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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 March 2005
There is a theory about 'feel good' films and homosexuals. There was a time when lesbians were always violent psychopaths, as portrayed in 'The Killing of Sister George' - and then people decided that they would make happy-happy films about women who were completely okay with their sexualities despite the disapproval of others. Examples are Better than Chocolate, The incredible adventure of two girls in love. And then, people started to realise that such films were totally removed from reality and did not embrace the fact that not all lesbians/gay men are totally happy. This may have nothing to do with their sexuality, but there is some external force that is making them depressed. In the case of High Art, Lucy, one of the central characters is depressed because her girlfriend is a crackhead and her job in the professional art world is wearing her down mentally. The story has nothing to do with lesbians being strange, messed up creatures - but deals, quite maturely, with people who happen to be lesbians in a tight situation. I think there is often a lot of confusion about the difference between a film such as 'The Killing of Sister George' which is blatantly about victimisation, and High Art which is a bona fide tragedy in itself. Cholodenko has made a superb movie about a delicate and doomed relationship which is shot beautifully, has a lot of artistic and intellectual integrity - and is believable. Lucy and Syd's relationship is never properly consummated because Lucy decides that she doesn't care anymore. Syd's first time with a woman is not washed with yellow light, because it is understood that your first time, however old you are, can be a nerve racking experience.
I think the star of the film is 'Greta', Lucy's drug-ridden girlfriend who is the most original antagonist I've seen; Irreverent, larger than life and supremely talented. There is no hope tacked on the end of this film, other than the success of Lucy's photo shoot - which is why I found it so different and enjoyable. It is a challenge, firstly, to those who only want to see Lesbians in happy, or at least redeeming films, and secondly, to those who are thinking of making budget films themselves; the director's commentary is very helpful.
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on 11 October 2000
High Art
Who would have thought that The Breakfast Club and Neighbours would ever meet in celluloid?
Ally Sheedy, never the coolest person in the 80's, and Radha Mitchell, star of Love and Other Catastrophes and Neighbours (!) meet when Lucy's (Sheedy) bath leaks into Syd's (Mitchell) flat. In the great film world of chance both live with the photographic image and while Lucy admits that she 'hasn't been deconstructed for years' the audience are compelled to look for meaning the whole way through.
Don't think that this film is just another girl meets girl love story because it isn't. It's about obsession, ambition, desire and being given the chance to try out being someone new. If this film were a book it would come from the pen of Jeannette Winterson, the mind of William Bouroughs and the heart of an early John Irving.
This film is darker than Bound and not as pretentious as Go Fish. It reaches into the pit of your stomach and the piercing noise that opens the film stays until the closing credits. It's a noise like a small broken heart hiding behind the sofa and as the narrative shoots to its inevitable conclusion your heart vibrates in your chest.
This film works not because the camera created a perfect 'deviant' underworld (of sexuality, drugs, hedonism and apathy) or because the characters were tied in sexual tension, not even because Sheedy and Mitchell filled their roles perfectly. No this film works because the story doesn't glamorise the characters' faults. It inspires you to take pictures and look out for high art.....
Greta, who 'lives for Lucy', is the perfect femme fatale. Destructive, self possessed and unable to function without a constant supply of drugs she acts as the measurement of Syd's respectability and drive. Indeed as the film progresses Syd becomes the reason Lucy finds her passion and manages to take tentative steps away from her onetime muse. In Greta we see Betty (Betty Blue) a doomed and frenetic lover who acts as a catalyst in the films narrative.
Like the film noir this film hides behind shadows and uses a very simplistic notion of darkness and light to show the characters feelings. On a light box everything is clear, even if not perfect. Lucy takes her pictures to tell a powerful story and in the end that's what we want to hold on to. An intense account of a chance meeting and a story that seems only half told.
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on 23 April 2009
I couldn't be more excited to finally see High Art on DVD. This is in my book THE best lesbian movie out there. So good that it transcends audiences. Forget Loving Annabelle, Better Than Chocolate or The L Word, High Art beats the lot hands down.

If you are lucky enough to have not seen it yet, you are in for a VERY special treat. Apart from Itty Bitty Titty Committee it's been a while since a great storyline and awesome acting has graced our sapphic hearts!

And yes that is the indie queen Patricia Clarkson as Greta!

Just awesome - i cannot recommend this film enough!
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 February 2013
I had high hopes of this film but in the end I was a bit disappointed after finding The Kids Are All Right so brilliant. This film from about ten years before feels much more like a young person's film, and the "high" in the title is there for a reason - the characters spend quite a lot of time in this state - all the time, in the case of Patricia Clarkson, which I find a bit tedious. It's about a Nan Goldin-type of photographer, but somehow these people sitting around don't quite convey the warmth or vulnerability I've always felt coming from those pictures - or indeed from a film like Paul Morrissey's Trash. Ally Sheedy is very convincing in the role, but I found the character too self-centred and undisciplined to really win me over, or enable me to feel moved at all. In real life, people who never stick to their word, and have to follow their own whim at every turn are quite a pain to deal with, and she was unhelpful right from the first when her neighbour from downstairs came up because there was a leak coming through her ceiling. She reacted in a rather disaffected way, oddly when you consider she must have fancied her straight away, really. I suppose we were meant to feel she was very bogged down in an unsatisfactory relationship, but they're all so spaced out on drugs it's hard to know how they can make sense of anything. What the film does have is a sustained authenticity, you feel, recreating the tone of the lives it shows very accurately and setting the naive girl (played by Radha Mitchell) well against the druggy crowd in the flat upstairs. Not that she treats her boyfriend very well either ...

The tone is hard to fathom, in a way, because it's clear Lisa Cholodenko intends a critical perspective on the art magazine people, but with the photographer's friends I felt it was my reaction and not really the one she was aiming for. Other viewers may well warm to the central romance more than I did ... For me, the standout element was Patricia Clarkson as former Fassbinder actor Greta, now totally washed-up. She manages to make the character speak so much even through the drugs haze, and makes the her totally memorable, as well as having a brilliant sense of style with just a hint of the Germanic in look and accent. It's a tour de force performance as always from an actor who never puts a foot wrong.
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on 7 March 2016
What an interesting film. Really didn't know what to expect and certainly didn't expect to get so dragged into the lives of the cast. Really great acting by Ally Sheedy who sadly doesn't do anywhere near enough acting. Such an ultimately sad film that it left me feeling a bit broken even hours after. Well worth a watch, but don't expect any laughs.
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on 15 July 2009
Quite simply High Art is a stunning piece of cinema. It has a fascinating and compelling storyline, is brilliantly shot and directed, and features some outstanding acting by Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy and Patricia Clarkson. In fact, I first saw this film on tv many years ago, and until I saw her in something else, I actually thought Patricia Clarkson was a german actor. That's how convincing these performances
are. The themes of art, drug use, and lesbian sexuality are ones that are seldom portrayed convincingly on film, and yet the realistic filming style lures you into the characters lives until the final revelations leaves you emotionally reeling. As soon as I saw this was out on dvd I bought it, and when I watched it again I was not disappointed. This is a work of art, a finely crafted piece of storytelling that will stay with you for a long time, and one that you will want to watch again.
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Excellent cinematography and brilliant sound track. Attractive but not wholly likable main characters. Very trippy at times, aided by a fabulous sound track (better than the film). Not so much an enjoyable film, characters on a downhill cycle from the start, but interesting and watchable. Worth a viewing for the sound track and cinematography alone.
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on 29 August 2004
A well made film with lesbian theme; who would have thought it. I saw this at the cinema 3 times. (Twice in London and once by chance in Germany.) I loved this film, it is beautifully shot and the lead actresses put in stunning performances. If you haven't seen it then you should. Buy it today.
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on 18 October 2006
It's a shame that the lesbianism aspect of this film is being pointed at so much, as it's not a Dyke Film - the characters just happen to be gay women.

It is deeply affecting in terms of cinematography, soundtrack and plot which is why it'll stay with you long after its finished. The acting in it is beautiful, with a "naturalistic" feel, as if it was primarily improvised. If it wasn't for the perfection of some of the scenes -visually - I'd think it was likely.

If you remember a Summer day when you're newly in love and having an afternoon nap with Your Person, a large chunk of this film will press your buttons; if you were in the countryside, with dappled sunlight tickling your skin at the time, this film will take you back there in a heartbeat.

It's an intelligent film, full of intelligentsia and artistas - many of whom aren't particularly likeable (people that pretentious rarely are) but it's forgiven in the stunning-black-and-white-photography-quintessential-boho-tragedy of it all.

The ending is painful to watch, and the acting is beautifully beautifully done. The 2 main actresses - Radha Mitchell and Ally Sheedy - could have been grown in pods, solely for the purpose of making this film; that's how perfectly cast they are.

On a more superficial note, once you see the set designs, it'll have you wanting to re-decorate instantly. New York boho screwed up shabby chic at its most artistic. Gorgeous.
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on 7 November 2011
After a promising start I just became bored , a Nan Goldin style photographer fancies her neighbour and takes too many drugs . I feel i have seen this story so many times before and so as nothing new happened and there wasnt a twist at the end I dont really think that it is worth the money .
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