Sunday, March 2, 2014

Blanche and Blanchett

The Oscar for best performance by an actress was awarded to Kate Blanchett for her role in Blue Jasmine.  In her acceptance speech she thanked the theatre company she has been working with in Australia, and noted (here and elsewhere) that her stage training was essential for playing this role.

There's more than one reason for that.  While some critics mention its debt to A Streetcar Named Desire, the classic play by Tennessee Williams, they generally go on to quickly discuss the contemporary resonance after the high profile real estate swindles.  But this movie is almost scene for scene a reinterpretation of Streetcar, and Blanchett is very much Blanche Dubois.  It has been noted that Blanchett played that role on stage in Australia in 2008.
Blanchett as Blanche

The point of mentioning this is not to accuse anyone of anything untoward, but to note both the movie's debt to Williams' play and the fact that this cements the play's place as an authentic American myth.  I can think of only one other American play that has this mythic weight: Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. (They were first produced in New York within two years of each other.)  Miller's play has demonstrated its mythic status through a series of successful New York stage revivals and films, as well as productions in many other countries.  Now Williams' play has proven its mythic power by being powerfully adapted to different times and a different situation.

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