HIGH ART
DIRECTOR: LISA CHOLODENKO
USA 1998
CINEMATOGRAPHY: TAMI REIKER
MUSIC: Group "Shudder To Think"
CAST: Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy, Gabriel Mann, Charis Michaelson, David Thornton, Anh Duong, Patricia Clarkson
ONE WORD: Well done artsy film.

There are some really nice things in this film, and although the story can be a bit heavy handed at times, more often than not, some stylish bits appear that make this film really look good. A lot of it may be due to the director's ability to keep the film intimate, rather than succumb to a movie style. In this sort of "personal" film, this one resembles the fine effort that was "BASQUIAT" with its bohemian outlook and style. But, unlike that film, this one makes a point of attacking the business side of the artistic world, or its rabbidness for sucking out an artist's life blood. BASQUIAT had maintained a bit of a neutral attitude towards the artistic cycles, and only made fun of the impresario that came to try and sell the Basquiat art work. It's view of the artistic world, was, for the most part, these people are too out of it to know what the heck they are doing.

HIGH ART, knows what it is doing, and the two main characters do as well. And this is probably the reason why this film stands out so much despite its seemingly hopeless adventure and result. In the circles of "High Art", someone always makes a mint. In this movie, it is not the artist, or the work, but the magazine that wakes up to its job through the innocence and attraction of its reporter.

It is the story of a photographer that has pretty much quit the business. Her pictures are very attractive and eventually end up somewhere. How it happens is a bit more on the accidental side of things, when Syd bumps into the upstairs neighbors that happen to have a leaky pipe under their bathtub. What she finds is a bunch of people that seem to be involved in serious drug use (I'm not sure that it all is needed, btw), but the apartment is decorated by photographs that are attractive and done with a very personal style of work. Syd, who works in a magazine that happens to showcase art and photography, immediately takes a liking to the work and tries to see if she can get it published. Turns out that Lucy, the photographer, has lost her desire to do any more work along these lines, and the suggestion is that she is in a period of adjustment and change. What will she do next? Live with her various friends, and sometimes lover German actress? Or do something else? As time goes by, Syd kind presses the issue, and the end result is that Lucy does do her work well, but also ends up paying for it with her life -- a suggestion that work that has this much soul can't survive the emotional gutter that often permeates it. While this point is well taken, it really marks the story about many artists in mega population centers, where they are ignored, although Lucy does not show the need for much financially. The drugs flow, and the food flows. It appears that she is still gaining some money from her previous work. Syd just had no idea that Lucy was this well known, or the kind of person she came to meet intimately.

The spectacular nature of the acting of the two main leads in this film suggests that this diatribe was well defined and studied by the time it was done on film. Lines are many times very crisp and ready. The film flows from moment to moment as if it was time for night after the day, or vice versa. It is not "pressing". The question for us is to find out if Lucy will do the work that she is being asked. Like many other movies, it makes the mistake of always matching the three major events into the same evening (so to speak) to satisfy the movie audience -- which is not necessary to make the film more dramatic, or force it to come to a faster conclusion.

One of the best touches in this film is the way it shows the photography that Lucy takes, and make it come alive, something that we see the camera go through, but do not have the quickness of eye and mind to notice. Would we but slow the film to a crawl and saw a frame per frame sequence, these pictures would be "there", which is the nicest point this film makes. Art is not something "high" or "up there" as the magazine, seems to try for. Art is "here" and "now" and simply happening. That some of these moments come off as more attractive than others because of a photograph, and happen to be the special moments that we always hope for, or end up appreciating the most in our lives, is really what this film is about. Too bad that the reality of it all, in this example, has to deteriorate into a total lack of poetic justice. Still it is a super little film, that is well acted, and well thought out.

4 GIBLOONS

 

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