High Art


Top 40% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1998 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patrica Clarkson, Bill Sage, Tammy Grimes, Gabriel Mann

Non-Cast Credits

Lisa Cholodenko, Jeff Levy-Hinte, Susan Stover, Dolly Hall, Tami Reiker, Amy E. Duddleston, Bernhard Blythe, Shudder to Think


Inflected with an edgy, urban realism and dark, laconic wit, High Art is an astute meditation on the interminglings of love and ambition, identity and addiction. Defiantly deeper than typical twenty-something "angstings", High Art is less concerned with whether its subjects survive their journey than to what degree their idealism is compromised along the way.

As she enjoys a loving: if lackluster, relationship with James and a budding, though menial, career at a prestigious photography magazine, Syd's postcollegiate undertakings are modest and manageable. When a leaking ceiling leads her to investigate its source, Syd's tightly spun stability splinters. Opening the door to this unnavigated realm is Lucy Berliner, a renowned art photographer curiously retired at the age of forty. Living with her heroin-addicted lover, a once-glamorous Fassbinder actress, Lucy plays host to soirees of unbridled sexual, aesthetic, and synthetic stimulation. For Syd, it is a realm of alluring possibilities.

When her bosses catch wind of her newfound friendship, they suddenly take arninterest in Syd and her proposal to feature Lucy's work in the magazine. As Syd's and Lucy's relationship turns sexual and the lines between love and professionalism blur, Syd is forced to wager her hunger for recognition against her duty to protect Lucy from life's darker truths.

With a sonorous score and sinuous camera pans, director Lisa Cholodenko lacquers the screen with a languorous sensuality. Beautifully enacted and meticulously inscribed, High Art unhinges the dark psychology of dependency with a brave disregard for reductive moralizing.


Rebecca Yeldham (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.