High Art has got to be one of the best films I've seen, at least in a long, long while. I say that because it is so finely paced, so intricate in its rhythms and moods, that it has the quality of real life, or perhaps more aptly, a real dream. Between the music and the color of the sets, and the relaxed, subtle acting which fits right in with both, Cholodenko creates a world apart, and the viewer is drawn in like a lover in an entryway.
High Art tells the story of an aspiring assistant editor at a photography magazine who by chance meets a brilliant photographer (Lucy), who, after much acclaim years earlier, has stopped being active in her art. The editor, Syd, is entranced by Lucy's nonchalant affect, the aura of her apartment, the steady stream of friends coming in and out, and most importantly, her photography. In turn, Lucy is attracted to Syd for her drive, her ambition, and her uncharted youth. Their mutual attraction rocks the drug-filled boat that is Lucy's flat, and a new love, and a resurgence of Lucy's art, is born. Whether they are allowed to thrive is up to Lucy, her long-time lover Greta, and all the other hangers-on.
The characters here don't feel like characters so much as real people who can make mistakes, who can try starting over, but who might have to deal with fate, (not to mention old habits and barely functioning relationships), along the way.
Ally Sheedy's performance here is truly amazing, mainly because it ends up not feeling like a performance at all. She plays each emotion with subtlety and depth and her timing and moods are right on the money, time after time. Rhada Mitchell is right there with her, giving a deeply moving performance as the young woman who sheds light on the shadowed Lucy only to question her reasons for doing so.
Gabriel Mann makes a welcome appearance as Syd's boyfriend, James. His James is the right mix of attractive, caring boyfriend, yet somehow dimmer counterpart to the magnetic Lucy. He may love Syd, but he can live without her. Lucy's pull is stronger, she needs Syd more. And the love she offers is real.
I give this movie five stars. Does well with multiple viewings, so a good one to own. Recommended for those who are old enough to not confuse the drug use in the film for glamour. Just the opposite.