Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Elia Kazan
Written By: Tennessee Williams, Oscar Saul, from play by Tennessee Williams
Main Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden
Click here to view the trailer
Started watching this late Monday night, but didn't get the chance to finish it off until late Tuesday night and by the time I DID finish it, I was too exhausted to write the review - a review where I knew I'd have a lot to say.
As the film opens, Blanche DuBois (Leigh) is arriving in New Orleans, via a streetcar named "Desire", to her sister Stella's house, where she plans to stay until she gets back on her feet. We learn through conversations that Blanche WAS a school teacher, but something happened that forced her to resign (we find that "something" out later). We also learn that Blanche and her family once owned a plantation house, Belle Reve, but has been lost due to over piling debts. Stella (Hunter) is of course happy to see Blance and likewise Blanche to see Stella, but it's apparent right off the bat that Blanche has changed, that she is much more emotionally and mentally frail than she once was. We learn much more about Blanche through conversations - that she was once married, but that her husband, a young boy, shot himself after a quarrel with Blanche. We learn darker secrets about Blanche as the film continues, but I'll let you find those out for yourself. Not long after her arrival, we meet Stanley Kowalski (Brando), Stella's husband. Stanley is a fiery Pole who takes a dislike to Blanche from the get-go. Stanley is concerned with an inheritance that he's sure Blanche has stashed away and wants to claim Stella's piece of the pie. After a while, Blanche takes to Stanley's best friend, Mitch (Malden), a gentle, decent guy (the opposite of Stanley) who, after a while, begins to see visions of marriage when he looks at Blanche. I'll stop there and let you experience the rest of the movie and the secrets it holds for yourself.
I had see "A Streetcar Named Desire" three times prior to watching it last night. The first time was just a basic curiosity to see a so-called classic, the movie where Marlon Brando screams "Stell-AHHH!". The second and third times were both during failed attempts to watch all of the movies on the IMDB Top 250 list (which, by the way, I'll probably end up doing by watching all of the movies in THE BOOK) and all three times I HATED it. I'm talking, I hated it so much that if I'd been giving ratings out back then, I'd have probably affixed it a '1'. I think my main problem those three times, was that I found Vivien Leigh's Blanche to be too annoying to actually care about. I used to HATE Leigh in this and on the other hand, I used to really love Brando. When I used to watch ASND, I actually (somehow) sympathized with Stanley, because hey, I wouldn't want my wife's sister staying with me either, especially a sister with such issues. I'm sure I had other issues with the film too, probably the fact that back then I didn't watch a whole lot of black & white cinema and when I did, unless it was particularly engrossing, I usually would decide that I hated it.
|Mitch sheds some light on the situation in a pretty INTENSE scene, to say the least.|
For starters, just look at some of the issues that are being tackled, at a time when tackling issues wasn't Hollywood's strong suit. You've got a woman with a clear mental disorder, driven over the edge after many of life's disappointments. There's also talk of suicide, rape, statutory rape (the reason that Blanche was forced to resign from teaching, was because she got caught "messing around" with a 17-year-old student), prostitution and domestic violence. I mean, I don't know about you, but when I used to think of old movies, squeaky clean families would come to mind. Father's who went to work in the morning, dressed in suit & tie, milk men who would deliver glass bottles to your doorstep and wave delightfully toward the housewife, who stayed home with baby and made sure the kids got off to school with sack lunches, full of nutritious snacks. Kind of a "Leave it to Beaver" image. However, when you really start to dig (and really, who's digging, we're talking about "A Streetcar Named Desire" - a very popular flick), you realize that once in a while, Hollywood would actually get a little gritty and there's not much grittier than ASND. After this latest viewing, no more was ASND a dull movie, virtually plot-less, with an annoying lead actress. No, not at all. Now it was a poignant piece of writing, with marvelous dialogue, the highest caliber acting on display and a deep story that you can debate about and research and that will leave you feeling a little uneasy...in a good way.
Oh and for God's sake, do I even have to mention the acting? No more did Vivien Leigh come off as an annoyance. This time around I was really able to appreciate her abilities and the way she must have really had to reach deep into her repertoire to pull off Blanche. And Brando - what can you say about Brando that hasn't already been said? And if we're handing out report cards, who gets the better grade, Leigh or Brando? I really don't know. I do know that they both put on performances that have been marveled over for the past sixty years and I can only hope that in another sixty, people are still watching in amazement as two masters hone their craft. Brando has a way about him here that makes you love him as an actor, but not want to see him onscreen, because you know his character is only going to bring a sense of unease to the scene, an unease you can almost feel in your throat. And God bless Kim Hunter for not only trying, but succeeding in holding her own on a stage with Marlon and Vivien. Oh yes, Karl Malden is great too! Oh and speaking of Malden, am I the only one who thinks that HE should've been the one to "take liberties" with Blanche? Kind of like a Noodles/Deborah thing from "Once Upon a Time in America", where he wants something so bad and when he realizes he's not going to get it, he takes it. I couldn't exactly recall, but while I was watching, I thought that was going to happen - right about the time he pulls off the lamp shade to reveal Blanche's face and get a closer look at her.
RATING: 8/10 I've blathered on long enough, but let me just say that not since "Requiem for a Dream" has my opinion of a movie so radically changed. ASND is actually probably a '10', but I need some time to get used to the idea of such a radical change of opinion.
MOVIES WATCHED: 627
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 374
March 6, 2013 6:14pm