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Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine film posterSynopsis

Woody Allen’s latest.   Jasmine (Cate Blanchette) who is a wealthy socialite married to Hal (Alec Baldwin).  He is unfaithful and in revenge she exposes his financial shenanigans to the FBI.  All their fortune disappears, Jasmine’s son leaves her.  She goes to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) who is working class.  Blue Jasmine tracks her psychic disintegration as she alienates Ginger’s boyfriend Chilli (Bobby Cannavale).  Jasmine works for a dentist and later meets a rich boyfriend Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard).  She drinks too much and talks to herself.  Will her life improve…?

Review

Unanimous critical opinion has praised this film.  I’ve been immune to Woody Allen throughout his career and on the showing of this film I still am.  All that middle class name dropping of artists and philosophers, all those intensive arguments that plod where most of us hardly miss a step.  All those self conscious witticisms and all that earnest psychobabble.  The volubility of his couples sound like the embarrassments you would overhear from a middle class soiree.  As Jasmine, Cate Blanchette plays the role that Vivien Leigh played so well.  Blanche Dubois as the alcoholic wreck who looks at the psychological and social disintegration of her life in self pitying slow motion.  It’s obvious that Allen has been reading his Tenessee Williams exam notes because Blanchette goes through Leigh’s act so well, to the point of party piece parody.  Ginger’s boyfriend plays the Marlon Brando character, Kawalski, all slick and bruiser physicality.  Might as well call this film Cat on a Menageries Hot Tin Roof.  Jasmine is a posh blonde rich bitch who doesn’t care about Ginger until she’s out of luck when her cuckolding husband loses all their money in financial disgrace.  She tries to keep up patrician appearances and pretensions in Ginger’s working class San Francisco home.  Sally Hawkins is a British actress who does either posh debutantes or feisty working women and she’s the only character in this film that I’ve got any time for.  Unusually for Woody Allen there is neither leaden humour nor would be cerebral discussion, rather there are abrasive quarrels that get physically rough.  It’s as if Woody Allen has just discovered domestic violence.  Jasmine talks to herself but her soliloquies are not Woody Allen’s Philosophy for Dummies monologue but those of a mind falling apart.  Her high class elegance is accentuated by the chunky plebeian relatives who refuse to pander to her desperate attempts to cling on to gentility.  Far from being his best in years, Blue Jasmine is a joke free imitation of Tennessee Williams.

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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Film Reviews

 

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I’m Not There

I'm Not There poster

Todd Haynes’ 2007 film about Bob Dylan is not a biopic, it’s a montage of portrayals through several actors.  Significantly, the only really good performance is from Cate Blanchette playing Dylan in his most controversial mid sixties phase.  The other performances highlight how average Dylan was outside the mid sixties, from fictitious hobo and Woody Guthrie wannabee parasite to mysogynistic rocker. The comparison of Dylan with Rimbaud is grandiloquently absurd.  Haynes is meticulous on period details, to the point of parody (see Far from Heaven), so the film is superb on period details of Dylan’s strummer-turned surreal rocker from ’64 to ’67.

In parts, Blanchette’s performance eerily replicates the tetchy prima donna of the 1965 Don’t Look Back film, and we get accurate observations on the tacky hedonism of the Warhol period.  We also get Godard-type scenes where our hero follows a socialite to impress her with superstar nonsense.

The film cleverly guys the ’70s stovepipe-hatted cowboy mystic style, complete with surreal stereotypes from the Basement Tapes cover, poses courtesy of Jesse James, rock star as outlaw hero.

Dylan has not had a happy relationship with cinema .  His own appearances have been lamentable.  Don’t Look Back showed how amphetamined  middle brow chatter can cover for vacuity, and of his ’70s and’80s film appearances the less said the better.  The Edie Sedgwick film does not flatter either.

As for the man himself, Dylan’s supposed martyrdom by fame and easy success reminds me of that Peter Cooke joke about Greta Garbo disregardedly wandering down an empty street shouting ‘I want to be alone’ through a megaphone.  He backed into the limelight manufacturing a career out of being an ‘enigma’, not only does he complain when people then wonder what sort of enigma he is, he doesn’t realise it’s something the rest of us manage to be, without trying.  As for which of the Bob Dylan’s is the real one, does anyone really care?  The film shows us, albeit inadvertently, how overrated Dylan could be, outside his talent for media manipulation and impressing people with obscure phraseology wrapped in disparate imagery in songs lacking narrative development.  This film tells us a lot about Todd Haynes, like Oliver Stone he is obviously obsessed with the myths of the ’60s and ’70s and sees Dylan’s career as an excuse to raid the cliche wardrobe.  There is temporal cross cutting which does not cohere into a recognisable biography which was undoubtedly Haynes’s intention.  Perhaps he wanted the film to be an analogy of a Dylan song or story, driven by image rather than narrative.  There are justly cruel observations on Dylan’s manager, on Warhol groupies, on pampered Edie Sedgwick and Francoise Hardy types, on Ginsberg, and the’50s.  Haynes maybe parodying the rock biopics served with the usual stereotypes of Kennedy, Vietnam, the moon landings etc, just in case we don’t get what the 60’s was all about.

Haynes gives the Cate Blanchette persona an easy ride allowing his bathetic remarks  to stand unchallenged  and of course anybody not in with the Dylan psyches private jokes is nowhere. Haynes is also good on the fawning establishment’s pathetic attempts to be hip and to ride his bandwagon.

Perhaps Haynes is satirising aspects of the Dylan myth, but isn’t he also augmenting it?  It reminds me of those interviewers who would like to talk to Dylan but retreat into a distanced cool because afraid of a rebuff.  Anybody coming to Dylan for the first time through this film might wonder if they are being manipulated and fooled.  Haynes has made a clever film which manages to lionise and lampoon Dylan as it’s ultimately forgiving of his faults.  A patchily good film about an unsympathetic subject.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Film Reviews, Independent films

 

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