Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Blue Jasmine

I'd already prepared this post when blog-friend "mike" commented under a previous post (this one) alerting me to an "Open Letter" written by Dylan Farrow, an adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. Its contents are disturbing. Anyone reading that letter would also be well-advised to read this article: The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast, by Robert Weide. It seems to me there are several layers to this story. The child, now a woman has undoubtedly been mentally damaged, but how and by whom, for me isn't clear. As I responded to "mike", I'm wary of jumping onto the cyber-bandwagon of outrage. We outsiders cannot be 100% sure of exactly what went on so many years ago. I'm going to leave it at that.


Blue Jasmine: we watched the DVD recently, I enjoyed it, husband declared it just "alright". We don't see a single gun in Blue Jasmine, that has to be a plus, all by itself!
I usually enjoy Woody Allen's movies, he wrote and directed this one, but didn't appear in it. His movies have a classy direction style and really good writing, always leaving food for further thought. His superb choices of background music are yet another plus-point. (Clint Eastwood is another director who takes great pains to ensure background music in his self-directed movies is always "just right".)

Blue Jasmine has a fairly straightforward theme: a snooty wife of a shady financial wheeler-dealer comes unraveled after her husband's come-uppance and demise. She finds herself left penniless, needing to stay with her working-class, down-to-earth sister, and to uneasily mix with her sister's friends. Fine detail in Woody's writing is put under a microscope, to emerge even finer, by the excellent Cate Blanchett. Without an actress of her calibre the movie could have sunk without trace, in spite of Woody Allen's writing and direction - he knew what he was doing when he chose his leading lady!

I haven't read many reviews of the film, had read none before watching the DVD, so was unaware of the storyline. Since watching the film I've scanned a couple of reviews, a few comments and noticed that different people saw different things in this film. In spite of its straightforward base theme there are several integral strands.

Some female commenters have expressed the view that Woody Allen is a misogynist, that he depicted the women of the story unsympathetically as either neurotic, paranoid, pretentious snobs, or vulgar no-hopers, while most of the movie's men are painted in kinder colours. I firmly disagree with that opinion. I see Woody Allen as one of the better writers of and for women. He doesn't write about "ordinary" women - like me - that would be mind-bogglingly boring, nobody would go see a movie about someone like me. He writes about oddballs, bitches, paranoid creatures, snobs, often about New Yorkers with a level of so-called "sophistication" unfamiliar to most of us. That is not misogyny, that's drama. I disagree that the men in Blue Jasmine were treated more kindly. They are...let's see: a major swindler and cheat (the film's short-lived "baddie"); a rather loud-mouthed working class guy prone to hot-temper and object throwing, which could quite easily morph into abuse; a shy mousey guy, nice, well-meaning but a bit "needy"; a cheating, lying sex-starved husband out for a cheap thrill; a dentist who should have been sued for sexual harassment; and a rich charmer with eyes on a political career, shopping (with blinkers on, brain turned off) for a wife to match his ambitions.

Another way of seeing the film - my way - is as a caricature of class differences in the USA. Caricatures are by nature extreme, and Blue Jasmine's class differences were definitely extreme. Some viewers could (possibly rightly) say that Woody Allen was showing his own snobbery towards ordinary working class people, but we have to remember that this was not a documentary, but a drama! He drew his characters from life, then exaggerated them beyond the norm for dramatic intensity. I wouldn't say there are no characters in real life like those in Blue Jasmine, but the majority, I suspect, are not nearly as extreme. As I often keep reminding my husband when watching movies, and he complains, "that wouldn't happen"....I reply "It's a stooooo-ry!" I did comment myself, however, in Blue Jasmine, at the point when Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) declared herself unable to use a computer and needed to take a course. "That wouldn't happen to someone of her age", said I, "she uses a smartphone for goodness sake!" Again, I guess Woody Allen used this exaggeration as a ploy to draw further attention to Jasmine's wealth-sheltered, pampered former life-style.

The film could also be seen as a diary of a mental breakdown, painfully drawn, expertly acted by the lead character, with all other characters fading to the background, almost into insignificance. Yet another, interwoven strand of the story, deals with relationships, making them work, and what that takes; how they can so easily be destroyed, and what it might cost to try to repair them.


mike said...

As always, I'm not a movie viewer unless it happens to air on ABC, NBC, or PBS (I don't receive CBS airwaves)...and they rarely show movies anymore. I've viewed many of Woody's older movies and enjoy them...he's able to capture the twists of ironic fate in life.

I think that Woody Allen is an astute observer of human interaction and probably bases many of his movies upon real-life drama. If it isn't happening within his sphere, all he has to do is read the newspaper for ideas.

I've often thought that I should write about neighbors, friends, and work associates. Real-life typically trumps fiction with unbelievable story-lines! The unfaltering sanity of people often crumbles when faced with human desires, leaving many dumbfounded. I've been amazed by plot turns...astrological transits interpreted by mortals to forever alter their course.

A brief true story here. I was friends with a younger, upper middle class couple in Ventura, Mary & Jerod...knew them for years and they were the epitome of happily married. They had a friend that developed a microbrewery. Mary decided to help market the beer by volunteering her efforts visiting bars day after day in the county, pushing this microbrew. She had an alcoholic mother that she despised for her alcoholism. Well, Mary became a barfly alcoholic, having relationships with bad boys. She finally left Jerod for a bad boy lover, leaving two kids for dad to care for. During divorce proceedings, it was discovered that Jerod had an illegitimate child with a co-worker. Many fascinating details that I'm omitting.

A 65 year old woman down the street from me decided to clue me in to her lifestyle. She's a fine, upstanding, moral woman it appears, as she pushes that image...and independently wealthy. Turns-out she has a much older, wealthy sugar daddy! He's a prominent, refined, respected, well known married man. Saturdays are "sex" days for her...her career.

So many stories and so little time.

Twilight, are you familiar with "Peyton Place", both book and TV series, by Grace Metalious? She wrote about the inter-twining affairs of her conservative, local New England community. She was despised by the locals after the book was published. It was extremely racy for the 1950s.

As for allegations against Woody, it's unfortunate the issues cannot be resolved as truth or lie, as it will forever be a cloud of controversy. I've read a considerable number of articles recently, since it's a current hot topic, and I'd have to say that the accusation hasn't particularly held-up to scrutiny...there does seem to be much evidence to support Allen's defense, though perhaps not definitive enough to say it didn't happen, particularly when the alleged victim editorializes the accusation.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes Woody Allen certainly has a keen eye for the weird foibles of human behaviour. He began as a stand-up comedian, and comedians, the best of 'em, often have that same keen eye.
My first memory of Woody Allen - an LP record of his stand-up routine - I bought it as a Christmas gift for my boss, must have been sometime in the 1960s. I'd listened to it first, to ensure it was funny enough to pass on - it was.

Well now - you have the makings of a couple of novels right there, mike! Flex those typing fingers, type "chapter one" and....you're off :-)

Peyton Place? I haven't read the book. I do remember there was a TV series of that name, back in the UK, but it's so long ago that I can't recall a thing about it - if I ever watched it, that is. There were great chunks of time when I had no access to a TV back then.

I'm staying on the fence about the allegations against Woody.
My gut feeling (that's all it is) is that though he might not be 100% innocent, and squeaky clean, events didn't happen exactly as set out by Dylan Farrow. I have more doubts about Mia Farrow and her motives than I do about Woody Allen.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Maybe Jasmine's inability to use a computer came about because of Woody Allen's inability to use one.

Once you learn how to use them, I also wonder if Smartphones have as many glitches as computers do. Neither my husband or I own a Smartphone but we do own a computer. And no matter how conscientiously we use it, it still has issues that I almost never know how to address. We don't change anything, yet things mysteriously change on their own and my husband has to figure it out.

Yesterday it was scrambling everything I typed, switching the order of the letters around and creating a jumble. Does stuff like that happen with a Smartphone?

mike (again) said...

LB, sounds like your computer needs an exorcism...LOL. I don't have a smart phone, but my newer notebook doesn't mess-up and my seven year old computer that crashed several times prior to death didn't mess-up, either, beyond its death pangs. If you have an older computer, the hard drive may have had better days. The software you were using may have become corrupted...uninstall and then re-install. I've never heard of the type of problem you described. Are you sure alcohol wasn't involved?...only kidding.

I recommend you perform a disk cleanup, usually found in the control panel...may be listed under performance information & tools. If you have an XP version, you can perform disk defragment, also...Windows 7 does it automatically.

Smart phones use memory chips that run apps, so there's less to go wrong compared to a full-fledged computer with a hard drive and memory chips.

LB said...

mike - Thanks for trying to help.:) And no kidding about the exorcism. If only you knew.:0

I read your response to my husband who said he'd done everything you suggested in your second paragraph but would rather not uninstall then reinstall our software. At 5 years, our computer isn't all that old, at least not by our standards.

Anyway, today the problem has corrected itself. Things like this happen all the time and mostly to me - sometimes my husband figures it out and other times they straighten themselves out. I have to admit, I sometimes have a strange effect on anything electric. At two different and unrelated times (different homes) two different cable technicians who came to check on problems asked me if our place(s) could be haunted.:)

Anonymous said...

"Blue Jasmine" was shot a few blocks from where I lived at the time. Husband saw both Woody and Cate filming. The film is a watered down Streetcar Named Desire". I found "Midnight in Paris" much more interesting and enjoyable.

As to Woody: all the women in NYC and he chooses his (surrogate) daughter? I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt concerning Dylan,but the Soon-Yi situation changed my mind.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Could be - re use of computer and Woody Allen's not using one.
I read that he types his scripts on a typewriter. In Jasmine's case, I doubt she'd ever touched a typewriter keyboars, so that would be the biggest drawback for her, perhaps. We don't have a smartphone, so I don't know whether using them takes any computer know-how - apparently not from mike's response.

Most of my computer probs over the years have come from malware and virus infestation, with an actual hardware issue only twice as I recall. I've not come across the sort of thing you describe. Occasionally it takes a few seconds for my typing to reach the screen, but I think that's to do with internet service provider being sluggish.

Maybe, sometimes, you exude an excess of electricity which could confuse the computer's electronics....?

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ I preferred "Midnight in Paris" too, though it didn't get much acclaim if I remember correctly.
Cate Blanchett gave Blue Jasmine its edge and made it appealing to critics I think.

The hoo-haa over Soon-Yi had died down a lot until this latest revival of Dylan's story. His choice of Soon-Yi as a wife didn't bother me - maybe I'm odd!
They're still together, far as I know. He can't be that bad a husband.