2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars some of the best the screen has ever seen
Vivien Leigh, well-known for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's "Gone With the Wind", plays Blanche, a Southern belle as fragile as Scarlett is strong. In a way, Blanche is what Scarlett would have become if she had watched her mother die. "Death is very pretty compared to dying," she tells her sister Stella, who only came home for the...
Published on July 13 2004 by momazon
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Quick Question......... (3.5 stars)
I'm curious to know if anyone has read the play. Because, I want to know what they think of the ending in the movie version. It completly changes the tone and subject of the movie! Let me tell you something: this play was supposed to be about Blanche's tragedy. Changing the ending takes that element away. You can no longer call it a tragedy, and all of the sudden now...
Published on Aug. 6 2002 by Michael Crane
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars some of the best the screen has ever seen,
Vivien Leigh, well-known for her portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's "Gone With the Wind", plays Blanche, a Southern belle as fragile as Scarlett is strong. In a way, Blanche is what Scarlett would have become if she had watched her mother die. "Death is very pretty compared to dying," she tells her sister Stella, who only came home for the funeral.
Stella is pregnant and married to Stanley (the inimitable Brando) who both abhors and is fascinated by his sister-in-law Blanche (and not just in a platonic manner.) Blanche in turn is interested in meeting new gentleman callers, as her great love once killed himself (as she tells us in one of the most riveting scenes in movie history.) Interesting note: the delivery boy she flirts with is Mickey Kuhn, who once played Leigh's nephew Beau in GWTW.
Blanche is so fragile that she has no choice but to break. Unfortunately, others hurry her down that path. Perhaps the worst thing one can do, it seems, is depend on the kindness of strangers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Quick Question......... (3.5 stars),
I'm curious to know if anyone has read the play. Because, I want to know what they think of the ending in the movie version. It completly changes the tone and subject of the movie! Let me tell you something: this play was supposed to be about Blanche's tragedy. Changing the ending takes that element away. You can no longer call it a tragedy, and all of the sudden now the movie is about Stella.
Coming from someone who absolutely LOVED reading the play, I think this new ending is a complete cop out. Well, it is. I know it was forced on the studio from people who didn't think the original ending was "appropriate."
My advice: read the play. It's better. Actually, the movie is also really good as well....except when it gets to the ending.
All in all, I was really disappointed with how it ended. Should've stuck to the original ending that was in the play. I would've given it 5 stars had it not been for the ridiculous "forced" ending.
But that's just one man's opinion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paper Moon.,
As a playwright, Tennessee Williams was to the South what William Faulkner was as a fiction writer: a creative genius who revolutionized not only the region's arts scene and literature but that of 20th century America as a whole, bringing a Southern voice to the forefront while addressing universally important themes, and influencing and inspiring generations of later writers.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning "A Streetcar Named Desire" dates from the peak of Williams's creativity, the period between 1944 ("A Glass Menagerie") and 1955 ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," his second Pulitzer-winner). After its successful 1947 run on Broadway, "Streetcar" was adapted into a screenplay by Williams himself for this movie produced and directed by Elia Kazan, starring the entire Broadway cast except Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by the star of the play's London production, Vivien Leigh. The piece takes its title from one of the New Orleans streetcar lines that protagonist Blanche DuBois (Leigh) rides on her way to the apartment of her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), foreshadowing her later path, from (ever-unfulfilled) Desire to Cemetery (death, or the loss of reality) and a street called Elysian Fields, like the ancient mythological land of the dead.
Although Blanche is the person most visibly engaging in deception (of herself and others), almost everyone of the characters suffers loss after a brutal reality check: Stella, who hasn't been back home for years, first learns from Blanche that their genteel home Belle Reve (literally: "beautiful dream") is "lost" - although in what manner precisely Blanche doesn't specify, which immediately raises the suspicion of Stella's husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) - only to later hear from Stanley that under the veneer of Blanche's appearance as a delicate Southern lady lies a promiscuous past, and the true circumstances of her ouster from her job and ultimately from their home town were not as Blanche would have Stella believe. Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), who despite their disparate social backgrounds intends to marry Blanche after they are drawn to each other by their mutual need for "somebody" in their life, is similarly disillusioned by Stanley, and subsequently by Blanche herself when he insists on seeing her in bright light instead of the dim light of dancehalls and of the paper lamp she has insisted on hanging over Stella and Stanley's living room lamp, neither able to face the effects of age and a profligate lifestyle herself nor willing to reveal them to others. And Blanche's own loss of innocence, finally, set in years earlier, when she found her young husband in bed with another man and he committed suicide after she publicly reproached him. "Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life," Tennessee Williams says about "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Kazan's 1988 autobiography "A Life;" and in a letter opposing the movie's censoring before its release he described the story as being about "ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society."
The brute, of course, is Stanley, who not only becomes the catalyst of Blanche's fate and the destroyer of Stella's, Mitch's and Blanche's own illusions, but is her antagonist in everything from background to personality: Where she is a fading belle dreaming of days gone by he is all youthful virility, a working-class man living in the here and now; where she is refined he is crude, and where she engages in pretense, he tears down the facade behind which she is hiding. The conversation during which Stanley tells Stella about Blanche's past is pointedly set against Blanche's humming the Arlen/Harburg tune "It's Only a Paper Moon," which sees love transforming life into a fantasy world, which in turn however "wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me." Yet, as portrayed by Marlon Brando, who with this movie stormed into public awareness with his unique and volcanic approach to acting, Stanley is no mere vulgar beast but a complex, often controversial character, despite his brutal streak almost childishly dependant on his wife and frequently hiding his own insecurities under his raw appearance (thus putting up a certain front as well, but unlike Blanche's, a socially acceptable, even common one). Ever the method actor, Brando reportedly stayed in character even during filming breaks; much to the disgust of Vivien Leigh, for whom lines like "[h]e's like an animal. ... Thousands of years have passed him right by and there he is: Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the stone-age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle" must consequently have come from the bottom of her heart.
In early 1950s' society, "Streetcar" was considered way too risque - even downright sordid - to be presented to moviegoing audiences without severe censorship, which Williams and Kazan were only partly able to fight. One of the most substantial changes made in the adaptation was that at the end of the movie Stanley is punished for his brutality towards Blanche, whereas in the play's cynical original ending he is the only character experiencing no loss at all; indeed seeing his world restored after Blanche's exit. Since Kazan's suggestion to produce two alternate versions (one to please the censors, one in conformity with Williams's play) was rejected, even the 1993 "Original Director's Version" retains its altered, censorship-induced ending. Therefore, the play will forever constitute the last word on Williams's intentions. But even in its censored version this movie was a deserved quadruple Oscar- and multiple other award-winner (albeit undeservedly not for Brando). It has long-since become a true classic: a cinematic gem of first-rate direction and superlative performances throughout.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower": Preface to the published version of Tennessee Williams's play.
5.0 out of 5 stars A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE  [The Original Restored Version] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import,
This review is from: A Streetcar Named Desire: 60th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book [Blu-ray Book] (Bilingual) (Blu-ray)
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE  [The Original Restored Version] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Perhaps The Most Thrilling Display Of Ensemble Acting In All Of American Film!
`A Streetcar Named Desire'  [The Original Restored Version] is the Elia Kazan/Tennessee Williams film moviegoers would have seen had not Legion of Decency censorship occurred at the last minute in 1951. Here it makes its Blu-ray debuted, stunningly restored and digital re-mastered to brilliant 1080p clarity. This classic is presented in a collectable, premium 40 page Blu-ray DigiBook format, with behind-the-scenes photography, production notes, biographies and more! Plus Three minutes of previously unseen footage underscoring, among other things, the sexual tension between Blanche DuBois [Vivien Leigh] and Stanley Kowalski [Marlon Brando], and Stella Kowalski's [Kim Hunter] passion for husband Stanley.
Elia Kazan masterfully directs Tennessee Williams' masterpiece starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. Nominated for an unprecedented 12 Academy Awards® and including Best Picture, and winner of Four Awards. Its contributions continue to be celebrated, and holds a place on the AFI's list of Top 100 films.
FILM FACT: `A Streetcar Named Desire' won four awards at the 24th Academy Awards. The film set an Oscar record when it became the first film to win in three acting categories. The awards it won were for Actress in a Leading Role [Vivien Leigh], Actor in a Supporting Role [Karl Malden], Actress in a Supporting Role [Kim Hunter], and Best Art Direction and Set Decoration in Black-and-White [Richard Day and George Hopkins].
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias, Wright King, Richard Garrick, Ann Dere, Edna Thomas, Mickey Kuhn, Marietta Canty (uncredited), Mel Archer (uncredited) and Lyle Latell (uncredited)
Director: Elia Kazan
Producer: Charles K. Feldman
Screenplay: Tennessee Williams
Composer: Alex North
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Portuguese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian and Swedish
Running Time: 125 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: `A Streetcar Named Desire' originally garnered most of the drama prizes awards when it was playing on Broadway. But with director Elia Kazan and a simply superlative cast have fashioned a motion picture that throbs with passion and poignancy. Indeed, through the haunting performance England's great Vivien Leigh gives in the heart-breaking role of Tennessee Williams's deteriorating Southern belle and through the mesmerising moods with the help of Elia Kazan with is brilliant techniques that you view on the screen, this picture has now become a fine, if not finer, than the play. Inner torments are seldom projected with such sensitivity and clarity on the screen.
Of course, the first factor in this triumph is Tennessee Williams's original play, which embraced, among its many virtues, an essential human conflict in visual terms. The last brave, defiant, hopeless struggle of the lonely and decaying Blanche du Bois to hold on to her faded gentility against the heartless badgering of her roughneck brother-in-law is a tangible cat-and-dog set to, marked with manifold physical episodes as well as a wealth of fluctuations of verbally fashioned images and moods. And all of these graphic components have been fully preserved in Oscar Saul's film script and availed of by the brilliant director Elia Kazan in his cinematic tour-de-force.
No less brilliant, however, within his area is Marlon Brando in the role of the loud, lusty, brawling, brutal, amoral Polish brother-in-law. Marlon Brando created the role in the Broadway stage play and he carries over all the energy and the steel-spring characteristics that made him vivid on the stage. But here, where we're so much closer to him, he seems that much more highly charged, his despairs seem that much more pathetic, and his comic moments that much more slyly enjoyed.
Other actors from the Broadway cast of the stage play, Kim Hunter as the torn young sister and wife, Karl Malden as a timid, boorish suitor, Nick Dennis as a pal, and all the rest fill out the human pattern within a sleazy environment that is so fitly and graphically created that you can almost sense its sweatiness and smells. Alex North's incidental music deserves prominent commendation, too, as do all of the technical aspects of this film which Charles K. Feldman has produced.
Needless to say, the filming of `A Streetcar Named Desire' was more problematic than the stage production. Vivien Leigh clashed with Elia Kazan over her interpretation of Blanche DuBois and also had problems connecting with her fellow cast members who were trained in the "Stanislavsky Method." "In many ways she was Blanche," Marlon Brando said in his autobiography, Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me." Vivien Leigh was memorably beautiful, one of the great beauties of the screen, but she was also vulnerable, and her own life had been very much like that of Tennessee Williams's wounded butterfly...like Blanche DuBois, and was beginning to dissolve mentally and frayed at the end physically.
While in production, `A Streetcar Named Desire' began to encounter resistance from the film industry's self-regulating production code office with references to the sexuality of Blanche DuBois's deceased husband were removed and the harsh original ending was altered, with Stella rejecting her husband rather than remaining by his side. Still, the film encountered controversy during its release and Warner Bros. deleted an additional five minutes of material (it was later added back in a 1993 restoration) which included dialogue references to Blanche DuBois's past promiscuity and visual evidence of the lustful relationship between Stanley Kowalski and Stella.
All the troubles were well worth it in the end because `A Streetcar Named Desire' is now considered a landmark film in terms of the ensemble performances. Elia Kazan's direction and the evocative art direction by Richard Day. The derelict New Orleans tenement is given a convincing presence through the accumulation of image details, such as crumbling stucco and bricks, peeling wallpaper, streaks of dirt on the walls and the dramatic courtyard staircase with wrought iron railings. In collaboration with Harry Stradling's evocative textures of light and shadow, the sets provide crucial atmospheric support for the actors' naturalistic performances. Plus the Composer Alex North's haunting film score, which unfortunately was only Nominated for Best Music, Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 was achieved with many of the original film's black-and-white elements. It is typical of the fine work Warner Home Video has done with some it prestige titles like ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Casablanca.’ Fine detail is more variable, struggling a bit in wider shots, and faring better in close ups, yet film grain looks intact with no evidence of excessive noise reduction measures. Dupes and other image manipulations (one standing out more than others), made in the original edit, can be starkly obvious next to the sharper and tighter extra supplements material. But the transfer ultimately proves faithful to the source elements, even though those elements may not always look the most perfect.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that ‘A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ is more than sixty years old, the sound quality still impresses. Sure, there are modest limitations in fidelity, but the track is a very strong performer. Alex North’s music comes across with good sense of character. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Collectible DigiBook: The nicely produced book packaging that includes cast and crew biographies, background on the production and numerous photographs.
Audio Commentary by Actor Karl Malden, and Film Historians Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young: The track is assembled from separate interviews with the participants and contains similar information found in the Blu-ray feature. However, those who enjoy watching the film alongside informational commentary should appreciate the cinematic experience.
Feature Length Profile of Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey  [480i] [4:3] [1:15:30] Written and directed by film critic and film historian Richard Schickel, and narrated by Eli Wallach, the documentary traces Elia Kazan's career from his beginnings as a stage actor to his work as an award-winning film director. An extensive interview with the director himself provides much of the film's structure and content, following a predictable pattern that alternates between the interview and material from the films. As it focuses almost exclusively on his directing work, there's little examination of Elia Kazan's controversial actions related to the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s. Nevertheless, it provides a fitting tribute to a very talented director. We also get a very interesting insight into the journey Elia Kazan journey from his native land where he was born and eventually ending up directing top quality Hollywood and New York films that have won endless plaudits. This is a definite documentary not to be missed.
Documentary: A Streetcar on Broadway  [480i] [4:3] [22:00] This feature documentary describes with the development, production, and reception of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning play how it made its journey to the silver screen. Contributing to this documentary, we get intimate information from the likes of Elia Kazan [director], Karl Malden [actor], Rudy Behlmer [film historian] and Richard Schickel [author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] provide most of the interview material, but also includes an archival interview with Kim Hunter [actress].
Documentary: A Streetcar in Hollywood  [480i] [4:3] [28:08] A continuation of the previous feature documentary which describes the play's next phase as it moves from the stage to the silver screen. Once again contributing to this very interesting documentary, we again get insightful intimate information from the likes of Elia Kazan [director], Karl Malden [actor], Rudy Behlmer [film historian] and Richard Schickel [author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] and Kim Hunter [actress].
Documentary: Censorship and Desire  [480i] [4:3] [16:20] With this particular documentary, we get details about the National Legion of Decency's objections and moral outrage to some of the sexual contents in the film, and the ultimate edits made in order for it to be "morally objectionable in part" as opposed to be completely condemned. It also informs us how the director's sleight of hand was instrumented in making subtle changes to allow the censors to pass the film. This interesting feature also provides helpful side-by-side views of the edited and original versions of key scenes. Contribution to this documentary is Rudy Behlmer [film historian], Karl Malden [actor], Kim Hunter [actress] and Robert Townson [record producer]. We also get to hear how Alex North [composer] and how he had to re-score the film music, as the censors thought certain scenes were too provocative with his original score. But luckily by accident they found a can of film with all the censored scenes and were carefully restored to the original restored version.
Documentary: North and the Music of the South  [480i] [4:3] [9:14] This fascinating documentary gives an interesting insight into the composer Alex North and how he gave the film its distinctive film score. Contributions comes in the form of Robert Townson [record producer] of Varese Sarabande talks about the work of the award nominated composer Alex North, and shares how he got involved with producing and releasing Alex North's abandoned score to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Oddysey" with the help of Jerry Goldsmith [composer, which you can now hear the full score on a CD Album. We also get to find out that Robert Townson got to know Alex North personally in his later years before he sadly passed way.
Documentary: An Actor Named Brando  [480i] [4:3] [8:52] Fellow performers and historians talk about the impression the actor made in the theatre and film industry and through his work on the Academy Award winning film "A Streetcar Named Desire." We are also informed how Marlon Brando personality is so different from his screen persona and how he hated the character he played in the film. Contributing to this documentary, we see Elia Kazan [director], Karl Malden [actor], Richard Schickel [author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] and Kim Hunter [actress].
Marlon Brando Screen Test  [480i] [4:3] [5:05] Here we get to see the young Marlon Brando with Warner Test shots. Also segments from Marlon Brando's screen test for "Rebel Without A Cause." But we also get intimate shots of a well-dressed Marlon Brando, who is obviously very self-conscious. Sometimes you get no audio sound.
Outtakes  [480i] [4:3] [15:38] Here we get to see a series of unused film clips from `A Streetcar Named Desire' that is somewhat sort of interesting, but without any context and hard to understand, especially as they are not in any set order and some are very short in appearance, but you also get a lot of repeat outtakes, especially with a voice over with the director Elia Kazan.
Outtakes [Audio only]  [1080p] [16:9] [17:01] Similar to the film outtakes, which is difficult to discern the context from seemingly random snippets of audio recordings and all the time you listen to this, you get a colorized still image from the film. To be honest I cannot understand the point of this section.
Theatrical Trailers: We get to see three trailers, starting with Warner Bros. [1951 Release] [480i] [2:34]. 20th Century Fox [1958 Reissue] [480i] [2:08]. United Artists [1970 Reissue] [480i] [1:48].
Finally, `A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE' is a cinematic classic that has been beautifully rendered in high definition. Warner Home Video Blu-ray delivers a strong presentation of Elia Kazan's award-winning adaptation of the equally acclaimed Broadway play. This All Region Blu-ray release comes with awesome special features that have been transferred from the 2006 special edition DVD, making the release a worthwhile one for those looking to upgrade as well as for first time purchasers. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
2.0 out of 5 stars "Luck is believing you're lucky, that's all.",
Elia Kazan's film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" features some of the best tour-de-force acting cinema has ever seen. Yet, the film feels strangely lacking and deficient. This is due more to the shortcomings of the source material than Kazan's direction. While Williams' minimalist story contained enough material to produce an engaging stage play, the same work comes across as diminutive when adapted to the larger canvas of the big screen.
Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) arrives in New Orleans after losing her family estate. Scandalous rumors have tarnished her reputation and she is hoping to find some comfort and peace of mind by moving in with her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter). Blanche tries to mask her fragile psyche by weaving tall tales about herself but Stanley (Marlon Brando), Stella's brute of a husband, sees right through them. Conflict ensues in the household as Stanley uses his insight to torment Stella while his wife tries to maintain the peace.
Brando is magnificent in "A Streetcar Named Desire." This fact is hardly in dispute. His portrayal of Stanley is tremendously masculine as the iconic image of him in his torn shirt in the pouring rain screaming for his wife will attest. His acting is also surprisingly sensitive in the quiet moments when Stanley and Stella are making romantic small-talk. The other performers are stellar as Hunter, Leigh, and Karl Malden actually manage to keep pace with Brando. However, the new standards set for cinematic emotional conflict and realism cannot overcome the simple nature of the story. This lack of narrative complexity limits "A Streetcar Named Desire" to being only a brilliant acting showcase.
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating observation of humanity...,
Although, I find that "A Streetcar named Desire", for the most part had better acting,and a stronger story(mainly due to the fact there was less alteration to please the censors)than "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, I found it slightly less entertaining.
Set in New ORleans, the story begins with the arrival of Blanch Du Bois at her sister Stella's home. Blanche gives off the impression of being an old fashioned, sophistacated woma, but as the story progresses she slowly falls into madness.Her interaction with all those around her help to slowly reveal her past and unveil her true personality.
Vivien Leigh is the shining star of Streetcar, delivering the performance of a lifetime as Blanche. The screen chemistry between her character and that of MArlon Brando as Stanley is intensely hot and brilliant. Brado alone has such magnetism you can seldom take an eye of him.
The film reflects Tennessee William's thorough examination of human experience and behavior.Possibly heightening the exploration with spectacular acting and clever camera work.
Overall, "A Streetcar Named Desire" is a masterpiece of filmwork and acting that deserves to be considered among the best of all time.
5.0 out of 5 stars The need to be desired personified...,
Desire is a streetcar that brings Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) to the French Quarters of New Orleans where her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), lives with her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). This is Blanche's last resort for help as she has faced numerous hardships such as loosing her parents, her job as a teacher, and an undisclosed secret. These difficulties have left deep scares in Blanche's psyche and left her in a fragile state with neurosis and delusions. Stanley is unwilling to let Blanche stay, but Stella convinces Stanley to let Blanche stay temporally. However, Stanley's unwillingness to help grows to hostility and begins to affect Blanche as she discovers the true nature of Stanley. Streetcar Named Desire is a psychological dramatization based on Tennessee Williams's play with the same name that was adapted to the silver screen. Kazan did a brilliant job in directing the film and the cast performed splendidly with extremely strong performances by Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. The cinematography and mise-en-scene are excellent as it leaves the audience with a brilliant cinematic experience that provides much room for thought as Blanche deals with her inner struggles.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best actress. Best playwright. Best director.,
Whether or not you like Elia Kazan as a person--think he's a ..., what have you--his talent for direction is undeniable. And he shows this in the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. With the same aspect as such films as Wuthering Heights is, it's uncoth, it's dark, it's moody, it's creepy. But with reason. Some things just look better in black + white. To think of this in colour is unspeakable, even. This, along with On the Waterfront, rank as Kazan's best work. Both with Marlon Brando.
But dare I speak my mind? As much as I agree Brando is a very talented actour, and that his performance as Stanley Kowalski is excellent, a certain word comes to my mind...overrated? Now, perhaps it's because I prefer more of the traditional acting technique myself over method. Although you're not, in essense, "in character", it takes a real talent to pull it off. And in a nest of respected, seasoned methods, the one traditional gives, by far, the most outstanding performance. Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois is, not only the greatest acting in her career, but quite possibly by any female in the history of cinema. As stated before, she's purely technique. But the eery circumstances surrounding her life at this moment made her Blanche, and not with purpose. Although in a shallow perspective, Blanche is an overdramatic nympho whom many want to slap, I won't let it stop at that. Tennessee Williams remarked on how her Blanche was everything he had intended to bring to the role, and more. This I agree. Having read the play beforehand, and realizing that it would undoubtedly difficult to bring to life, I was persuaded by the 'closing credits' that Viv is one of the greatest actresses in cinematic history, at least to my knowledge. And because of that, she ranks as my most favourite. Above Katharine Hepburn, above Greta Garbo, above Joan Crawford. She can't be surpassed. And perhaps it's becuase I too, oddly enough can sympathize with the character. Sure, I'm not an aging, tormented nyphomaniac-of-a-southern belle, some of it is all to eery. Nothing is greater than the line "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers". Damn..in a twisted way, it's the hero of the epic tale--one who can surpass all time and place with what they represent. Can't be better.
Karl Malden also gives a great performance as Mitch. Having liked him as an actour [and Mitch as a character], I was satisfied with what I watched. I didn't care much for Kim Hunter, although she's not neccesarily bad. The art direction is everything that it should be, and it's Alex North's finest hour. Should've won best picture.
Coming from a huge Tennessee Williams fan, this can't be surpassed in terms of film-adaptations of plays. My favourite play, my favourite movie, my favourite actress, and one of my favourite directors. It can't be defeated.
5.0 out of 5 stars Leigh is brilliant!,
By A Customer
At the outset, I have to say that I never had a particular interest in reading or seeing this play. Sadly this is due to the various interpretations I have heard or read over the years concerning the Blanche DuBois character. For me, the interpretations formed preconceived notions which encouraged me to avoid this play like a plague. The idea of encountering another frail, southern belle, losing her mind and descending into madness, simply did not intrigue me. Hearing Lange's own commentary on the mindset of Blanche DuBois, sadly made me even less inclined to explore this story.
Consequently, upon watching this film, I cannot adequately express my shock at what a brilliant piece of theater this play is. Let's be honest, Vivien Leigh? Marlon Brando? does it get better? Please! How anyone can even attempt to criticize is beyond me. In my mind Jessica Lange and Jessica Tandy are lacking in that they do not have Leigh's extraordinary beauty, a quality which I felt essential to the story.
Since I see that everyone else offers an interpretation, I'll offer mine too....Although this may differ with some other interpretations,I consider Blanche to be the strongest character in the play, as opposed to being the weakest. She has the purest understanding of reality, as happiness and love being elusive and abstract thus making them eternal and true. We are only happy when we are wanting and striving for the ideal. Blanche is fully aware of the illusion and of the necessity of illusion as the means to greater realization.
Blanche, as her name suggests, embodies a medieval concept of the chase and the search, the white hind in the forest which tempts the knight as he is described in the "Lais of Marie de France" or the novels of Chretien de Troyes.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Stanley, who, in my view, is ironically not the strongest character in the piece. He merely serves to challenge Blanche, thus creating a modern manifestation of the biblical battle between good and evil. He is drawn to her due to her purity of purpose and understanding, her goodness. He knows how strong she is, and he is relentless. He plays on his own wife, challenging what is "real," and she succumbs to his tyranny, whereas he knows that Blanche will not. He, as in the biblical "Fall," cannot undermine her strength, her vision. The fight between Stanley and Blanche is electrifying. I felt that they were two powerful gods at war. (When Leigh smashes that bottle and stares Brando down, you will have chills. Come hell or high water, he is not going to defeat her, and he knows it. He is the veritable moth to the flame.)
There is a lot of talk that Stanley shatters Blanche's frail world in the classic rape scene. In accordance, with my own humble interpretation :) he does no such thing. Desire is merely human, and for that matter, it is common. It's the opposite of death and it is, again, human. It is tangible, and it is an essential component of love. Nevertheless, love cannot be defined only by the tangible, and those who can only believe what they can see or touch are lost. Love, in its highest sense, is not tangible; faith is not tangible. Consequently, Blanche has no fear of sexuality or sensuality. They are necessary. She merely feels that we are weighted down by the flesh and that it is incumbent upon the soul to find a higher level, to transcend in order to complete the circle. We need the physical to live, but we also need the spiritual to endure, to remain eternally beautiful. Purity is internal, and it is only achieved on another more abstract plane.
Therefore, ironically, in my mind, Blanche wins in the end. Being led to the institution, on her doctor's gallant arm, she leaves the rabble to play in the dirt, the weak to wail and cry and die in degenration, never knowing true love, never "seeing God" (for lack of a better phrase.) Stanley and the others are ultimately lost.
Ultimately (if you have made it though my long windedness) watch the Brando and Leigh version of Streetcar. They are magnificent, and you will not be disappointed!
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Heroine But Tragic Nonetheless,
For various reasons, I have never liked either the play or the film on which it is based but remain fascinated with the human experiences which Tennessee Williams examines. The character of Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) dominates the narrative but his wife Stella (Kim Hunter) really is the stronger person. Pregnant, she is visited by her sister Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) who arrives with enough emotional baggage to keep a regiment of psychotherapists busy. She and Stanley have an immediate and ambivalant chemical reaction to each other. To her, he is a lower animal, unworthy of her sister; to him, she is a posturing, pretentious bitch. Under the brilliant direction of Elia Kazan, Leigh's performance suggests how fragile, vulnerable, and desperate Blanche really is. As for Stanley, to invoke a weary aphorism, what we see is what we get...except that he seems vulnerable without his wife's love and support. Both on stage and in the film, there is no doubt of the powerful sexual attraction between Stella and Stanley. Williams invests the character of Blanche with ephemeral qualities. In some respects, she is an elderly Scarlett O'Hara who reluctantly endures her sister's boorish husband because she has nowhere else to go. Her personal "streetcar" has reached the end of the line.
The acting is consistently outstanding. Of course, we know early on that there will be a major confrontation between Blanche and Stanley. Oscar Saul collaborated with Williams on the screenplay which carefully prepares us for it. When it finally occurs, we feel sympathy (if not pity) for Blanche and her relocation to a new home in which, perhaps, she will receive the kindness she so obviously craves. There is great emotional power in this film. Also, I think, sadness with regard to the resolution of Blanche's association with the Kowalskis. With all due respect to Leigh (who received an Academy Award for her performance, as did Hunter and Karl Malden for theirs), I would have preferred Jessica Tandy whom I was privileged to see in the Broadway production. Tandy captured -- in ways and to an extent which Leigh does not -- certain nuances of Blanche's illusions and delusions which are indelibly poignant.
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