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High Art movie review

High Art

An editorial assistant at a photographic magazine (Radha Mitchell) discovers the photographer upstairs.

Lucy Berlinger (Ally Sheedy) was a well-known photographer who disappeared from view. She spends her time in a her bohemian loft with a group of drugged-out companions, including lover Greta (Patricia Clarkson). Clarkson plays a performer right out of Cabaret, her performance of the brittle addict is the high point of this film. The relationship between Lucy and Greta is multi-layered enough to be interesting. The relationship between Lucy and Syd annoyed me beyond measure.

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Syd has two problems, one is that she is an agent, not an artist. She can recognise talent, but is limited to taking advantage of it, she is not part of the creative process and that diminishes her. She brings Lucy's work to her editors and is subsequently promoted for it.

Secondly, Syd is played by Radha Mitchell who considers acting to be a combination of sidelong glances, eye fluttering and mock-shyness. She is so blatantly obvious and awkward that one responds more with annoyance than recognition of insufficient actress. Her performance is better with Sheedy than with the other actors, a testament to Sheedy's skills. In particular there is a scene with her boyfriend that has the exact timing and performance values of a high school productions.

The film suffers from a peculiar ending. I've been told by others who are familiar with drugs that it made sense to them because they had enough knowledge of drugs to extrapolate the ending, for myself, I had no idea what the hell had happened. Except that I was very disappointed.

The most disappointing factor of this film is the photography. Lucy's photographs have a very particular quality, but the photography of High Art is ordinary. At the very least, Lucy's point of view should have been more vivid. All through the film I was constantly disappointed with the ordinariness of the look. It was in frame and in focus and mundane. Not high art.

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See also:
Patricia Clarkson also appears in Simply Irresistible

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Just the facts:

Title: High Art (1998)
Written by: Lisa Cholodenko
Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko
Produced by: Dolly Hall, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Lori E Seid, Susan A. Stover
Edited by: Amy e. Duddleston
Director of Photography: Tami Reiker
running time: 101 mins
rating: MA

The Players: Ally Sheedy .... Lucy Berliner
Radha Mitchell .... Syd
Patricia Clarkson .... Greta
Tammy Grimes .... Vera, Lucy's mother
Gabriel Mann .... James, Syd's boyfriend
William Sage .... Arnie
Anh Duong .... Dominique, Frame editor
Official website: October films
For session times of current films, use the cinema listings on the Movie links page. For scheduled release dates, see the coming attractions section.
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