I think I learned it two minutes ago.’”
“I’d watch you,” Blanchett says to Rosefeldt. “You have an incredible facility. I often find with directors that if you turn the sound down on what a director says to you, there’s something about the way in which a director communicates; they’re giving you the direction in a physical sense. Or if you watch their eyes you think, ‘Oh, I think I understand what you mean.’”
It’s fitting that in a project devoted to stripping words from their original meaning that so much of the communication would be nonverbal. And in breaking apart the sometimes blustering rhetoric of its sources, Manifesto also finds room for a new voice. “When you see it in all in one piece, it seems like it’s from a group mind rather than an assertion of individual expressions, and I think you’re much more aware, as an end result, that you’ve got a whole lot of manifestos written by men,” Blanchett says. “But the female presence is also much stronger in the linear version. I think you make that connection a lot stronger. The female presence is more acute.”