Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Log 375: Woody Allen’s new film suggests it might be time for him to have a break

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.
English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I went to the new Woody Allen film last night, expecting something equally delightful as some of his more recent films in praise of Rome, Paris and particularly Barcelona. Unfortunately this one turns out to be Woody at his most portentous, commenting, I suppose you could say, on the corrupt world of the extreme rich.
The film, in its English vesion, is called Blue Jasmine, and in its French version, according to ads in today’s French-language newspapers here, Jasmine French (which is an odd use of the French language, as any Montrealer could tell you.
Frankly, this is not a social class that particularly interests me, and the way it is portrayed by Allen never really engaged my belief. Cate Blanchett, it is true, gives a bravura performance in the leading role of a wife of one of those “masters of the universe”, as the kings of Wall street like to describe themselves. But she seems to be a thoroughly stupid woman, shallow to the nth degree, and with a system of values that leaves her devastated as soon as she finds out what all her friends have known for years, that her husband is a philandering scumbag.  He is played smoothly by Alec Baldwin, but we don’t get much chance to find out what makes him tick. Like all the other characters he is a cardboard character whom one simply cannot get close to, even as a detached observer to a film.
Their  whole value system, completely dominated by the enormous amounts of money her husband has fraudulently accumulated, is such as to cancel any sympathy one might have had for this couple.
And it is not assuaged  even from the moment we pick her up, gabbing away, endlessly, about her personal problems, to the stranger who happens to be sitting next to her in the aircraft. She arrives in San Francisco, is admitted to the rather working-class home of her adopted sister (both girls have been adopted, Allen’s way, presumably of justifying their totally different types, although why that device would be needed is beyond me, since siblings can be just as diverse as adopted children), and after describing how she has lost everything, she begins to complain about the service in her first-class seat on the plane. “First-class?” asks her sister, “and you are totally broke?”
Jasmine (who used to be called Jeannette, but changed it because she thought it sounded more glamorous) doesn’t really get her sister’s point, which warns us, I guess, that her intelligence is somewhat limited.  Her sister is a hard-working mother of two, herself divorced, and we are treated to a number of flashbacks to fill in the domestic history of these two poor souls. Jasmine dreams of finding a rich man who will restore all her lost security, but when someone suggests she could become an interior designer, she sets out to become that, although first having to attend a course in how to use a computer, which comes hard for her. Her sister, for her part, has a new boyfriend who was ready to move in with her until the arrival of big sister from New York, and eventually Jasmine herself does meet Mr Right, a young diplomat who has just bought a fabulous new home that he wants her to decorate, and who seems to be just as shallow and simple as this sophisticated New York woman he regards as a perfect match. Of course she tells him a lot of lies, which, inevitably, are discovered,. And at the same time her sister discovers a man who seems perfect, until she discovers he is already married, a small detail he forgot to mention to her. Under the impact of losing her diplomat, poor Jasmine sinks deeper than ever into pill-taking --- I am unable to describe the denouement to all this nonsense because it seemed so trivial, so lacking in interest, that I lost the drift long before the end.
If Allen’s purpose was to illustrate the sickness of this particular class of masters of the universe, I suppose one could say he succeeded. But he might just as well have been illustrating the rise and fall of the American empire
However, I fear these were not his purposes. Rather, one has the impression that this is all presented as a meaningful human drama. But personally I couldn’t take these slobbering simpletons seriously. Maybe the time has come for Woody to ease up, relax and smell the daisies, let at least a year go by that he doesn’t produce something or other on film.  It happens to everybody, Woody, growing old. Just have to accept it as well as we can manage.
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