Friday, 27 September 2013

Revamping and De-gaying

For those who'd been starting to give up on Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine will come as a surprise. Because Allen's latest - and fourthy-third - feature is without doubt the director's best since at least Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008).

Blue Jasmine (2013) Trailer

That is, first of all, thanks to Cate Blanchett. In this revamped version of Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire, she excells as Blanche a.k.a. Jasmine, a fallen Park Avenue wife who needs to move in with her sister, Ginger. Like in Botho Strauss' play Gross und Klein, Blanchett does a brilliantly subtle psychotic. 

Cate Blanchett as the delusional Jasmine...
...and as deranged Lotte in Big and Small

But if this film avoids being another tedious digression on European life, it's because Allen is back in the US for the first time in a long time. And adapting an existing tale to contemporary American life works: The clash of classes is as relevant in 21st century post-crisis America as when the Streetcar rattled through New Orleans in 1947. 

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

The only regret is the utter de-gaying of Williams’ story. Allen turns Blanche’s ex-boyfriend, who killed himself because he was gay, into a husband who killed himself because he was convicted for financial fraud. Even worse, the sexual power of Stanley Kowalski, played by Marlon Brando in the stage and film adaptations, finds no substitute in the somewhat failed (and very badly-dressed) masculinity of Chili, Ginger's boyfriend. Fortunately and unfortunately, this says more about how things have changed since Tennessee Williams than it does about Woody Allen's new film. 

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