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50 of 59 found the following review helpful:
The film strives to be an art form in itselfJun 02, 2001
By Linda Linguvic
I guess I've been culturally deprived. I never heard of Ally Sheedy before. I understand she was once part of a brat pack and did very different roles than this, but I have no other frame of reference. Anyway, in this ambitious modern tale, she plays the part of a lesbian photographer who's into drugs. She lives with her heroin-addicted girlfriend and has prematurely given up a promising career. They hang out in their seedy apartment doing drugs with a variety of other people and that seems to be the sum total of their lives. In the apartment below lives a young professional woman, Radha Mitchell, and her boyfriend. When there is a leak from the apartment above, the young woman goes upstairs and meets the photographer and her assorted friends. She works as an assistant editor for a photography magazine and is immediately drawn into the art of the photos as well as an attraction for Ally Sheedy and drugs.
One of the things I liked most about this video is what I thought of as its authenticity. There are several sex scenes that have the feel of real people in bed. If anything, they were so real that they went on a little too long but the reality of attraction, shyness, conversation, and exploration deepened the characterizations of the people involved. Perhaps this is the intention of the screenwriter, the long and lingering views of the relationship. There were also long and lingering views of drug taking and again I felt they were a little too much. The film though seemed to be trying to be an art form in itself and although the two star's performances were excellent, some of the minor characters just didn't quite seem real, such as Ally Sheedy's mother or the druggie girlfriend. The mood of the video is melancholy, the pace slow, the acting uneven. But for what it was, I enjoyed it.
32 of 38 found the following review helpful:
Lesbo druggies exposed!Jul 11, 2000
By Dennis Littrell
Just kidding. Actually this is very good film whose only fault is a tendency to take itself a little too seriously at times.
Ally Sheedy plays Lucy, a lesbian photographer with a serious drug problem, but an even more serious inability to cope with the rapacious New York City commercial art scene. Lucy struts and poses her cocaine-trim limbs while her mind stoops to degeneracy. She is controlled by the deep-throated German has-been actress, Greta (Patricia Clarkson) her long-time lover, and by her own falling-down habits. The mercantile world is too much for her pure artist's nature, and so she forsakes it for the haze...
Radha Mitchell plays Syd, an assistant editor at Frame, a glitzy photo art mag, who is seduced by Lucy and by her own need to succeed. Gabriel Mann plays James, her boyfriend, who can see the handwriting on the wall, and splits.
Sheedy is outstanding and Mitchell is very good, but what makes this an intriguing and worth-while film is the uncompromising eye of Director Lisa Cholodenko, who depicts the sad, dreary NYC "high art" drug scene without a trace of sentimentality or any hidden sexist agenda. True, the women in the film are vastly more interesting than the men, who are merely passive appendages, of little notice. But that is because those in focus-Lucy, Syd and Greta-are strong people who shape their own lives, for better or for worse. Notice that the hangers-on, on the couch, male or female, are shallow and empty regardless of sex.
The lesbian sexuality displayed seemed authentic but somehow limited-although, how would I know? Maybe it's the code. The dependency passing for love between Lucy and Greta also struck me as real. Syd's loss of innocence was the main point, however, and it was not her sexual seduction that did it, but her discovery of her own very complex nature. The look on the face of the receptionist reading Dostoyevski after Syd appeared on the cover of the magazine, her hungry interest and then Syd's realization of being looked at in a different way, was just a marvelous piece of cinema incisively rendered.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
8 of 8 found the following review helpful:
Jerry Renshaw was (largely) rightDec 01, 2000
Great movie, I highly recommend it. Of all the reviews I read Jerry Renshaw's editorial review was one of the most on-target. As someone with a passing acquaintance of the art world, it's errie how many of the characters remind me of people I know. Not surprsingly a lot of artists didn't like it. I admit all the liquified people poured over various couches & consuming what appear to be half the Columbian GDP is a bit of a stereotype. But if the behavior is exxagerated, the mentality is not. Another side note - people keep saying that the folks at the photo mag are alternatively "painfully pretentious" or "avaricious corporate-types". I tend to see them as rather sincere and serious-minded about their post-modernist mumbo-jumbo (though the average person may find such talk ludicrous - but hey, Syd was a semiotics major and she talks about Foucault with a perfectly straight face) and, being in the (very hard) business of running a magazine, do what they have to do to keep the boat afloat. In this regard I really have no sympathy for the self-indulgent "art-genius" types who consider a deadline the most onerous burden on earth yet somehow expect the world to owe them a living.
However I think Syd was only a supporting character in the story - at least a less-interesting main character. Contrary to what has been implied, Syd was not the ambitious schemer who sees every bed as a rung on the corporate ladder. Overall she's basically a wide-eyed innocent in awe of Lucy and a bit bewildered by the career opportunities suddenly open to her because of her connection to Lucy - not that she took undue advantage of it anyway. (Spoiler) The story is largely about Lucy - a talented artist with a once promising career, who stumbled over her own personal weaknesses and - though she came so achingly close to a new start thanks to Syd - was eventually sunk by them.
And oh, the Lesbian angle is pureply coincidental. Not every movie featuring lesbians is automatically about the "lesbian community".
11 of 12 found the following review helpful:
Character PieceMay 26, 2000
"You can expect this kind of thing from me all of the time."
So many good reviews, so little left to say...
High Art is really a character piece. The plot is rather simple and a titch predictable, but the interaction between the characters is the cause of interest anyway.
Radha Mitchell plays a hip but naive photography magazine editor (Syd) who is lucky enough to live below the J.D. Salenger of photography (Lucy Berlinner, played by Ally Sheedy). When a water leak in Syd's ceiling sends her upstairs, she is met by the enigmatic recluse. Syd is fluent with the subject matter of photography, but charmingly timid about the world that surrounds it. Before long, she finds her newly discovered underworld more interesting than her pushover boyfriend. As we see through Syd's eyes, the movie mostly centers on her exploration and self-discovery within that world. As she ambitiously follows her big break, she realizes there is much more, emotionally, at stake.
You will be hard pressed to find a mediocre performance of any of the characters here, including the minor ones. Major priority is given to the casting, as every performance is honest, human, gritty and incredibly relatable, especially considering they all live in a world few of us see. Indeed, one of the many charms is the window provided for us to see it. Sheedy has, apparently, appeared in other indie films since her high-flying days as an 80's angst-ridden teenager, however, this has become her most visible role in years and Mitchell is a presence that can only remain underground for so long. Seeing the budding Mitchell is, alone, worth the purchase.
One highlight is, appropriately, the camera work. There is an obvious insiders appreciation for photography from behind the scenes. One can literally pause the film at any point and get a still as captivating as those Lucy Berlinner's book.
This film, somehow, succeeds at being humble and ambitious at the same time, simplistic but profound and the contrast and reliability contained in Syd's struggle make High Art essential viewing.
7 of 8 found the following review helpful:
Yummy! Er, I mean...good movieMay 09, 2006
By Eduardo Nietzsche
heh, excuse my enthusiasm for the spectacle of watching 2 uniquely beautiful and fascinating young women fall into bed and love with each other.
However there's more to this film than lesbian glories. It's also a very perceptive and accurate look at the NYC art scene, where both artists and the editors who help "make" them can often be random nobodies who through sheer determination, obsession, and/or ruthlessness climb and claw their way to the top of their respective careers.
The title, "High Art" is actually more self-ironic than pretentious: this film cleanly tears back the pretentious facade not only of the art world, but of human relationships in general. When are we not using each other, consciously or unconsciously, each for his/her own reasons which might well be hidden to themselves?
The ending is a little abrupt, but courageous in its refusal to stoop to cheap sentimentality and its preservation of the basic UNKNOWABILITY at the core of every relationship and every person...in this case, the weeping Radha Mitchell. For whom are her tears? We don't really know, and that's exactly where it needed to be left.
I'd definitely include this in my "worth-owning" list. Aside from the above, there is also a lot of visual beauty in this film, you could watch it over and over again with the volume off and still enjoy it.
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