Woody Allen: Master of the Human Condition

By John Heffernan

The term unique is, ironically enough, through around to a meaningless extent. With that said, Woody Allen by far redefines what it takes to be defined as unique, breaking the mold of contemporary film directors. Growing up in New York, a middle class Jewish child climb the rungs of the ladder of life, as he struggled in school and once driven in film competed against the likes of Mel Brooks and Neil Simon (Pinsker). The normally shy Allen flourished in both the print, video, and musical mediums where he transcended his abstract humor to the masses. From stand-up routines, television writing, acting, performing, and most notably directing, Woody Allen has clearly taken the risks and range that an ordinary man would probably not be able to go through. While his Oscar winning film Annie Hall (1977) is the most famous of his endeavors, Blue Jasmine (2013) encompasses the mastery of filmmaking that Woody Allen has by his artistic representation of the human condition through powerful performances. the fragmented world of today through sepia color palettes. These key details and topics add to the timeless nature of the world that Woody Allen has not only created but in the end has also replicated in his piece Blue Jasmine (2013)  

Woody Allen’s film Blue Jasmine (2013) shows the fragmented world of today by merging the higher and middle class of New York through the raw emotion of his characters performances. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the out of her world upper class guest in the middle class New York develops over the course of the film. At first she is grief stricken over the loss of the materialistic safety of money and placement into the , most humorously while understanding the mysterious nature of the internet remarks, “Who does somebody have to sleep with to get a… martini?”

The pampered society of the upper class merging with the mindful and conservative mindset of the working class, through a satirical comedic edge that is iconic of Woody Allen’s directorial frame of mind.

The characters of Augie and Ginger, played by Andrew Dice Clay and Sally Hawkins respectively, represent the latter mindset of this modern day rivalry. Augie passionately attacks Jasmine as she fails to fit into the frame of her sister and boyfriend’s house and on a greater sense their culture. He retorts to her that “This is a big come down from what you’re used to. (Blue Jasmine)” in an almost condescending tone, which is ironic for a man in the lower class to have such a tone. It is promotes the argument that what makes a person more internally is the struggles that they go through. This correlates with the struggles, obstacles, and tribulations that Woody Allen faced in becoming a director. From an excerpt from his 2007 book entitled Mere Anarchy Allen states “How does Mahler triumph over his lifelong fear of death? By dying. I figured it out — it’s really the only way.”(Maslin) .

The same could be said for failure, the true way to get passed a fear of failure is to experience that failure head on. This is the journey that Jasmine faces as a daunting journey, without the conveniences that wealth provides, thus turning her the definitive dynamic character of the film. This change in character and growth in tone of the film however is done so in a subtle manner, so much so that a contemporary audience of the current age may not even pick up on this altered characterization from the beginning of the film to end. The progression in characterization increases as the the obstacles build up on the back of the main lead, as evident in the foil characterization of Ginger. Ginger opens the mind of Jasmine to the extreme wastefulness of her expenses; “All those courses cost money. (Blue Jasmine)” as the lack of an understanding of monetary worth directly links to the destruction of the internal character that is Jasmine. Woody Allen masters the control of human emotion in such a way that makes the film, and much of his other work deeply impactful message that becomes a timeless reflection and representation of the human psyche. This is exceedingly prominent in his use of sepia color palette that encompass a majority of his film Blue Jasmine (2013)

Often debated in contemporary discussions, the argument of if film is art is highly influenced by the work of Woody Allen in the film Blue Jasmine (2013). Allen has been noted as being “meticulous about his material, just as he was later meticulous about his films. Above all else, Allen the artist was in control, even if his character often seemed on the edge of a nervous breakdown.(Pinsker)” This nature of directing means that every single shot, decision, and stylistic motif has importance to Allen, and inturn either consciously or subconsciously adds the overall meaning of the work as a whole.

Take for instance a shot that takes place after one of Jasmine’s numerous external explosion of emotion, is most notable difference in tone in color and characterization. While Jasmine goes to her room to recoup the power to endure over the obstacles of middle class life, while Augie and Ginger flirt with each other and jokingly taunt each other before they go to, what the audience assumes, is a sexual act.

While a typical, run-of-the-mill director would just film in the same room or color palette that the set allows, however Allen meticulously differs the wall color in the background to a subtle green as oppose to both the pale yellows and foreground playfulness in order to facilitate the transition from the detrimental life that Jasmine has been flung into. This sets apart the opposing worlds in contrast to the modern day connotation of the struggles and pleasure of each life. The rich relish in the fruit of their monetary safety of their position on the tier system of class structure, while the poor attempt to scavenge for the crumbs of the rich and survive of the littlest fragments of hope. Having that connotations laid so deeply in culture, Woody Allen’s comedic and dramatic depiction of this role reversal. Allen has stated that this is the state of New York currently in response to the sudden change in its culture; “yes. unfortunately, I couldn’t agree more with you, and I think it’s a really bad thing. When the middle class was forced to leave New York City because it got too expensive for them, it lost an absolutely great thing. (Stern)” According to Allen and much of what the social connotation of New York City supports the conclusion that the city is where dreams are realized and achieved made. However with the growing influx of higher class patrons entering the city solely for the title of a “New Yorker” have completely negated the chance of a story of success similar to Woody Allen.

Is success merely hereditary and is self worth and hard work now negated by the success of one’s parents and the parents of them?

If so, than the variance in the countries powers holistically is shot as success is purely based of a monarchy style of progression rather than that of Allen’s rise to success. However Blue Jasmine (2013)’s sepia and subtle color scheme allows the characters to be the main show on the foreground, while the stylistic techniques that while are meticulously structured, take a back seat to the performances at hand.  The sepia and arid color palette also add to the timeless nature of the piece.

Any artistic contributor whether it be an author, painter, or filmmaker aims, at most times, to create a composition that’s message that both has a strong impact on the audience that views it, but also has merit and relevance in the future. This is true for the most accomplished of directors, especially Woody Allen whose passion to create a timeless composition harkens back to his writing;”When read in the shadow of his old stories Mr. Allen’s new ones hold their own. Even when it creaks, “Mere Anarchy” is nostalgically enjoyable, and most of it sounds timelessly bright. (Maslin)” Blue Jasmine (2013) fits into the mold of timelessness that Allen promotes, creating an accurate vision of the mindframe of the poor and the rich, the overarching motifs of both, and the struggles that each would face when given the obstacles of the other. This is both relatable and an inventive take on the mundane struggle that is often taken for granted. Behind this is the strong performances of the main cast and subdue color palette that promote the lasting message of the film. This film is one of the perfect representation of Woody Allen as a director, he in a sense is a timeless entity. From the very start Allen had the goal of success and stayed steadfast on his goals harkening back to his earlier outings in “writing jokes for television comedians, such as Garry Moore and Steve Allen. (Licht, Jonathan, and Ruth Beloff.)” A small scale that eventually grew to a prestigious career that included his most well-known film, “Annie Hall (1977), which won an Oscar for the best picture of the year; in addition, he took two other prizes for best director and best screenwriter.(Licht, Jonathan, and Ruth Beloff.)” However one’s most notable work often does not provide a lense of their ability to which Blue Jasmine (2013) encompasses the true power and character that is Woody Allen.

 

Research Source Citations

Maslin, Janet. “You Were Expecting Maybe Tragedy?” New York Times 14 June 2007, Books

sec. The New York Times Company. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

Beloff, Ruth. “Woody Allen.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred

Skolnik. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Biography In Context.

Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

Blue Jasmine. Dir. Woody Allen. Perf. Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin. Warner Home Video,

  1. On Demand.

Licht, Jonathan, and Ruth Beloff. “Allen, Woody.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael

Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007.

669-670. U.S. History In Context. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

“Woody Allen.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale

Biography In Context. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

Stern, Marlow. “Woody Allen on ‘Magic in the Moonlight,’ the Crisis in Gaza, and Those

Allegations.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 18 July 2014. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

Tomlinson, Doug. “Annie Hall.” International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Ed. Sara

Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. 4th ed. Vol. 1: Films. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.

61-63. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.

Pinsker, Sanford. “Woody Allen.” Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: The

1960s. Ed. William L. O’Neill and Kenneth T. Jackson. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

 

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar