It wasn’t just the raptor hate directed at the Gandolfini funeral piece that slowed me down. Okay, that was half of it but there’s another reason. I haven’t been banging out six or seven pieces per day because I’m feeling kinda serene and dreamy and…oh, fuck it, I feel happy. Because of a lady, all right? One of those once-in-a-decade things. Connection, trust, touch, comfort, serenity…when the right combination kicks in you’re finished. Then again finishing or anticipating each other’s sentences is pretty great. Yeah, the feeling is mutual and all that. This morning I said to her, “I guess this is what being happy is like. You don’t feel like working that much.” All I know is that I have to push pieces out now, and before it was mostly a matter of opening the door and they would run out on their own steam.
It’s bad form to linger. I think we all know this. Keep moving, don’t look back. And so you and Noah Baumbach have this film in the can called Untitled Public School Project, described as “another New York-set film co-written with Gerwig, reportedly ‘looser and wonkier‘ than Frances Ha…costarring yourself and Lola Kirke and comparable on some level to The Great Gatsby and Something Wild (or so Baumbach has indicated) and slated for release in 2014.
But I took the A train up to the IFC Center last night, you see, and I saw Frances Ha again. My first viewing was at Telluride last September. We spoke there at that Film Society of Lincoln Center party with guys like Scott Foundas and Ed Lachman hanging around. (You also spoke to my son Jett.) Anyway I just want to tell you how unusually radiant and wide-open you are in Frances Ha given your character’s faint depression and uncertainty about almost everything. Such a vulnerable, excited state of being and aliveness…live-wire, super-exposed, open-nerve stuff. People say “award-calibre” too often, but this is award-calibre. I just wanted to share this.
You need to start with Jasmine‘s basic plot — i.e., a fanciful, vodka-slurping, self-absorbed lady who’s fallen on hard times (Cate Blanchett) comes to live in San Francisco with her less fanciful, working-class sister (Sally Hawkins). In so doing she encounters what you might call a “party of apes” — Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay and (maybe) Louis C.K. There is conflict in particular with Cannavale, who thinks Blanchett is full of shit, but Hawkins begs him to cut Blanchett some slack as she’s so fragile and unstable.
And then there’s Blanchett’s telling the Wall Street Journal‘s Charles McGrath that her part in Jasmine is “[a] kind of opportunity [that] doesn’t come along all the time. The character’s like a combination of Ibsen, Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare. There’s such electricity in the gap between her knowing and not knowing.”
Blanchett, of course, played Blanche Dubois in a BAM stage presentation of Streetcar, directed by Liv Ullman, in late 2009. (Which Santa Barbara Film Festival chief Roger Durling took me to see — thanks, Roger!) I don’t know that Allen caught Blanchett’s performance, but it would have been extremely remiss not to have done so. At the very least you have to figure Allen caught wind of the hugely positive responses to the Ullman-Blanchett collaboration, and given his ties with Ullman through his ardent, lifelong admiration of the films of Ingmar Bergman, you can guess how it all came together in his head. Tell me I’m reaching. I don’t think so.
Nobody remembers Gore Verbinski‘s The Mexican (’01) with much affection. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t work. Cynically sold as a Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts romantic thing, but the most intriguing relationship in the film was between Robert and James Gandolfini‘s gay hit man.