Welcome to Cate Blanchett Fan, your prime resource for all things Cate Blanchett. Here you'll find all the latest news, pictures and information. You may know the Academy Award Winner from movies such as Elizabeth, Blue Jasmine, Carol, The Aviator, Lord of The Rings, Thor: Ragnarok, among many others. We hope you enjoy your stay and have fun!
Cate Blanchett has been nominated for Outstanding Leading Performance for her role as Lydia Tár at 2022 2022 Gotham Awards. TÁR has been nominated in an total of five categories: Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay for Todd Field, and Best Supporting Performance for both Nina Hoss and Noémie Merlant. The movie will have wide release in the US this Friday.
The latest issue of International Piano magazine is out now and you can read the interview with Cate.
Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport airs on IFC tonight and is now available to stream on AMC+.
This is going to be a long week for Cate Blanchett fans. Cate has already started promoting TÁR which will have limited release in the US this Friday. Last night, There was a SAG screening with a Q&A after it – Cate with Todd Field, Nina Hoss, and Sophie Kauer are present at the Q&A. They also did press junkets in the morning.
Today, Cate is a guest on GMA and later in the evening is the NYFF premiere.
Press Junket & SAG Screening
"I did find myself, several nights, waking up with my hand in the air…I'd look up…I don't what I was conducting but I was conducting in my sleep."
Cate Blanchett's TÁR performance is absolutely riveting. Truly great film that has stayed with me. Fantastic work by Todd Field. pic.twitter.com/7Bunhzies1
We are now nearing the US release of TÁR, the movie will have limited release on October 7th before it goes wide on October 28th. The tickets are now on sale. Meanwhile, a new still from Documentary Now! “Season 53” has been released ahead of its TV premiere. Pinocchio will have it’s US premiere on November 5th as part of AFI Fest.
Yesterday, Cate Blanchett, who is a founding member of Earthshot Prize made an appearance at the first Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit.
We have compiled updates on other Cate Blanchett-related projects and causes she supports, ranging from interviews, magazine scans, and recent or upcoming event appearances. You can check them below.
— UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Cate Blanchett has penned an piece for Politico urging global leaders to do more for the Rohingya refugees.
Rohingya: A life lived in limbo
It’s more important than ever that we don’t look away, despite other emerging humanitarian and refugee crises in the world.
Gul Zahar, a young Rohingya woman, was forced to flee her home in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Escaping brutality and widespread abuse, she and around 200,000 fellow Rohingya refugees sought safety in Bangladesh. That was in 1978.
After returning home, another wave of violence against the Rohingya forced her to seek safety in Bangladesh once more. That was in 1992.
Many years later, Gul and her four-generation family were among the 720,000 Rohingya who made that same desperate journey to safety, yet again forced from their homes by violence. Trekking through jungles and mountains and crossing the river, it was one of the largest and fastest refugee influxes the world had seen for decades.
That was five years ago, in 2017.
Today, over 925,000 Rohingya refugees live in the densely populated camps near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Over 75 percent are women and children.
The Rohingya are the largest stateless community in the world.
Although they have lived in Myanmar for generations, they aren’t recognized as citizens. And they face a host of discriminatory practices limiting their daily lives, in addition to the violence and persecution carried out against them.
When I visited Bangladesh in 2018 in my role as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), I was not prepared for the depth of suffering that I saw.
I witnessed mothers enduring the unending pain of seeing their children live through these experiences. I sat with countless refugee children who had endured brutality and uncertainty, as I pictured my own children safe at home, joyful and carefree.
Following the influx in 2017, the emergency response to the refugee crisis, led by the government and people of Bangladesh, was exemplary. With the help of the international community, they provided medical assistance, food and relief items, and built makeshift shelters. Rohingya refugees were registered and issued with identity documentation — the first many had received in their lives.
Over time, however, the camps have developed their own fragile ecosystem, with their health care, water and sanitation facilities becoming severely challenged.
Rohingya refugees themselves play a vital role as the first responders in their community, including in the areas of emergency preparedness and disaster response, health, education, as well as community response and mobilization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, refugee volunteers took the lead in informing their community about health and hygiene, monitored signs of illness and connected refugees with critical health services. Their ingenious efforts saved countless lives.
Five years since that latest mass influx from Myanmar to Bangladesh, the collective effort in responding to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis — and the role undertaken by Rohingya refugees themselves — should be commended.
But despite this acknowledgment, we mustn’t be allowed to forget that the Rohingya shouldn’t be refugees at all — not the women, men and children who fled in 2017, nor those who fled in the successive waves of violence in previous decades.
The protracted exile of the Rohingya is simply unacceptable and unsustainable.
Diminishing hopes of returning home are pushing increasing numbers of Rohingya refugees, including children, to undertake perilous boat journeys in search of a future. Placing themselves at the mercy of smugglers and the treacherous waters of the Bay of Bengal, they are at risk of dehydration, starvation, physical and sexual abuse, and death. They do so, as many feel that they have little choice.
Today, it is more important than ever that we don’t look away from Rohingya, despite other emerging humanitarian and refugee crises in the world.
We must continue to support Bangladesh and other host communities in enabling Rohingya refugees to live full and dignified lives in exile. This includes providing them with greater access to education, skills training and opportunities for earning livelihoods.
Rohingya refugees, in particular the large proportion of youth among them, are resilient and resourceful. They want to rebuild their lives and ensure they are prepared for the future — including a return to their homes.
It is vital the international community continues to press for the rights of Rohingya in Myanmar.
They long for their homeland. They want to return but cannot do so unless conditions are safe, unless they can exercise their fundamental human rights — the right to move freely within their own country, the right to services such as education, livelihood and health care, and a clear pathway to citizenship — the rights so many of us take for granted.
In a conversation she had with the UNHCR in 2018, Gul had made clear what her wishes were: “I want to die on my soil,” she said.
Heartbreakingly, Gul passed away last year at the age of 94 in Bangladesh, her deepest yearning unrealized.
A life lived in limbo.
— Cate is also a council member of Earthshot Prize, which is “a global prize for the environment, designed to incentivise change and help to repair our planet over the next ten years”. There is going to be a summit in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies where Cate is confirmed as a speaker. It will be held on September 21st from 8:00am-12:30pm ET at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit
The Earthshot Prize and Bloomberg Philanthropies previewed confirmed speakers and programming for The Earthshot Innovation Summit, which will take place on the morning of September 21, 2022 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. The Summit, hosted by Michael R. Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, will bring together heads of state, government and civil society leaders, philanthropists, business executives, and grassroots climate activists from around the world to spotlight emerging, systems-changing solutions and showcase the critical need to turbocharge ground-breaking climate innovations to address the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Global Australian Awards 2022
Cate alongside her friend and co-host of Climate of Change podcast, Danny Kennedy, were presenters at this year’s Global Australian Award. You can watch them present at around 43:19.
Global Goals Yearbook 2022
Vanity Fair European Edition
Click images for higher resolution
Click the images to open the scans.
Vanity Fair France – September 2022
Vanity Fair Italy – September 2022
Vanity Fair Spain – September 2022
— Another movie with Cate that will be released this year is the stop-motion version of Pinocchio directed by Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson. Three episodes of Documentary Now premiered at Toronto International Film Festival last weekend.
On a sadder news, Pedro Almodóvar has pulled out of directing job in A Manual for Cleaning Women but Cate is still attached to star and produce under Dirty Films.
Meanwhile, TÁR continues to be part of film festival lineups. It will have it’s Australian premiere at Adelaide Film Festival, US West Coast premiere at Mill Valley Film Festival, it is also part of Orcas Island Film Festival lineup. There is a concept album to be released in October 2022 where Cate can be seen and heard conducting a rehearsal of Dresden Orchestra. Cate also did an interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter while she was in Venice at the beginning of this month, the movie will be released on October 23rd in Sweden.
Cate voiced the monkey, Spazzatura. The movie will have it’s world premiere at London Film Festival on October 15th. You can buy tickets here.
Over the weekend, three episodes from the new season of IFC’s iconic mockumentary series Documentary Now! premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And during a post-screening Q&A, it was revealed that we have Australia’s own Cate Blanchett to thank for its long awaited return.
In front of a sold out audience at the Scotiabank Cinemas, directors Alex Buono, Rhys Thomas, and co-creator and series regular Fred Armisen – all of whom met in the writer’s room on Saturday Night Live – talked about how Cate, who also appeared in the third series of the mockumentary, reached out expressing her interest in parodying an obscure British TV documentary.
Cate had taken a shining to the 1994 BBC documentary, Three Salons at the Seaside, which she discovered with her hair & makeup team while filming her FX series Mrs. America in Toronto, Canada.
The Cate Blanchett episode in question – “Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport”, which screened at TIFF – was filmed over four days at the original location of the documentary in Blackpool – redressed to match its original time period.
Having seen the episode, which unfolds like a beautifully written stage play, I can safely say that the persistence of Blanchett paid off – it’s one of the finest of the series to date. And, simultaneously, may be the most obscure documentary they’ve lovingly parodied.
Pedro Almodóvar departs A Manual for Cleaning Women
Oscar-winning Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar will not be making his first English-language feature directorial debut with A Manual for Cleaning Women, which has Cate Blanchett set to star and produce under her Dirty Films, Deadline has learned.
The filmmaker finally had all the elements to realize the magnitude of this future production. However, he came to the decision that he’s not ready to tackle such a monumental project in English. A search for another director is underway.
The feature project was first announced back in January based on Lucia Berlin’s 43-part collection of short stories, examining the lives of women working a wide variety of demanding jobs.
“It has been a very painful decision for me,” Almodóvar tells Deadline. “I have dreamt of working with Cate for such a long time. Dirty Films has been so generous with me this whole time and I was blinded by excitement, but unfortunately, I no longer feel able to fully realize this film.”
Dirty Films producers Blanchett, Andrew Upton, and Coco Francini tell us, “We have the utmost respect for Pedro and his extraordinary body of work, and while the stars may not have aligned this time, we hope to collaborate with Pedro and El Deseo on another project in the future. Dirty Films’ passion for A Manual for Cleaning Women and Lucia Berlin’s unique and searing voice – full of danger, joyousness and loss – has not dimmed, and we are excited to continue this project with our partners at New Republic.”
TÁR at Film Festivals
Mill Valley Film Festival World Cinema Lineup. Showings on October 7th and 8th, tickets can be booked here.
Australian premiere on October 21st as part of Adelaide Film Festival Special Presentation lineup. Tickets here.
Orcas Island Film Festival runs from October 6th-10th, festival passes are nowon salebut no scheduled showing yet for TÁR.
TÁR (Music from and inspired by the motion picture)
TÁR concept album is set to be released on October 21st, an LP version will be released on January 20th 2023. You can pre-order at Deutsche Grammophon, JPC, Roan Records or Amazon.
Deutsche Grammophon presents Hildur Guðnadóttir’s exciting new film project – a groundbreaking concept album for Todd Field’s new movie TÁR, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.
The multi-faceted concept album features music from and inspired by the movie, including a series of stunning new tracks by Guðnadóttir, as well as extracts from major works by Elgar and Mahler. It complements the film by presenting completed, real-life versions of the music on which we see the fictional protagonist Lydia Tár working. One of the aims of the album is to reveal something of the complex process that goes on behind orchestral rehearsals and recordings.
“The tracks, like the film, are meant to invite the listener to experience the messiness involved in the making of music.” Todd Field
Written and directed by three-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Field, TÁR tells the story of high-powered composer-conductor Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett. The two-time Oscar winner immersed herself in every aspect of her character’s life and can be seen – and heard on the DG album – conducting rehearsals of a Mahler symphony with extraordinary skill. Her fellow cast members include talented young British-German cellist Sophie Kauer, whose playing also features on the concept album.
This is a Google translated interview from Swedish to English.
Cate Blanchett: “There’s a lot of unresolved anger in the wake of MeToo”
Almost 25 years ago, Cate Blanchett came to Venice for the first time with “Elizabeth”, where she made an unforgettable portrait of the 16th-century regent who “married England”. Now the Australian Hollywood star is back at the Lido with another majestic full-length portrait of a woman with enormous power in her world.
In Todd Field’s magnetic “Tár”, Blanchett plays a fictional star conductor who has mentor Leonard Bernstein at her back, stands at the peak of her career as a celebrated composer and is the first female chief conductor of the prestigious Berlin Symphony Orchestra. A demanding recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is at hand. Lydia Tár is certainly married to the orchestra’s female concertmaster (played by the German Nina Hoss) but is much more loyal to her position of power – which she exploits wildly in private – than her wife.
Learning to conduct believably was the least of the challenges with “Tár”, says Blanchett.
– For me, “Tár” is not really so much about the conducting itself. For Lydia, it’s like breathing. It was simply about finding the right way to breathe. But it’s clear that I studied many conductors that I became quite obsessed with, from Carlos Kleiber who had such a tormented and ambivalent approach to his work – to women like Antonia Brica, Marian Alsop and my compatriot Simone Young, says Cate Blanchett at a hotel room with sea view on the festival island Lido.
She is dressed in a white summer suit that elegantly mirrors the expensive tailored suits her character wears in the film. Speaks enthusiastically in a voice that is slightly higher than Lydia’s deep voice.
– The most important thing was to understand the structures of the classical world and how orchestras work. It was so interesting to follow the development, from the autocratic times when the conductor’s word was law and then over the fall of the Berlin Wall when more democratic tendencies began to seep into this world as well. It’s clear that the classical music world is still very much about canon and hierarchies, but the dynamic has clearly changed.
Her character Lydia Tár stands in the middle of that process, and not unexpectedly ends up in a storm when she not only manipulates younger women for her own needs, but also suppresses students who question the canon, like Bach, for reasons of identity politics.
Was it time for a reverse method drama?
– There is a lot of unresolved anger to explore in the wake of MeToo, and it is something we are far from done with. The system still needs to be fundamentally changed. The cancel culture is part of this process. But for me it is still only one aspect of “Tár”. Todd, who also wrote the screenplay, did a huge amount of research for the film and I think he has found mined ground that is very exciting.
To the now classic question of whether you can separate the author from the work, Blanchett answers with an anecdote from the early nineties when she had just graduated from acting school in Australia.
– It is in many ways a generational issue. At 22, I was cast in a production of David Mamet’s “Oleanna” and was full of strong opinions about gender and power. The first time I read the play I threw it at the wall. Second and third time too. When we finally played it, it became an incredibly exciting and challenging debate among the audience. And probably a lot of divorces, laughs Blanchett.
– The lesson from that is that if we are to avoid everything that is controversial or disturbing in art, or authors who have behaved questionably, then we miss out on a lot, both experiences and a significant critical debate. God knows what went on in Picasso’s studio, but “Guérnica” is still one of the world’s most important works of art, and so on.
What is “Tár” above all about, for you?
– It’s almost hard to say, there are so many layers to it. Lydia is both perpetrator and victim of a system where men have been kings for so long that she constantly has to prove that she is capable. But I woke up this morning and thought that it is above all a meditation on power, she says and elaborates:
– It is not only about institutional power but also creative power. Conductors often call the orchestra their instrument, but at the same time it’s about many different individuals, says Blanchett, who received praise for her interpretation of the role.
– “Tár” depicts the trend breaking that takes place in a world where the collective has been hierarchically controlled but where the individual and how one identifies oneself has become a new factor of power, she says.
Having long run theater in Sydney with her husband Andrew Upton, she can easily identify with institutional power, but personally she is more interested in creative power and how to convey it to others.
– Often the most creative thing you can say is “I don’t know, yet” when people demand answers. But there’s a funny difference depending on who’s saying it. If a male director says it, people find it exciting. But if it’s a female director, people just get nervous, ha ha.
– That’s one thing I really appreciate about “Tár”. It asks questions, but does not judge.
TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) has released their schedule. Documentary Now! premieres on September 10th at 9:15pm. Watch the trailer below.
Three new episodes from season four of the mockumentary series Documentary Now! — created by SNL alumni Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Rhys Thomas — receive their World Premiere.
In this world premiere, TIFF audiences will be the first to see three episodes from the upcoming season of Documentary Now! First up is a take on My Octopus Teacher, only this version stars English comedian Jamie Demetriou (Fleabag) as an animal-obsessed filmmaker in the episode titled “My Monkey Grifter.” Second is a warm-hearted homage to Agnès Varda, starring French actor Liliane Rovère (Call My Agent) portraying an aging director trying to recapture the thrills of her youth in “Trouver Frisson.” Third is a pet project of Cate Blanchett, who fell in love with the 1990s BBC documentary Three Salons at the Seaside, which she and co-star Harriet Walter fondly lampoon in “Two Hairdressers at Bagglyport,” about a beauty parlour full of secrets (that simultaneously evokes the Anna Wintour/Vogue doc The September Issue).
— Thom Powers, TIFF Docs Programmer
Documentary Now! TIFF Schedule. Click image to book tickets. Tickets go on sale for public on September 5th
According to La Biennale, press conference begins approximately at 11AM CEST. There will be two films in competition on September 1st, TÁR being the first to premiere. Todd Field has also released a director’s statement on La Biennale’s website about TÁR.
This script was written for one artist, Cate Blanchett. Had she said no, the film would have never seen the light of day. Filmgoers, amateur and otherwise, will not be surprised by this. After all, she is a master supreme.
Even so, while we were making the picture, the superhuman-skill and verisimilitude of Cate was something truly astounding to behold. She raised all boats. The privilege of collaborating with an artist of this caliber is something impossible to adequately describe.
In every possible way this is Cate’s film.
IFC has unveiled the first look at the latest season of Documentary Now! Cate will appear on Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport episode with Harriet Walter. The fourth season premieres on October 19th, 10pm at IFC and AMC+ with new episodes being released every Wednesday.
“Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport” will star two-time Academy Award®-winner and Documentary Now! alumni Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Carol), as well as Emmy®-nominated actress Harriet Walter (Succession, Killing Eve). Paying homage to documentaries 3 Salons at the Seaside and The September Issue, the episode is a fly-on-the-wall portrait of a hair salon owner (Walter) and her staff (Blanchett), in the small coastal village of Bagglyport as they prepare their yearly stylebook. Fred Armisen will also star as George the Postman.
Cate is returning this year for the fourth season of Documentary Now! which is set to premiere this fall.
Two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett — who previously starred in Documentary Now!‘s Season 3 outing, “Waiting for the Artist” — is ready for an encore, in one of the half-dozen episodes premiering this fall on IFC and AMC+.
Co-created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas, and hosted by Dame Helen Mirren, Documentary Now “lovingly” pays homage to the world of documentaries.
“Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport,” starring Blanchett and Harriet Walter (Killing Eve), takes its cue from fashion documentaries 3 Salons at the Seaside and The September Issue as it offers “a fly-on-the-wall portrait of a hair salon owner (Walter) and her staff (Blanchett), in the small coastal village of Bagglyport as they prepare their yearly stylebook.” Armisen co-stars as George the Postman.
IFC network released a new trailer for Documentary Now! episode “Waiting for the artist” starring Cate Blanchett and Fred Armisen.
Waiting for the Artist” is a parody of “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” written by Seth Meyers and has Cate playing an artist called Izabella Barta. According to a recentVox article:
In Documentary Now!’s version, which airs on March 6, Cate Blanchett plays an Abramovic-like character named Izabella Barta, and the result is as close to straight-up satire as the show ever gets, probably because the contemporary art world presents plenty to satirize. Instead of sticking to the confines of the original film, Documentary Now! constructs a winking acknowledgment of the complicated gender roles in the art world, with Armisen playing Barta’s “bad boy” ex-partner, who gets his due. It’s a thread that’s present in the world of the film, but it took “Waiting for the Artist” to pull it out. […]
Episode is set to air next week, March 06, Wed 11 pm on IFC. Stay tuned!!
Time for some updates about Documentary Now! episode “Waiting for the Artist” featuring Cate Blanchett as performance artist Izabella Barta. A new still and a possible new date for the show have been released.
While the official IFC Network site still has the episode scheduled for March 06, the IMBD page for the show has been updated and the release date is set to March 13. As we are still trying to figure out the air date. Let’s enjoy the new still released and we also replaced another one in the gallery with a better version. Stay tuned!
We have a new still and a couple of details about the Documentary Now episode starring Cate Blanchett entitled “Waiting for the artist”. Enjoy! The episode “Waiting for the Artist,” is set to air on IFC, March 6.
In the case of “Waiting for the Artist,” a riff on the Marina Abramovi? documentary “The Artist Is Present,” the process involved coming up with several decades’ worth of performance-art pieces, replete with photographs and performance videos shot on period equipment. Ms. Blanchett went through 13 wigs in four days.
“She provided some of her own costumes,” says Mr. Thomas. “She really met us on the plane of obsessive detail.”
MEYERS: Yeah! They said, “Who is your dream for this?” and that was the answer, and they came back and said she was in (laughs). That was surreal. But because we all of a sudden weren’t just picking things that we thought Bill and Fred could be good at, we could just take any documentary and just cast based on what fit best. Obviously no one has more range than Bill and Fred, but there are still limits to that range and certainly Cate Blanchett’s a good example of how it would not have been the same if it was still a Bill and Fred only show.
It’s worked out. I miss Bill and I miss Fred in half the episodes, but it’s great to see people like Cate Blanchett or Michael Keaton in this. What’s the process of choosing the documentaries like? Does that happen before you cast the people I guess?
MEYERS: Yeah I mean Far Side was a holdover from Season 2 as far as an idea, but then everything else was new business. And then it was just trying to find things that felt unique versus previous seasons, so we’d never done a sports documentary which led to bowling, and we felt the art world would be a fun place to look which led to Waiting for the Artist.
I wanted to get into a couple of the episodes specifically. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that Waiting for the Artist is very carefully constructed and the punchline is amazing. How did you hit upon the ending, and how was that one put together?
MEYERS: I really like The Artist Is Present, but there’s not really a narrative thrust other than just, “Here’s her career. Here’s the show.” And in the early drafts of it we felt it was lacking a narrative arc, because the reality is a lot of Abramovic’s art is pretty hilarious to begin with, so to do different versions of it felt a little one for one (laughs). We started watching other art documentaries and building out the character of Fred and sort of making that a character that, while you were paying attention to one thing, we managed to lay in that there was another thing happening, which is it wasn’t just a retrospective but it was also sort of a story about how even women who are incredible artists and you think have power, there’s always gonna be some guy who’s fucking it up for them (laughs). And again it was a perfect role for Fred to bring alive.
I’m fascinated by selling Cate Blanchett on this. I know she’s done comedy before, but this is such a silly and funny idea. Were there any discussions beforehand or anything?
MEYERS: I only heard she said yes (laughs). Really, three days after I said her name she said she was in. I had never met her and we sat down in New York for coffee one morning. I had heard she wanted to have coffee and so I went into it prepared to get her notes and hear what she wanted to do with it, but the only way to describe it was totally game. She had a take on how to play it, but she didn’t have any issues or suggestions for the script. Obviously if you watch it it’s like your dream for being a writer on it or for the directors of it, she just jumped in with both feet. It’s just a joy to watch. You think that there has to be this really protracted negotiation to get somebody like Cate Blanchett, but one of the things she told me was, “No one really asks me to do stuff like this.” And you realize sometimes you’ve just gotta take a risk and realize that somebody like Cate Blanchett’s just waiting for the day to go to Budapest and shoot for five days to make a fake documentary (laughs).
I mean she seemed to have a blast making Thor: Ragnarok. I think it’s funny that a lot of people think actors of her caliber aren’t interested in silly comedy, but clearly this shows her range.
MEYERS: It’s really true. There is something similar with the way she performs in Thor, which is, “Oh this is somebody who really likes to have fun.” Sometimes people who are as great an actor as she is, people just assume, “Oh what she does must be so arduous,” but the reality is to get a part like this or to get a part in Thor must just be such a relief to her to just let loose and have a great time.
[…]the episode from this season that I will re-watch, and that deepened my engagement with the documentary form, is “Waiting for the Artist,” in which Cate Blanchett guest-stars as the performance artist Izabella Barta. Blanchett perfectly captures an essence of Marina Abramovic, who allowed a crew to follow her as she staged her MoMA retrospective for the 2012 film The Artist Is Present. The self-aggrandizing mission statements, the anxiety meltdowns as the show nears, the abstruse declarations about the purpose of performance art—Blanchett mimics all of these. Famous Barta pieces include “Gender Roles on Spin Cycle,” in which she sits inside an industrial dryer; “Domesticated,” in which she drinks from a bowl of milk on the floor while she screams “I am human!” over and over to a cat; and “Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter,” in which she eats only one hot dog, very slowly, every day for a year as a way to process a breakup.
These pieces seem absurd, but no more than many that Abramovic really staged throughout her career. Consider “Carrying the Skeleton,” in which she hoisted a skeleton on her back and walked around with it as a way to show that she was confronting grief. In her real MoMA show, Abramovic sat in a gallery of the museum all day, allowing members of the public to sit across from her and experience her presence. Many cried, or said they had spiritual revelations. In Documentary Now!, Blanchett stages the same sort of experience, except it takes place in a sculpture of a public bathroom, in which patrons pass toilet paper to her underneath a stall (many cry, many have spiritual revelations). It is not that the episode doesn’t take performance art seriously; it simply suggests that perhaps Abramovic’s work has always been in dialogue with comedy.?
In real life, Abramovic often worked with her longtime lover, Ulay. When they broke up, they made the separation official by staging a grand performance of meeting each other to say goodbye in the middle of the Great Wall of China. In “Waiting for the Artist,” Armisen plays the Ulay character, here named Dimo, a provocateur who is constantly trying to take credit for Izabella’s work and admits that he was cheating on her while she was ascetically devoted to her art. Abramovic had an emotional reunion with Ulay in her documentary, when he sat across from her and grabbed her hand in the museum. The parody offers no such closure. Instead, it allows Barta to humiliate Dimo in such a public and emasculating way (which I won’t spoil here) that the episode almost doubles as a radical work of feminist art.[…]
Take the season’s biggest swing in terms of guest star casting: Two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, playing a variant of performance artist Marina Abramovi? in “Waiting For The Artist.” Armisen and Hader have both demonstrated that they can play women at a level that defies easy labels like “parody,” but it’d still be hard to swallow a tale of female artistic empowerment like this—especially from a creative team so overwhelmingly white and male—without a woman of commanding skill in the leading role. And because we haven’t seen Blanchett play any other characters on the show, it short-circuits the little voice in the back of your head that whispers “That’s such a Hader part” every time he shows up on the screen. Instead, she simply is Abramovi?—or rather, Izabella Barta, creator of such modern-art masterpieces as the blatantly self-harming “Bucket” series. (It doesn’t hurt that Blanchett is unsurprisingly gifted at feeding the silliness of her characters’ artistic ideas without ever sacrificing her dignity and humanity in the process.) Buono and Thomas frequently discuss pulling their writers back from the urge to make the show a cavalcade of jokes, ruining the reality of its carefully crafted universes. Casting an actress of Blanchett’s skill in the part achieves a similar effect: By forcibly giving up the comfort of Hader’s comic skills, the show’s third season of fake documentaries feels “realer” than anything that’s come before.
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