"This first collaboration between Blanchett and Allen reveals a side to the actress that has been hidden until now"

Following a hiatus from his cinematic playground or stomping ground of New York City, Blue Jasmine finds Woody Allen making a triumphant return home after his original attempt with 2009’s Whatever Works.

It is a return that sees him once again fleeing with his central protagonist to San Francisco, and adopting a new setting to put her fractured existence back together, or rather to confront the similar themes that have tormented Allen's entire cast of protagonists over the years.

This latest departure echoes shades of 2004’s MELINDA ON MELINDA as Allen uses New York as the stage for his title character Jasmine (Cate Blanchett’s) expositional flashbacks that brings us up to speed with the events that led to her husband’s arrest and suicide, and forced her across country.

This first collaboration between Blanchett and Allen reveals a side to the actress that has been hidden until now. It is difficult to put into words what it is that Allen has unlocked in Blanchett, but there is a distinct sense of presence that has previously remained hidden. Whether this will be a standalone collaboration or whether there will be more to follow, Blanchett brings a spark to his cinema, and along with it one senses the possibility of a set of characters that could put her in the discussion alongside Mia Farrow and Diane Keaton.

Films such as From Rome With Love are not dissimilar to a stroll on a pleasant spring or summer day, as one waits to encounter the next Woody Allen “great” entry or even “masterpiece.” That said latest “great” entry into his oeuvre is Blue Jasmine, only a few years after his most recent modern gem Midnight in Paris. 

What distinguishes these two is the resolution of their respective character’s journeys. For Owen Wilson’s Gil, in the moment he accepted certain truths he uncovered a straightforward resolution. For Blanchett’s Jasmine however, her unravelling life is not so easily resolved. She is a contradiction that sees shades of victim and culprit, a disruptive force to those around her, and an individual whose own nature shackles her as she turns personal crisis into a familial crisis and burns lives to the ground. From his Parisian “great” work to his American “great” work, Allen has shifted from light-hearted comedy to personal tragedy imposed upon oneself by oneself.

Blue Jasmine sits as a testament to the fact that films can transcend to greatness in a single moment. It is a misconception to perceive a “great” film or a “masterpiece” as being such from start to finish. In his latest film all roads lead to a singular moment in which the film makes a home for it alongside his other “great” works. The conclusion of one story, in this case the expositional flashback narrative is the making of Jasmine’s San Francisco story.

Woody Allen has made a career out of peering into fictional human relationships. Blue Jasmine sees the writer-director embracing the complexity of a character that challenges us to ask the question of how we should feel about her? How should we define her? Is Jasmine a complex human web or is Blue Jasmine in truth a simple tale of human interaction that is not always destined to end well. If so it would complement Claire Denis’ Bastards in a double-bill that touches upon a similar theme; the one comic and semi tragic, the other an out and out dark and moody tragedy.

Void of elaborate camera work, the simple approach is offset by the lightness of the performances of his actors; assembling a wonderful supporting cast that for the umpteenth time suggests that Woody Allen was born to write for actors. He has this innate ability to create these wonderfully charismatic characters for actors to incarnate onscreen, who missing from cinema would create a void in the cinematic landscape.

For all its simplicity there is a moment in Blue Jasmine that resonates powerfully and suggests Woody Allen is offering a social commentary on the irresponsibility of individuals who act out of selfish necessity. It will be interesting to see how this moment resonates in the future once this latest economic recession and devastation at the hands of the financial sector is written into the history books.

As the famous simple and plain white titles appear to a timeless piece of music chosen by Allen, one feels content and comforted to be in the hands of this storyteller once again.