Movie Magazine International

High Art

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Have you ever wondered about the phenomenon with the oxymoronic moniker, "Heroin Chic"? Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's rightly celebrated film "High Art" gives us some insight. Think career obsession.

It's something photographer Lucy Berliner has opted out of, at least the career part. After definitively turning her back on the art scene, fate and a leaking pipe brings her face to face not only with her professional choices, but also her personal choices. Specifically in the person of budding photo editor, Syd, a neighbor who at first only wants the water from a leaky pipe in Lucy's apartment to stop dripping from her ceiling, but soon she wants much more from Lucy.

When she discovers who this intense, off-putting woman is, Syd's ambition goes into overdrive. The cachet of working with Lucy, and the entrČe into Lucy's slightly dangerous world of sex and drugs pushes Syd in ways she hadn't thought possible. The attraction soon becomes personal and mutual. For Syd, Lucy's genius, and what it can do for her. For Lucy, the first person she's encountered within living memory that has real enthusiasm or passion for anything. Someone who's completely alien to the life she's drifted into. Of course, turmoil follows.

Ally Sheedy plays Lucy, and if this doesn't put the brat-pack image away for good, nothing will. She's angular now, lean, and taut with an intense look in those deep brown eyes that could sheer stainless steel at ten yards. Yet, with a troubled vulnerability underneath. As her drugged out, washed-up German actress lover, Greta, Patricia Clarkson takes a part that is scenery chewing and invests subtle nuances that evoke what this woman must have been like before the drugs took over, to what Lucy fell in love with and still cannot leave. Radha Mitchell playing the calm, serene eye in the storm that is Lucy's life, makes Syd is as wholesome, nourishing, and sweet as a milk pudding.

Cholodenko has surrounded their haunting love story with slick satirical jabs at the pretension surrounding the art world and the vacuous personalities that by chance and circumstance become the arbiters and disseminators of taste.

"High Art" demonstrates the essential shortcoming in trying to deconstruct true art, which is all emotion, and by extension, the essential absurdity of trying to similarly deconstruct the workings of the human heart.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 6/7/98

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