Andersen: The ‘Blue Jasmine’ blues
October 21, 2013
If you haven't seen Woody Allen's latest film, "Blue Jasmine," don't expect a typical Woody Allen yuck fest. "Blue Jasmine" is sad and edgy — and it's one of Allen's top films.
A prime reason is the social-justice angle, which Allen metes out with grim revenge on those who have reaped ill-gotten gains through financial shenanigans. The characters address extenuating social and cultural circumstances, but criminal corruption and heedless materialism are the key elements of this drama.
It's not often that I do a movie review, but "Blue Jasmine" achieves super-realism in a way that most films can only dream of. And when the punch lines elicit more pathos than laughs, the audience squirms in agony for characters that inhabit a living hell. Jasmine is first among them.
Jasmine's husband is a cheating, amoral scoundrel who fraudulently makes oodles of money. The "rich" life he leads with Jasmine, tainted by his serial sexual dalliances, is shallow and empty. Their lavish opulence is meaningless.
"Blue Jasmine" is both a morality play about craven humanity and a sociological expose that reveals conspicuous consumption and material worship as one-way tickets to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. This film is a tragedy of Shakespearean weight.
It's high time the movie arts reflect the debased side of hedonistic American capitalism. By exposing the plight of money lust, "Blue Jasmine" defines the acquisitive mindset with brutal and pained cynicism.
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I take my social justice in whatever measures I can, and this film offers a note of satisfying redemption for Wall Street corruption. Here is a wry tribute to the Bernard Madoffs of the world and their clinging sycophants.
A few days after I saw the film, Time magazine came out with a telling cover headline: "How Wall Street Won: Five Years After the Crash it Could Happen All Over Again." The cover showed the symbolic Wall Street bull wearing a party hat and cavorting under a shower of confetti. Whoopee!
Time reported what we already know — that finance has become the dominant driver for the U.S. and global economies, elevating big banks into deified institutions that are "too big to fail."
Leveraged by big money lobbying and stymied by "too big to manage" banks and investment firms, regulators appear to have thrown up their hands in resignation. Laissez-faire is the law of the land while trickle down has dried up for those most in need.
Reuters reported recently: "The number of U.S. residents living in poverty edged up to 46.5 million last year, the latest sign that an economic recovery marked by a stock market boom has not trickled down to ordinary Americans."
According to an annual report from the Census Bureau, signs of "widening income inequality" are widespread, leaving the national poverty rate unchanged at 15 percent. The report reveals: "The poverty threshold in 2012 was an income of $23,492 for a family of four."
Advocates for the poor call for a national movement toward "shared economic growth." Most Americans, however, have been indoctrinated by right-wing avatars to regard such a concept as a socialist threat. Shared economic gain is not how it works in the land of freedom and justice for all. Banks are bailed out to save the country from a self-induced maelstrom, and poor people become poorer.
Meanwhile, austerity measures cheered by Republicans erode the social safety net. "Millions are struggling to keep their heads above water," reported the National Women's Law Center in Washington, "while the richest one percent is doing better than ever."
A few weeks ago Reuters reported that Bank of America Corp.'s Countrywide unit placed profits over quality in a "massive fraud" selling shoddy mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And the beat goes on.
At Countrywide, money-lust trumped ethics by sabotaging home mortgages with toxic paper that has tainted the lives of millions while enriching junior brokers and their sacrosanct partnerships. The banks screwed their victims and got rich by it, all made possible through taxpayer bailouts.
Woody Allen's artful expose depicts a devastated, delusional Jasmine. Meanwhile, the real Jasmines are crying all the way to the bank.
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