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.