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Syd, who lives with her boyfriend James, goes to complain to her neighbor about the leak in the ceiling. Her neigbor is photographer Lucy Berliner and Syd starts to fall in love with her. Written by
HIGH ART is remarkable not only for two of its lead performances, Ally Sheedy and Patricia Clarkson, but for the way it so closely observes its characters' lives. Director Cholodenko has found a way to tell her story that has a strong feel of authenticity. One important component of the film's realism is the set design. These are offices and, particularly, apartments that feel like people actually work or live there. Such authenticity may be nothing new, but the way Cholodenko moves people around in these spaces and they way the actors perform combine to ground in what seems a 'real world'. For those who have known, or been part of, the 'artistic scene' and its reliance on drug use, the numerous sequences set in Lucy's dimly-lit, cluttered living room will ring quite true.
Ally Sheedy, attractive, but now slightly hardened in appearance, has gotten deep inside the tormented world of Lucy Berliner. It's a character that will be hard to forget, and the kind of performance that does not seem at all like acting.
As Berliner's dissolute former lover, Greta, Patricia Clarkson gives the film its most colorful performance. This does seem like acting, but that is not at all a criticism: Greta is in fact a failed actress and a person whose descent into addiction and self-destruction must be theatrical at any cost.
Pretty, round-faced Radha Mitchell is not at the level of these two powerhouses, but her Syd is nicely understated and appropriately wistful.
Also very fine in the cast are impossibly handsome Bill Sage as a hanger-on and Tammy Grimes as Lucy's stern, distant mother.
HIGH ART depicts a world where some discuss the minute details of a photograph in the most abstruse terms of deconstruction or ambiguous 'art babble', while others grapple with the basic questions that haunt us all. It's an extreme close-up on the human condition.
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