Woody Allen's Contempt for San Francisco?

Reviews for Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's latest film, are finally coming in, and the critics can't help but notice Allen's supposed contempt for the city he shot he shot the film in.  Consider The New York Times' review, which outlines San Francisco's place as an humdrum refuge for New York's down-and-out elite:

Jasmine, née Jeanette, having reinvented herself, had risen to become a member of New York’s elite but, with everything gone, has come to San Francisco to move in with her sister, Ginger. For Jasmine this isn’t a comedown, it’s a catastrophe — everything is. When she first walks into Ginger’s apartment, she stops dead, as if paralyzed by its unspeakable ordinariness.

It’s hard to know if Mr. Allen shares Jasmine’s shock at Ginger’s place. (Mere mortals will note the ample square footage, natural light and fireplace.) With a series of sharp contrapuntal flashbacks that move forward in time — Hal and Jasmine in their empty new Park Avenue apartment and then later presiding over a dinner bathed in light so burnished golden calf must have been on the menu — Mr. Allen illustrates just how drastically she’s been humbled.

Gawker takes it a bit further:

Jasmine's presence in Ginger's modest apartment quickly grates, as Jasmine dispenses unwanted advice about Ginger's various working class boyfriends and crummy surroundings. Among other things, Blue Jasmine is a weird, inexplicable portrait of San Francisco. Allen shoots a series of throw-away touristy scenes and then a seedy grocery store, a clinical dentist's office, and nondescript restaurants. His disdain for the West Coast is obvious, but his uninspired indifference to San Francisco in Blue Jasmine is far less amusing than, say, the playful contempt of Los Angeles he put on in Annie Hall. In Blue Jasmine, San Francisco is painted loosely and tritely, and it suffers in comparison to Allen's careful portraits of New York.

Mind you, those crummy surroundings are the Mission District.  The so-called “modest apartment” sits behind the old Force of Habit record shop at 20th and Lexington—and would assuredly fetch three-plus thousand dollars a month if put on the rental market today.  However, it's widely known that Allen chose the significantly shittier corner of 14th and South Van Ness to act as the apartment's exterior location, suggesting he intentionally set to make the neighborhood look grodier than everyone knows it actually is.

It's staged as a clever, if not slightly dishonest way to introduce viewers to the city: dumping the fine-looking Jasmine out of a cab onto a four-lane urban freeway littered with crummy car lots, opposed to tree-shaded, single-lane street the apartment sits on in reality. (As the Times describes the scene, “[As] she stands with her monogrammed luggage on a nondescript San Francisco sidewalk, she looks frightened, alone — like someone who could benefit from some kindness. Instead, she waves off a stranger and, posing a question that’s as existential as it is practical, demands, “Where am I, exactly?”).  Surely this is set to depict Jasmine's unmistakeable fall from grace as definitively as possible, but the reviews suggest the joke is on San Francisco.

Blue Jasmine opens today in New York and Los Angeles.  San Franciscans will have to wait for a limited release at the Clay Theatre on August 2nd.

Comments (21)

In a perfect world where Woody Allen was still making movies that people wanted to see this might work in San Francisco’s favor and drive people away from the GRODY. Regrettably the steady stream of mediocrity targeted at the ColdStone Creamery set will not get in front of the eyes of the trustafarian:start-up:hipstercore idealists who can still convince Mumsy and Papa to wire quarterly funding from Greenwich, CT to just “help with my rent until I get my eco-payments app launched.”

I don’t know you, but from this, I can guarantee that you’re not as interesting as you think you are, and almost certainly not interesting in any way at all. This has of course occurred to you on a subconscious level, making you vaguely uncomfortable and unhappy for at least your adult life.

Now you know why that’s happening. Relax, take things as they come, and stop criticizing and categorizing every goddamned thing you see and assigning people to groups you’ve decided you don’t like. And stop trying to always force yourself to feel superior. You’ll be much happier, or at least less miserable. You know this is true.

I’m sure the whole time woody allen was here he bitched up a storm about the fucking pizza.

Actually, Woody and I would meet daily at 4:28pm for an Arinell’s slice.

as much as i love san francisco, it’s a cultural backwater compared to nyc. btw, when’s the next big wheel race?

That’s exactly right! Seems NY is the dream for most, but they settle for SF. Easier to be a big fish in the small pond, than to take on the big apple.

Yawn

Dear New Yorkers; Yes, San Francisco is terrible. Whatever you do, don’t move here. Seriously, you will not like. Please stay in New York.

Kind of reminds me of the No Reservations shot here…Bourdain clearly loathed SF. Which is fine, I irrationally hate certain cities too.

Let me clarify that and say I don’t think either of them dislike the city- they dislike certain aspects of the city’s culture. Which is totally understandable.

Haven’t seen the movie yet, but are we sure this is Allen’s point of view of SF, rather than Jasmine’s perspective?

This is particularly hilarious because the movie was filmed in my friend’s apartment. Not only is in a perfect location, as you mentioned, but the inside is lovely, with high ceilings and a pair of huge sliding doors that basically allow you to turn the living room and front bedroom into one giant room, if you so desire. The landlord used to live in the unit and had completely remodeled the kitchen, which is very modern. Presumably they dressed it “down” for the movie, but if that’s Woody Allen’s idea of a dump, he’s every bit the rich, out-of-touch old creep that I already considered him to be.

yikes, Woody Allen, creepy pervent

he shot he shot

Oh come on guys this town is just a condensed version of any other major city withs it’s beautiful filthy aspects - throw a beautiful actress against this backdrop and the contrast is amazing!!

does anyone under 50 give a fuck what woody allen thinks? Fuck New York and their sweaty balls summers and frozen-booger winters….

I preferred his earlier, funny films.

I think Allen’s portrayal of SF is brilliant. He’s no stranger to that city: see “Take the Money and Run” and “Play It Again, Sam.” Here„ Allen makes a specific effort not to play up the “post card” city qualities (no cable cars, and Victorians and the Golden Gate Bridge only flashed briefly, etc.), and instead creates an atmosphere of gritty claustrophobia in Jasmine’s sister’s apartment. No mistake, the film does interject enough idyllic San Francisco visuals to make a contrasting point: as in the New Orleans of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, the tarnished view of a city so well-known known for its beauty is part of the narrative, suggesting more the state of mind of the disillusioned, embittered heroine than of an inattendant cinematographer. Allen clarified his feelings for San Francisco in a Le Soir, interview where he describes it as cultured, interesting and beautiful, and lists it as one of the three “magnificent” American cities, along with New York and New Orleans.

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