03 August 2013

Wow! Allen Writes and Directs Blanchett is Brilliant Blue Jasmine is Amazing

Why not step out of reality once and I awhile? Why not go back to old conversations? Why not pop xanax like candy and swill vodka like water? When your world has unraveled your dreams crushed riches gone illusions shattered taking the rest of your life a day at a time is an awful chore. A seeming impossibility. Forging ahead can be an awful headache anyway. In the best of times. Especially if you're a total narcissist.

Oh Jasmine. You.

It's directors -- you know -- who create great films. They are the magicians behind the camera whose vision makes art. There are also the writers who lay the essential building block that inspire the director. Their ideas their words. In some cases the writer and director are the same person as with the genius who is Woody Allen. The most prodigious producer of memorable cinema the art has known. While he has made a few clunkers in his time there are no more than a handful of directors (Bergman Fellini and Antonioni) who might be considered his superior.

Allen's brilliance is --  not surprisingly -- often accompanied by wonderful acting performances notably by women (Keaton Farrow Wiest Cruz Johansson Hershey Sorvino to name a few). But there has been nothing to match Cate Blanchett in Allen's latest film Blue Jasmine.

Blue Jasmine has been called the A Streetcar Named Desire for this generation which would make Jasmine a modern day Blanche DuBois. I can't say that such comparisons are far wrong though Blanchett's performance is less mannered and less ambiguous than Vivian's Leigh. Also better. There is even a bit of Brando to the main character's boyfriend.

Jasmine for many years lived the high life on the East Coast with her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) who was a debonair version of Bernie Madoff.  Hal was not only making millions illegally but he was a serial philanderer carrying on his affairs right under Jasmine's elevated nose. Then the walls come tumbling down.

The fortune was seized Hal went to prison and Jasmine took flight to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Sally is a lower middle class divorce with two rowdy young sons and a rough and tumble boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale). She and her ex husband (a surprisingly strong performance from Andrew Dice Clay) who lost all their dough because of Hal.

There are surprises followed by inevitabilities in Blue Jasmine. Our sad heroine is suffering through what used to be called a nervous breakdown. She meets men and one is even quite a catch. B she is waging a titanic battle against her own demons. Reality is not something she is prepared for. Relationships are often the very worst prescription for the reality challenged.

Blue Jasmine sounds dark and depressing. It is. But is remarkably watchable and enjoyable. There is  humor and it is never forced nor unreal. Allen has crafted a film that is as smooth and irresistible as his own Match Point (2005). Another film that was steadily paced and unavoidable. While much of the story is told through flashbacks and there are an array of vivid characters and the sister's subplot to tell the movie clocks in at under 100 minutes and flows effortlessly. Only a master could make this film.

Of course audiences are also drawn by Blanchett's compelling performance in which she so embodies  her character. I haven't been this taken by an actress since Kristen Scott Thomas in Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2007). Blanchett is transcendent in that she is not acting but being.

This is a very easy this is a very difficult movie to write about it. There is so much to say so many themes and ideas. It is an intellectual goldmine. But is is a film to be felt and experienced and brooded over. It resonates....

I keep returning to the film's last image which I'll not spoil for those who have yet seen the film (go to the next showing). Among other things it is an example of how Allen -- like Chaplin -- understands how a closing shot can underscore an entire film. I also recall Jasmine maniacally looking for pills and desperately chugging down liquor and oh my god she has such an awful headache. That toxic brew of downers and reality and disassociation. Leaps from the now and the real to the past the wonderful intoxicating heady past when the world seemed perfect. So entranced by that vision that it intrudes into the now. Sanity can be so illusive when what we have and are is taken out from under us and we are left with the strange and cold. Everything is temporal. The permanent is death and one character manages to attain it. But Jasmine lives on. Survivor. Oh to survive by denying and escaping and eluding and

It was you Woody. And you Cate. You did it. You made it. You did it. Really really amazing.

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