Friday, January 10, 2014

Film: Blue Jasmine

"Blue Jasmine" is probably the best film Woody Allen has done in recent years. It is a drama with satirical 
overtones dialoguing  with the American drama classics (T. Williams' Streetcar Named Desire in particular) to reflect on the sorry state of contemporary morals. It is a better and more laconic insight into the American culture of "irrational exuberance" than "The Wolf of Wall Street" with its typical Woody Allen morality-play rigid schema transpiring through the lightness of what is happening on the screen. And what is happening is quite comical - on the surface at least. It is the stuff comedies are made off: a rich woman has lost everything and is in a "fish out of water" situation having to share a working-class life-style with her sister Ginger (S. Hawkins). We begin to grasp the tragic side of the story when it becomes obvious that Jasmine (born Jeannette) wants to dig herself out of the hole and climb-back to her previous position by lying and nurturing delusions about herself and her prospects. Eventually, she has to sever herself from reality (read "poverty"). If she can't accept being poor, her only option left is insanity. Her parallel with Blanche ends here: [she] can't accept realism, [she] wants magic!" The "magic" that made her rich in the first place...Her parallel with real-life characters - e.g. the female protagonist of the documentary "The Princess of Versailles" (the wife of a real estate magnate gone broke who eats from a 2,000 dollar caviar box with a large spoon sitting alone on her messy bed) starts here.  Reality offers a lot of proof that people, who are compelled to be or act rich develop a behavior which borders on the insane - check all the "real housewives", Kardashian reality TV or any other reality life-style shows. The life-style media has been driving all kinds of white-trash personas crazy. Those who accept to be "loosers" - like Ginger does - get to keep their sanity and keep stocking the supermarket aisles. Ginger also aspired to "break rich" but lost a handful -- a lottery win (not without meaning in this context). She also aspired to climb socially by falling for a professional man but got duped on this front as well. Jasmine was "lucky" briefly through her marriage to a crook. Both sisters come from the working class. Blanche and Stella in T. Williams' play were descendants of the Southern aristocracy - their problem was to accept the downfall of their class. In Allen's drama, it is the working class who are driven crazy because they can't jump the gap, can't jump the great divide between rich and poor, which is growing wider and wider. And the wider this divide grows, the louder its allure is being blasted through all communication channels into the fragile psyche of those who "dream big."  These are the choices - accept the loss and be content (there is love and sex for you as a consolation) or take Xanax and eventually - there is madness.

To comment on David Denby's crucial question whether the best films of 2013 are also "important": "Blue Jasmine" IS "important" as opposed to "American Hustle," for example, which is NOT. W. Allen put his finger on the pulse of our time. Not frustrated sexuality or fall from aristocratic grace (Blanche's tragedy) are our problems anymore but another type of Desire -- materialistic and beauphoric, premised on instant gratification with a No Exist sign blinking at the end.

Kate Blanchett's performance is superb. The mannerisms of her character mask a deep void that is scary and only occasionally lurks in her eyes and the low tones of her husky voice.

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