Claire Denis’ High Life is full of striking imagery, set against top-notch production design — but to what ends?
The cold, choppy, timeline-jumping, deep space drama that accompanies these visual wonders also negates much of their power, bringing into question precisely what the director/co-writer hoped to accomplish with this film beyond the old chestnut of human depravity’s depths and individuals’ potential for battling the darkness.
Though a step above Denis’ 2017 patience-testing Let the Sunshine In, her joyless chronicle of death row inmates pardoned in exchange for becoming reproductive test subjects of Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) on a grander — and oddly timely for April 2019 — mission to harness energy from a black hole is a comparable exercise in discerning a work’s meaning early and enduring its stretching beyond what it can support.
The sharp special effects outside the spaceship, majesty of the vessel’s indoor garden, and intriguing flashbacks to life on Earth are gripping to behold, plus there’s little to fault with the performances — among them Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, André Benjamin, and newcomer Jessie Ross as the incarcerated crew — but they’re all in the service of drudgery with few, if any, payoffs.
Denis die-hards and viewers who enjoy a good cinematic pummeling may advise otherwise, but it’s difficult to see many others extracting much from this long sit.
Grade: C-minus. Rated R. Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre