High Art

Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Screenwriters: Lisa Cholodenko

Institute History


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 soirées 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 an interest 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.

Lisa Cholodenko, Director
Lisa Cholodenko was born in the highlands of the San Fernando Valley in 1964. In 1992, after working on several studio features, she migrated to New York City to enter the film division of Columbia University. While earning her MFA, she studied with, among others, Milos Forman and Michael Hausman and made several short films, including dinner party, winner of the 1997 Channel 4 TX Prize. High Art is her first feature film.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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