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great art: Blue Jasmine and Angels in America

I’m just home from Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine;” it’s still with me. When I walked out of the cinema, I found myself on Bloor Street, deeply glad to be sane with money in my purse and a home. It’s a powerful character study, based on Tennessee Williams’s “Streetcar named Desire,” of a beautiful privileged woman disintegrating and delusional, unable to cope with the real world. Cate Blanchett is everything they say she is and more in this film. I remember the times in my life when I was lucky enough to see great artists do what they do – Laurence Olivier, Suzanne Farrell the ballerina, Mark Rylance the actor in the play “Jerusalem” that took the top of my head off. Cate’s performance in this film did that – so true, so utterly committed and full of power that she lodges in your soul.

And she’s Australian, with a perfect American accent, complimented by Sally Hawkins the great British actress playing her oh so American sister. The best actors in the world on display, and some great writing and direction too.

Friday night, more greatness – Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” Part 2. I saw Part 1 in New York in its original production in 1993, and remember finding it overwrought. Well, it is – but it’s also brilliant, and the Soulpepper production does it justice. Thrilling theatre. I didn’t understand half of what the characters were talking about, but it doesn’t matter, it’s Theatre with a capital T, angels flying in and out, people walking in and out of each other’s fantasies, actors playing multiple roles, all of them riveting and fabulous.

But nothing will beat Cate Blanchett in my mind for a very long time. I will carry her with me. Brava!

On the other hand, just read a couple of books which will not stay with me long. One I heard about and got out of the library – “The Art of Sleeping Alone: why one French woman suddenly gave up sex” fascinated me as an idea. But it’s French, abstruse, both too short and too long. I was interested because, after years, I’ve mastered that art and wondered how she’d turned it into a book. Well – barely, is the answer.

And “Be true to your school,” by Bob Greene, subtitled “A diary of 1964,” the year I also am writing about – I ordered it from Amazon, and will be glad when I’ve finished. He is writing about the same era as I, the Beatles, the other great bands, Ed Sullivan – but he is a white male in the U.S., driving around a small town in a car with his friends, sororities and fraternities in his high school, worrying about his “letter” for being a tennis player. His boring parents are always at home, nagging him about his hair being too long. His life is barely comprehensible to most of the people I know.

Today I prepared lunch for a very old friend whose lover is a gay Syrian who has decided to go back to the Middle East to try to pull together his shattered family, and is shattering my friend in the process. And another old friend, here in town to see her youngest son, who’s monosyllabic and about whom she worries constantly. I hope I provided some comfort on this perfect warm but cloudy day. I am lucky. I am sane, with money in my purse and a home. I think of the final unforgettable image of Cate Blanchett’s face and thank the gods for artists and for art. And that I live in such a fine full city.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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