Episode 15 – Blue Jasmine Part 2 – The Streetcar Allusions

In part 2 of the Blue Jasmine miniseries, we discuss the similarities with Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the character of Blanche Dubois, clearly is the blueprint for Jasmine. The many actresses who played Blanche or were inspired by her from the women in Pedro Almodovar’s movies to Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence to most recently Carey Mulligan in Wildlife.  Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest TV and Film Journalist Candice Frederick.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

What year did it come out?

July 2013

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is. 

Box Office: Domestic = $33MM         Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78         RT: 91 

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We explore the relationship between the sisters in this episode

Topics discussed:

  • Blue Jasmine as a riff on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Woody Allen denied the connection, though it’s obvious to anyone who knows the play.
  • The differences between Streetcar and Jasmine:

– No sexual tension between Jasmine / Chilli as there was btw Blanche / Stanley.

– It’s Jasmine’s story, diminished roles for other characters.      

– Modernized Streetcar though themes of class disparity are consistent.

  • Blanche is written and played more vulnerable than Jasmine, though they are both architects of their own destruction.
  •  Cate has played Blanche DuBois in a production directed by Liv Ullman that came to BAM in 2009. 
  • Other actresses who played Blanche (it’s a right of passage) include: Vivien Leigh, Jessica Lange, Rachel Weisz, Gillian Anderson, Nicole Ari Parker.
  • Other performances in the vein of “women unravelling” so many examples from Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence to Carey Mulligan in Wildlife to a whole array of Pedro Almodovar leading ladies particulary in All About My Mother.
  • Blanchett’s performance in relation to the other actors, in particular her chemistry with Sally Hawkins as the “Stella” to her “Blanche”.  
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Blanchett and Hawkins as Blanche/Jasmine and Stella/Ginger

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“This is a film that draws deep from the well of A Streetcar Named Desire. Cate Blanchett, who has played Blanche du Bois onstage, is here cast as an updated version of Tennessee Williams’s anti-heroine, Blanche’s reveries about a faded Southern aristocracy replaced with contemporary delusions bred by life as lived among the 1 percent in Manhattan and the Hamptons. The film begins with Jasmine (née Jeanette) arriving in San Francisco, broke but still flying first class, the dazed victim of a financial scandal involving her former husband. Now homeless, she is forced to rely on the comfort of her estranged sister, Ginger, who is romantically involved with a blue-collar lug named Chili. (Although we see Chili in a wife-beater, he refrains from shouting, Hey, Ginnnnn-gerrrrrr!!!!) Like Streetcar, Blue Jasmine is the story of Jasmine’s further humbling, of upper-class pretension dashing against the rock of working-class earthiness; also like Streetcar, Allen’s work shares its heroine’s snobbery, the director as appalled as Jasmine by Chili’s and Ginger’s gaucheries, their lack of interest in high culture, their aspirational void”Vanity Fair

 

Blanchett, Blanche — the names seem fated for each. Mr. Allen has said that he didn’t see Ms. Blanchett play Tennessee Williams’s most famous creation in Liv Ullmann’s celebrated 2009 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Jasmine’s appalled aside about being forced to move to Brooklyn after being priced out of Manhattan amusingly suggests why he didn’t.) Whatever his inspiration, he has been rummaging around in the classics for decades, so his appropriation of “Streetcar” doesn’t surprise. What does is his reimagining Blanche by way of another figure who changes depending on how you hold her up to the light, Ruth Madoff, the wife of Bernard L. Madoff, the investor turned avatar of a fallen world. It’s a masterly stroke that puts Jasmine’s dissembling into fresh, chilling perspective.

The allusions to “Streetcar” are copious and obvious, and spotting the quotations initially feels like a kind of humorous parlor game, from the French connection that links Blanche and Jasmine’s names to Mr. Allen’s staging of a violent skirmish, which echoes a similar one in Elia Kazan’s film adaptation. Underscoring the resemblances, Jasmine repeatedly explains that “Blue Moon” was playing when she met Hal, memories that evoke the blue piano that, as Williams wrote in “Streetcar,” expresses “the spirit of the life which goes on here.” In the play, Blanche also says that Stanley isn’t the type who goes for jasmine perfume, an aside that carries an accusation.” – Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

ScreenPrism on the similarities between Blue Jasmine and A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Blanchett and Joel Edgerton in Liv Ullman’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire

Reviews of Cate as Blanche on Stage:

“What Ms. Blanchett brings to the character is life itself, a primal survival instinct that keeps her on her feet long after she has been buffeted by blows that would level a heavyweight boxer. Ms. Blanchett’s Blanche is always on the verge of falling apart, yet she keeps summoning the strength to wrestle with a world that insists on pushing her away. Blanche’s burden, in existential terms, becomes ours. And a most particular idiosyncratic creature acquires the universality that is the stuff of tragedy. All the baggage that any “Streetcar” usually travels with has been jettisoned. Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have performed the play as if it had never been staged before, with the result that, as a friend of mine put it, “you feel like you’re hearing words you thought you knew pronounced correctly for the first time.” Blessed perhaps with an outsider’s distance on an American cultural monument, Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have, first of all, restored Blanche to the center of “Streetcar.” – NYTimes

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Episode 14 – Blue Jasmine Part 1 – Actor as Auteur

In the first of three episodes about Blue Jasmine, we discuss Cate Blanchett as the auteur of the film. Despite not writing or directing it, Blue Jasmine would not be as strong or even the same without her performance. Murtada‘s guest this week is writer and critic Matthew Eng.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

When did it come out?

July 2013.

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is.

Box Office: Domestic = $33MM         Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78     RT: 91

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The most memorable one liner in Blue Jasmine? Without a doubt.

Topics discussed:

  • The actor as auteur. Despite not writing or directing Blue Jasmine, the film would not be as strong or even the same with the performance.
  • From the beginning we know this is going to be a performance driven film, Blanchett just holds the screen. I knew when she said to the cab driver “Can I have some privacy?” while trembling.
  • To prove our theory that Blanchett is in facy the author of the film; she pointedly thanked the dialect coach in her Oscar acceptance speech for “bringing Sally and I together,” notoriously Allen doesn’t rehearse or give feedback to actors, though he did tell her “you are awful.”
  • The work of the costume designer and the makeup artist in helping Cate craft this performance.
  • Charting what collection of pills and booze Jasmine’s on at all times, and manifesting that in voice, body movement, sweat… the beat before every lie comes out of her mouse.
  • Her performance in relation to the other actors? Blanchett’s always dominant in movies but the nature of this part showcases that more. 
  • The film starts with a mention of “Blue Moon” and ends with it too, how that makes the performance so poignant.
  • Matthew wrote about both Juliette Binoche and Meryl Streep as auteurs of their movies.
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The climax is heartbreaking. We discuss at length.

Famous quotes:

SO MANY. Who gets the credit Allen or Blanchett?

  • “I saw you, Erika.”
  • “What does that stupidity even mean?”
  • “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.
  • “Tip big, boys!”
  • “Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?”
  • “I haven’t shown my face socially in so long”
  • “New York, Park Avenue”
  • “This was playing on the Vineyard. “Blue Moon”. I used to know the words.”

 Scenes we liked:

  •  Everytime Cate is on screen basically.

What seemed off :

  •  Computer-class subplot – in a lesser actor’s hand the tone deafness of this would be unforgivable. Yet I saw it as another way Jasmine is self-sabotaging.
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Great Performance. Great Win. Great Speech.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Considered the pinnacle of her career, won many awards for it including her 2nd Academy Award. It was a return to movie after a 6 year hiatus running the Sydney Theter Company.

 What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Blanchett’s lavish, almost operatic turn as Jasmine sloshes against the sides of this insubstantial movie like liquid in a too-small container (maybe the room-temperature Stoli Jasmine is continually downing) There are many moments in which, as a viewer, you notice and admire Blanchett’s gestures and inflections, but very few in which you understand her deluded character’s motivations from the inside. She disintegrates beautifully before our eyes, not for any specific set of reasons the film maps, but because that’s what tragic heroines like Blanche DuBois are there to do.” – Dana Stevens, Slate

In Blue Jasmine, Allen is back in full-on sourpuss mode, even as he purports to be providing a grand showcase for Blanchett, the performance was touching in places, but it was also mannered and precise, like an artfully torn piece of silk. Blanchett strikes each note as precisely as if she were hitting the bars on a xylophone, and in this way, she fits into Allen’s schematic perfectly. Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice.

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Jasmine clearly hates everyone around her.

“The movie is almost meant to belong to Blanchett. Allen has set most of the film on her face and within her hopped-up, motormouth diction. The year thus far has been short on great performances. Blanchett’s belongs to a sadly exclusive club. She’s played Blanche DuBois on the stage. For Allen, she turns the character from a Southern belle into a Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation. But it’s not snobbery she playing. It’s displacement. The separation is from reality. Allen makes use of Blanchett’s statuesqueness. In Ginger’s apartment, at that dentist’s office, in a taxicab, on the glamourless sidewalks of the Mission, Jasmine seems to be in the wrong Wonderland. Blue Jasmine is the searching Allen of Another Woman and Alice, and Jasmine is almost the sort of scornful id that Judy Davis was so good at playing for him. But where Davis came at the comedy with bile and Mia Farrow in Alice with whimsy, Blanchett is going for something unstable but secret. When Jasmine recalls the humiliation of a friend catching her working at a Manhattan shoe store and sneaking out, she goes hard and delirious: “I saw you, Erica Bishop!” Allen has always written good parts for women. This is one of the few to seem made of magic. You actually get the sense that Allen has let Blanchett go off on some kind of adventure, that he planted a seed and this is the wildflower that grew.” – Wesley Morris, Grantland

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