Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) - Movie Review

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is a sorry tale about a woman unable to cope up with the age getting a better of her and rides on the sympathy which is never there. This is the delusion of this two hours of proclaimed classic. Vivian Leigh structures the woman in discussion, Blanche and does successfully so in annoying the audience. We could not stand this woman right from the start, building in status, appearance and facade of unknown future.

There is terrific acting in this film which does not help much though in making this a complete emotional circle. This Elia Kazan film is not badly made. On the contrary, it is fully developed in characters and the conclusions they arrive. The problem is with the whole story heading for a slow train wreck. It begins with Blanche coming to New Orleans and takes the streetcar drive (the name of it is Desire) to her sister Stella’s (Kim Hunter) place. She has left her town as their old country home has unable to keep up with the mortgage payments. She is there and going to stay indefinitely. She does not say it but begins to live at Stella along with Stella’s arrogant, tough and mean husband Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando).

The movie is about how Blanche is full blown suffocating woman fading into the shadows of dying youth and in constant effort for compliments about her looks. She needs attention and being left to take care of the property by Stella early in the life has made her grumpy. Stella is a woman of different kind. She is soft and caring and loves Stanley adorably. Stanley is an egomaniacal tough fellow whose way of showing love is by utterly disregarding the opinions of Stella and get into fights. This is a turn on for Stella and that is the trait which attracted her to Stanley.

Adapted from the play by Tennessee Williams, most of the scenes happen inside this house with a window overlooking the streets where floods of people walk in all the time. This is the place where Stanley and his friends play poker and have altercation with Stella and Blanche. Stanley hates the presence of Blanche. First is the burden of her and the second is that the property share belongs to Stella too which would be of great help as they are expecting a baby.

Blanche is not a swindler but a drama queen. She arrives and is petrified by the living her sister leads. Stranded household and noisy neighbours were the least in the list of things Blanche had her brains tuned on for. When confronted directly by any one on her behaviour or past, she simply flutters with a smile which is not attractive or distracting and comes out cheap, weak and frustrating. A nice gentleman Mitch (Karl Malden) likes Blanche. Blanche seem to like the idea of a man being nice to her than the man himself. She withdraws from physical intimacy while lets a complete stranger, a young man to let her kiss. This woman is an emotional basket case.

By successfully delivering their given part and putting them in the right place for the story undertaken by Elia Kazan, I had no interest in where this characters are heading. I did not expect redemption nor a feel good ending, rather a level to recognize their action. Not reasons but a sense of their emotions to equate ourselves. We see Stanley, a dangerous bully and a walking time bomb of violence sensing the right attitude of Blanche. His way of retaliation is to be a mean pig and then finally summate his emotional negligence by humiliating and butchering Blanche. The only possible man of interest was Mitch who understandably gets frustrated by Blanche and then stoops to Stanley’s level.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is supposed to a fable of the bad characters resulting in bad things happening to them. Brando and Leigh are nothing short of brilliant in their despicable characters. Stella played by Kim Hunter is a silent inert object and her solution to a problem is to present bunch of lies to boost the attention level of her sister. Why am I concerned about these people of unexplainable stubbornness? I have enough of them meeting up in my life and except for the performance, I was thoroughly irritated by “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

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