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Blu-ray Review: Blue Jasmine

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Blue Jasmine

It seems as if every other Woody Allen film that comes out is greeted like the beckoning light of a new golden age. “A return to form”, cry the fans. And then, once the fuss dies down, he directs a rather rubbish feature and everyone goes back to treating him like a lost cause.

Blue Jasmine has been dubbed by many as a ‘kosher’ Allen movie, one which doesn’t descend into awkward attempts at humour and strained performances. I liked, don’t get me wrong, I did. But it really isn’t that wonderful. It’s a flimsy, shakily structured movie that is kept alive not by Allen’s brilliance, but by Cate Blanchett’s, who delivers a superb central performance.

In a plot that contains clear influences of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanchett plays a woman whose life has crumbled from beneath her. Her husband (Alec Baldwin) has been sent to prison, where he has taken his own life. Her son (‎Alden Ehrenreich) has broken contact with her (for reasons I will not reveal). She now has to rely on the charity and patience of her sister (Sally Hawkins), who was financially ruined by the activities of her sister’s criminal husband. When once she had everything, Jasmine now has next-to-nothing.

As well as the performances, Allen’s writing must be praised (though not flawless) for being so sadistic to his leading lady without ever making it feel ridiculous or far-fetched. Having said that, I’d love to see what Lars von Trier would do with this story.

I was not surprised that Blanchett won the BAFTA for a female in a leading role (though I would have liked it to have gone to Emma Thompson), and she may well pick up the Oscar. On a side note, I’d like to congratulate Blanchett for avoiding the “Woody Allen issue” (worrying accusations and press speculation) and the Alec Baldwin issue (disturbing homophobia). Instead she did a very well-done speech about the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Though one could read it as a diversion, it was both apt and profound.

Because I am a lover of images, light and colour, I cannot help but shout and rave about the talents of cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who has in the past leant his wonderful talents to projects as diverse as The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Nicole Kidman horror film The Others. He gives Blue Jasmine are gorgeous, golden glow and wisely doesn’t alter the cinematography too much as the narrative flits between past and present, pre-breakdown and post-breakdown. Instead, he and Allen allow Blanchett to show the fractured nature of her life without leading us by the hand through the many moods that go with it. Stylistically, it’s a daring choice, but it enables us to share in Jasmine’s tragic state of affairs: the sun still shines, the world looks beautiful but inside there is resentment and despair.

This is not a masterpiece, but it also not a disaster. There is much to enjoy with Blue Jasmine, but in the end I can’t help feeling this is quite a slight offering. When one thinks back to the near-genius of Midnight in Paris it is hard to feel anything other than pleasantly generous to this interesting but somewhat lacking comedy drama.

A note on the disc: The Blu-ray of Blue Jasmine is everything one would hope a new release to be (though one can’t always assume): absolutely flawless. There is nothing more wonderful, at least in my books, to settling down to enjoy a sumptuous HD transfer of a film shot on celluloid. The detail is exceptional, the colours warm and sun-drenched (as they should be, thanks to Aguirresarobe, and the grain structure is pleasingly intact though not distracting. Sound wise, everything is present and correct, though because this is generally a dialogue-fest than an action spectacular, don’t expect your surround sound system to be put through its paces. The extras are brief and unremarkable.

Blue Jasmine (2013), directed by Woody Allen, is released on Blu-ray in the UK by Warner Bros, Certificate 15. 

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