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February 10, 2014 3:59 PM A Third Approach to Woody Allen

By Ed Kilgore

I’m not about to wade into the back-and-forth controversy involving Woody Allen, his ex-partner Mia Farrow, and his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow. Kathleen Geier has covered the story extensively here, here and here.

So all I’ll add is a personal observation based on watching the Oscar-nominated movie that is the news hook for the revival and intensification of the battle over Allen’s character and work.

The controversy didn’t lead me to watch Blue Jasmine. My wife had downloaded it, along with other Oscar nominees, for a recent trip, and didn’t have time to view it, so she shared it with me. And I will disclose that I haven’t been a big Allen fan since Annie Hall; his narcissism and his claustrophobic Gotham-centric outlook came to bore me. Even the widely hailed Midnight in Paris, which I watched because it wasn’t set in New York, bored me. Maybe I’m just a philistine.

But Blue Jasmine didn’t bore me; it depressed me profoundly. Its six main characters—two women, four men—are by turns despicable and pathetic. The two women (including the title character played by Kate Blanchett in a probable Oscar turn) are, for all their differences, both pathetically incapable of functioning without men. Two of the men are, to use a technical term, “dogs,” while a third is a wife-beater-wearing proto-wife beater, and a fourth is a manipulative budding politician looking for a trophy wife.

Yes, I understand Blue Jasmine is in part an homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, but the art/misanthropy ratio isn’t remotely as high. And it is certainly a misanthropic movie, and even more so misogynist.

I came away from it realizing that it was a Woody Allen movie without a single laugh, and reflected a writer and director whose misogyny and misanthropy may border on a third malady: sociopathy. If it is, as some reviewers are treating it, the definitive morality tale for the post-Great Recession Era, we’re in worse trouble than I thought.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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