Cate Blanchett expertly adopts the personas of derelict, sanitation worker, scientist, housewife, newscaster, elementary schoolteacher, punk rocker, mourner, dance troupe director, puppeteer, society matron, and businesswoman and uses them to deliver excerpts from various classics of the titular form. Many of them have to do with artists and the art they make; many of them make bold claims about starting anew, free at last of history’s depressing drag. (Now we are free of the past. No wait, now we are free of the past. No, wait…) Some are sweetly affecting: an ode to art drawn from ordinary experience recited as a too-long grace before a family meal. Some are pointedly absurd: the proclamation of a great spiritual awakening and the permanently primitive art instinct at a swanky Champagne reception. Some are just searing: the Gaga/Dada declaration that “one dies a hero or a fool, which is the same thing” as a burial eulogy. Some are less effective and/or more obscure, but few last long enough to wear out their welcome, thanks to writer-director Julian Rosefeldt’s clever, complementary visuals and to his affectionate, interested approach — even when he’s poking fun. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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