Monday, April 13, 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the few plays I need to read and analyse in this course. Being able to watch the adapted version of this play was an essential moment for me because the film made me understand the chronology of the play better. In my opinion, Elia Kazan's adapatation of this play is truly the best and unbeatable. Firstly, considering when it was made, it remains a key film in the development of American cinema; a film that is powerful, intelligent, moving, adult and compassionate. Because of the miraculous qualities of the film, it preserves forever as what I consider to be one of the greatest adaptations of a play ever.

Blanche is horrified by the lower class living conditions she sees and by the crassness of Stanley. She herself is at the end of a series of come-downs. She speaks of having lost the family home, "Belle Reve," as if it were Tara, but she lives in such a fantasy world that I never had a good picture of what "Belle Reve" was really like. Not only had Blanche lost the family home, but she had been removed from her teaching job due to acts of moral turpitude. By the time she winds up on Stella and Stanley's doorstep she is desperate. The scene where Stanley and Blanche first meet is wonderfully subtle, and it sets up one of the basic tensions running throughout. Stanley's reaction is definitely more than, "Hi, so you're Stella's sister, glad to meet you." With just a few facial expressions, Brando gives that little extra something that says, "Well, here is a different bird, something that could make things interesting." And Vivien Leigh subtly tips off Blanche's immediate reaction to the undeniable sexual presence of Stanley. Poor Stella is caught between Blanche, who is urging her to better herself by getting away from her degraded life, and Stanley, whose baby she is carrying.

The acting in this movie was simply amazing. Vivien Leigh put on one of the best performances I have ever seen. She may have been a classical actress but I still think she did better than most of the method actors in the film right alongside her even though they did awesome as well. Some critics complain about Marlon's performance but I think he did a great job. He really captured Stanley's dirt and grittiness to perfection. I seriously think this is in his top 3 performances obviously following On the Waterfront and The Godfather. I also thought Karl Malden (Mitch) was endearing that his words lines really captured my heart. I wish he was in more movies though, so far I've only seen him in the other Brando movie mentioned about and Patton which he did extremely well in too.
This is not a happy film but it is a film people need to see to understand that a person's downfall is not the sole responsibility of that one person. Many people and events trigger it. As Blanche says, "death...and the opposite is desire" Death and desire; two of the most starkly represented elements of A Streetcar Named Desire. 9/10 from me.

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