Woody Allen‘s Blue Jasmine (Sony Classics, 7.26) starts screening next week, and in concert with this is an exquisitely written Charles McGrath interview piece with Allen in the Wall Street Journal. Choice information: “[Jasmine is] based on a story Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi, told him about a woman she knew whose lifestyle became suddenly downsized after a financial disaster. Cate Blanchett plays a pill-popping, vodka-swigging East Side sophisticate married to a Waspy version of Bernie Madoff (Alec Baldwin). When he’s found out, she loses everything and has to move into the San Francisco apartment of her adoptive sister — a bagger at a grocery store — and her two mouth-breathing sons.
“The story is more serious than comic, and though it’s hard to take your eyes off her, the Blanchett character isn’t always likable. Will it work at the box office? Allen can’t stop to worry about that. He’s already at work on the next one.”
Another good portion: “Allen is fond of saying that the only thing standing between him and greatness is himself, and likes to come across not as a grand old director but as a self-taught schlepper. He insists, for example, that his characteristic use of long master shots—ones that record an entire scene from a single camera angle—is the result of laziness, not conscious technique. ‘I don’t have a technical attention deficit disorder, but I have an honorary one,’ he said. ‘I don’t have the patience or the concentration to shoot hours of us talking in a two-shot, and then your single and my single and from over your shoulder and over my shoulder. I like to do as many pages as I can in one take.'”
And this observation from Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman: “[Allen is] very canny about every aspect of the filmmaking business Some instinct told him what choices to make, like not going to the Academy Awards, keeping himself apart a little, and yet so often delivering on the promise. He’s figured out how to survive in a very hostile and competitive environment.”
And this: “One of the things Allen is shrewdest about is money. His films typically cost about $18 million to make, which is next to nothing these days. Most of them go on to make a modest profit — if not in the United States, then when they’re shown worldwide — and once in a while he has a hit on the order of Midnight in Paris. It’s a fairly foolproof formula, even if it seems to have little appeal to the studios now, who would rather make bigger bets in hopes of bigger payouts.
“Allen’s modest budgets enable him to retain total control of his films, something that’s seldom granted to directors anymore, and to be flexible when it comes to probably his greatest strength as a director: casting memorable actors in memorable parts. ‘I’m not in the hit-flop business,’ he explained. ‘I make a film and if it’s a big hit it’s not going to do anything special for me. If it’s a disaster it won’t ruin anything, because I’ll already be working on the next. The people who play the hit-flop game suffer a lot when they have the flops. I don’t, but then I don’t get the highs either.'”