Top Ten Movies of 2013 — Number Nine

The kismet of cinematic artistry is elusive, which unfortunately alleviate the unfair sense of disappointment when the most creative individuals struggle through dry spells. By now it’s understood that Woody Allen is too prolific (and too unconcerned with anything other than simply getting down to work on the next project, whatever it may be) to deliver anything other than an unpredictable sine wave of quality. But when he lands in the right place, assembles the right cast, draws on the right well of inspiration, the results offer a reminder than he’s one of the truly great American filmmakers. Blue Jasmine probably owes part of its genesis to A Streetcar Named Desire, borrowing heavily from the characterizations and basic storyline of the Tennessee Williams classic, but Allen manages to make it feel completely of the moment, capturing the ugly entitlement of the wealthiest class, even when all the riches are stripped away. Allen can sometimes tilt towards the overly pat in his fictional constructions, a byproduct of his own detachment through privilege, which makes the hard truths of Blue Jasmine all the more striking. This is what can happen, the film posits, to a person who runs the magnet of greed over their moral compass. The film prospers through another artistic revival, that of Cate Blanchett, largely wasted onscreen since her stellar turn as one version of Bob Dylan in 2007’s bit of Todd Haynes whacked out wonderment, I’m Not There. She plays Jasmine, staying with her sister (the superb Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco after her rarefied New York life is shattered, with an almost disturbing intensity. She’s a bundle of nerves, but still with a clearly realized, yet damaged person at the core. Despite the initiating premise to this paragraph, I don’t think Allen and Blanchett needed some quasi-mystical good fortune to come up with a film this good. But having each other undoubtedly helped.

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