Cate Blanchett in ‘Documentary Now’ / ‘Manifesto’

We are going avant garde because “art is supposed to be radical.” Murtada welcomes Shelley Farmer to discuss Waiting for the Artist (2019), an episode of Documentary Now and the film Manifesto (2017) which started as an art installation.

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Documentary Now: Waiting for The Artist

Follow along, Blanchett’s episode is available on Netflix.

What is the film about?

An episode of the third season of Documentary Now inspired by the Marina Abramovic doc The Artist is Present. From imdb: A performance artist returns to her native Hungary for a career retrospective.

What is Documentary Now? 

An American mockumentary television series, created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas. The series spoofs celebrated documentary films by parodying the style of each documentary with a similar, but fictitious, subject. Notable episodes include spoofs of Grey Gardens, The Thin Blue Line and Company Original Cast Album.

What year did it come out?


Who does Cate play?

 Izabella Barta, a take on Marina Abramovic.


Topics discussed:

  • Documentary Now the series, what they are good at, memorable episodes, why is it a must see?
  • Mimicry, she’s an ace after all she played both Bob Dylan and Katharine Hepburn so to take to this absurd level is fun.
  • Adding absurdity to all the re-creations of Marina Abramovic, this a spoof of her 2012 documentary The Artist is Present.
  • This is a fun absurd register that she doesn’t play with in her films though she has played ridiculous (Crystal Skull, Cinderella).

Memorable quotes:

  • “I am human”
  • “Got pain in my uterus already”
  • “It’s supposed to be radical”


What reviews said about Cate:

“There’s a genuine, and familiar, tragedy underneath Blanchett’s Slavic accent, and she doesn’t play the part for laughs. There’s humor in the episode, but it’s the humor of recognition, not release. Even if it’s fiction, “Waiting for the Artist” still feels like it’s documenting something real.” – Sam Adams, Slate

“The episode is written by Seth Meyers, and its brilliance lies in how tenderly both he and Blanchett approach Barta, a woman whose installations have included getting strangers to pass her toilet paper and pretending to be a cat. Performance art is so ripe for parody that it almost resists it. But Meyers, whether accidentally or not, finds some real meaning in Barta’s work, which attempts to expose the absurd suffering of the human condition.” – Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Fun project that shows she can be in on the joke playing off her persona as a great actress.

Other references:

Behind the scenes of the episode @ IndieWire

Recently Cate and Marina spent time together in London.

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What is the film about?

Official Synopsis: Manifesto pays homage to the tradition and literary beauty of artistic manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today. Performing these ‘new manifestos’ as a contemporary call to action while inhabiting thirteen different personas, Academy Award winner-Cate Blanchett imbues new dramatic life into both famous and lesser-known words in unexpected contexts. Details about the 12 manifestos here.

Follow aong, Manifesto is available on Amazon Prime.

What year did it come out?

the installation came out in 2015, the film in 2017.

Who does Cate play?

13 characters reciting 12 manifestos.

 Metacritic : 72. RT: 76


Topics to discuss:

  • Does it work as a movie? What makes it a movie if it is? Is it entertaining.
  • The installation which I saw in NY at the Park Avenue Armory
  • You get 13 Cate performances in 90 minutes. Heaven or overkill?
  • The makeup and hair artists are standouts
  • The conception of the characters – a trick to play with an actor’s outside attributes as opposed to soul. Fits the film but what does it add to Blanchett’s reputation?
  • She gets to detail so many little gestures in building her characters, as a gestural actor it must have been wonderful to play 
  • Her performance as Bob Dylan influenced the conception of this project
  • Is it navel gazing? People who consider themselves artists making a project about artistic manifestos.
  • Her husband and children appear in the “Pop Art’ segment
  • Released as a film to pay for the installation

Scenes we liked

  • “Dada is still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colors.”
  • When she makes a little Cate doll.
  • Norma Desmond come to life as the choreographer
  • “When discourse is opinion,” “when you don’t have to know anything yet you think you know everything” drag EVERYONE Cate. The film comes to life here.

(video edited by Shayma)

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Bolsters her reputation as a chameleon without any expectations that may come with a “regular” film.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“The surprise here is that Rosefeldt has managed to deliver an intellectually-charged, cheeky, and very funny film that feels unruly and expansive in spite of its tight 12-day shooting schedule and its focus on just one performer. Blanchett has no fear as a performer, and she has such enormous appetite for acting that she rips into each of the characters she is playing in “Manifesto” as if she were hungrily stripping meat off of chicken legs and then hurling the bones over her shoulder. She is such an acting prodigy that she needs to be properly challenged, and “Manifesto” is such a challenging and unlikely project that Blanchett uses her talent as she never has before, splashing it all over the screen and making bold gestures that only become physically overdone when she plays an Eastern European choreographer in a turban.” – Dan Callahan, The Wrap.

“There’s an apocryphal story about turn-of-the-century theater queen Sarah Bernhardt reading the phone book so emotionally that the audience was left weeping. That’s what Blanchett is doing here. She adds a human element. She can turn anything into art. Even artistic navel-gazing.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone

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Like? Rate and Review.  Have a question? Leave us a comment.




One thought on “Cate Blanchett in ‘Documentary Now’ / ‘Manifesto’

  1. Pingback: Cate Blanchett in ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ – SUNDAYS WITH CATE

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