Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival Day 6: Cate Blanchette is the best part about art installation-film Manifesto
For those viewers who are not looking for a plot-based experience, Manifesto gives Cate Blanchette in 13 roles, presenting perspectives on subjects ranging from pop art to Dadaism
(Editor's note: For the next week, we will be publishing a fly-on-the-wall account of all that happens in Mumbai through the 19th Jio MAMI Film Festival. This daily diary will scope film and events to watch out for, as well as anecdotes and conversations through the festival.)
After a week of braving crowds and the construction work outside PVR Icon, I have decided on watching films at the most peaceful venue in this film festival. Right next to Chandan Cinema in Juhu, PVR Premiere has to be the quietest and the most tucked away theatre this side of the suburbs.
My choice of film was no less special — Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto. The film is a rare one, if at all one can call it a film. It resembles an art and video installation more, and the narrative moves smoothly whilst following all the patterns of anti-narrative. But at the end of it, Manifesto leaves you with a stunning experience, making it a unique ride into the world of political and artistic manifestos, except it is nothing you would imagine.
The opening of the film announces its radically bold typeface, which screams the names of the movements and auteurs till it reaches and stays at the title of the film. The next visual is an aerial survey of a landscape of debris which signals the context — a rethinking of art forms as we know them. The lines end, and the scene changes completely, almost stunning you with its stark shift into a never-ending hall without a ceiling or boundaries where computers and the rise and fall of stock symbol signs rule. By now you know you are in for a ride. The film is a radical re-imagining of the film form too.
It has Cate Blanchett in 13 roles, or rather 13 characters, and each look and tone is as distinct as the next. One cannot picture any other actor except Blanchett, with her practiced theatre voice and style, carrying off this solo enterprise. The film originated as an art installation where 13 channels play out 13 scenarios, complete with the reading of the manifesto by Blanchett. For example, Dadaism is read in a funereal setting, and the words and the actions jeopardise any easy interpretations. The pop art manifesto is read by Blanchett in the form of a meal time prayer. This time, she is a housewife and her middle class family is about to sit down for a meal. There is an ironic sequence of a newspaper and a weather reporter performing the manifesto of Conceptual art; this section, with its rain machine and make-believe aspects, has a self-reflexive humour to it as well. The last piece is about film manifestos. Blanchett is a teacher in a primary school who writes ‘Nothing is Original’ and talks of the rules of dogma, while the young kids continue with their class.
The end credits give an entire list of sequences and the manifestos that were featured, its design grand and its enterprise impressive for a viewer who is not looking for a plot-based experience. A fair number of people attended the screening, and the post-film conversation I struck up was interesting as well. Chirag Thakkar, an editor with Oxford Press was visiting his family from Delhi and seemed delighted with the film. So was Yashowardhan Mishra, whose short was playing at the festival. For an art installation/film like this, it was fascinating to see everyone guessing the right manifesto against the sequence where it was read out. The film ended in the evening, when the lights of Diwali were colouring the city in yellow, shimmering spots. The film festival was coming to an end just as Diwali was shining brightly at the doorstep.
Thoughts on cinema, as the Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival concludes
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