Manifesto was originally a series of simultaneously screened videos at the Australian Centre of Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia. Each video was a different artist’s statement, and each featured Cate Blanchett performing the statements to dramatized stagings. Director Julian Rosefeldt has since edited each sequence together as a seamless film.

It’s not hard to see why Blanchett would be attracted to the project. She has the opportunity to portray over a dozen characters of both genders who speak with various accents. And because each character is essentially articulating an artist statement, Blanchett’s characters look into the camera and speak various philosophical and aesthetic monologues. Sequences include Blanchett at a funeral, where she speaks about the meaning of life; Blanchett as a suburban mother making dinner for her family while looking into the camera and spewing about art; and Blanchett as a teacher getting her elementary-school students to write film premises while she walks around the class and criticizes each student’s work. The last segment directly references to Jean-Luc Godard.

And that reference to Godard explains why these edited-together segments of Blanchett monologues don’t work. Godard is a legendary filmmaker whose films readily display dichotomy; as a result, they either really work (Band of Outsidersor bomb (Sympathy for the Devil). Manifesto, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. As a film, it simply doesn’t work. It’s hard to sit through, there is little to sustain it, and there is no story. And it’s too bad, because Blanchett gives some amazing performances.

On the up side, there is some amazing cinematography, especially of Blanchett walking through various buildings, including some Brutalist industrial buildings and badly designed apartment blocks. But a film needs more than some nice shots. And this film doesn’t have more. And that’s too bad.

Still, I would love to see the art-exhibit version of Manifesto.  It would rock.