Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

August 13, 2013

CALLERI: Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" may deliver an Oscar to Cate Blanchett

Niagara Gazette — Like clockwork, Woody Allen makes movies the way most of you make breakfast. It’s as if he needs the sustenance filmmaking brings him the way you need nourishment from your morning meal.

I hope your breakfasts are as fulfilling as Allen’s movies. I have stated before that I am a full-fledged fan of his motion pictures. He’s made a feature a year since 1982; some major, a few minor. He is the greatest living American filmmaker.

I once wrote and still stand by this: “Allen’s films are exquisitely-made, with cinematography and production values that are as good as can be; many times approaching greatness. I think of his films as cinematic short stories and eagerly await each new work. As with all superior artists, Allen has themes that he enjoys exploring. I don’t see that as a negative. I enjoy discovering how he puts a new spin on something familiar.”

With “Blue Jasmine,” that something familiar is Blanche DuBois, the frustrated and addled heroine of Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The link between Allen and Williams is Blanche’s self-deception as practiced by Jasmine, a wealthy Upper East Side New Yorker who has reinvented herself once before and faces that daunting task again.

Jasmine was born Jeanette in a world miles away from the gold dust of Manhattan and the Hamptons. She has a sister named Ginger, who stayed true to her ordinary self. They were both adopted, which is why they are so completely dissimilar. In Jasmine’s invented world, she is clothed in Chanel, fueled by premium vodka, and deluded into believing her past is so far behind her that it makes any history impossible. When she talks, she speaks with the clenched-jawed whisper of luxury.

Married to an obscenely rich financier, Jasmine delights in Park Avenue dinner parties and grand museum openings. However, she’s living an illusion, not only regarding herself, but also regarding her husband. He is an oily crook who has stolen millions of dollars from his clients. He gets caught. Jasmine has nowhere to go but down. And down she goes, into what she considers the lower depths. Her husband commits suicide, most of her posh friends have abandoned her, and those few remaining ladies who lunch certainly aren’t going to let her live with them.

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