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Saturday, 19 October 2013

Who is Woody Allen in Blue Jasmine ?

This is a review of Blue Jasmine (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

19 October (updated, with a 102-point rating, 20 October; Tweet added 1 January 2015)

This is a review of Blue Jasmine (2013)

I was waiting for something to happen - and it never did

Obviously, what is revealed about Jasmine (and to her) in the last ten or so minutes did not count for the person who made this comment - what sort of film was this meant to be in which this elusive 'something' might eventuate ?

Having seen Blue Jasmine (2013) exactly a month ago, on the opening night of Cambridge Film Festival, I was pleased to have watched it again, and pleased for Woody Allen that Screen 2 this Saturday night was sold out. Do I vainly hope for some of those people to go back and see some of the fifty or so other Allen films, whether or not they missed them before ?

If so, I would commend, in addition to the well enough known Annie Hall and Manhattan, these personal favourites :

Interiors (1978)

Stardust Memories (1980)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Love and Death (1975)

Back at the film, and the question posed, I have heard it suggested that Dr Flicker is the person closest to Allen himself (i.e. the parts that he writes for himself to play), and I watched him with that in mind. No, he is not Allen - Allen is, I think, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett).

Tuned to Allen, knowing almost all of his films, and having seen this one before, I could hear his cadences, his little excited rages in this role – not exactly, but Jasmine is the one who approaches his self-expression, his fluidity, his vocabulary and assurance. Listen for him, and I think that you will find his voice in Blanchett’s.

97 = S : 16 / A : 17 / C : 15 / M : 17 / P : 16 / F : 16

A rating and review of Blue Jasmine (2013)

S = script

A = acting

C = cinematography

M = music

P = pacing

F = feel

9 = mid-point of scale (all scored out of 17, 17 x 6 = 102)

Meanwhile, back at the nub, the film is not as dark as Interiors, but it is a drama, and I hope that it is being appreciated for that, though one with the humour that Interiors almost entirely lacks : there are themes in common here, and the Allen who cut up footage of Charlotte Rampling for a vivid portrayal of her distressed state of mind (as Dorrie) in hospital in Stardust has long had, if not themes of mental health, then hints at it, and I respect him immensely for that.

Blanchett almost cannot fail to win something big for this performance, because, for me, it is so easily convincing, so true to the psychology of her life (explored more here) and to the experiences that she has, but I am, if anything, even more delighted at a peach of a role like this for the tremendous Sally Hawkins, who really shows what a versatile actor she is at playing a character who has a capacity to delight in the smaller things and be radiant – Allen had cast her in Cassandra’s Dream, and this new part she carries off perfectly.

As to the story, no, there is no big something, and I did not have to absorb two previous films as at the time of the previous viewing, but I am very pleased to run this one through again and see how beautifully it holds together. When Allen crafts a screenplay, as in Hannah (or Harry, or Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), there is nothing that one would change with it – when, for me, he does not, in Match Point (2005) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), it is hard to know where and how one would rescue it.

So my hope is for people to be patient with Jasmine’s story, and the choices that she has made – when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), she clicks into a fantasy where she has always been called Jasmine, etc., etc., and I could see her entering into straightaway believing things, just because she was saying them and wanted them to be true. We can reach back into the story, and see how much – and, at the same time, how little – she knew about what was happening and what she was doing, and how, as we see her doing all along with prioritizing her needs, she hurts her stepson and husband.

I also hope that they will look out some other Allen, not Midnight in Paris (2011), really, but maybe some of the ones that I have listed; that Hawkins now has the recognition that she deserves; that Allen keeps on with his film every year; and that good film-making like this will be taken to people’s hearts, and cherished.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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