Monday, September 29, 2014

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) review


   This iconic masterpiece of the stage and the screen not only puts Marlon Brando on the celebrity map, but also personifies the many themes of the taboo mind of the late-great Tennessee Williams. Excellent performances, filmmaking, and script authenticity make the film an enjoyable subject to watch. However, the changed ending really seemed to bother me compared to the play.

PLOT: Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) and his pregnent wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), live in a small, shabby apartment in New Orleans just getting by on life as it comes. Things are normal until Stella's neurotic sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), comes to visit and stay for a while. From here, life in the household only goes downhill as we're informed of the loss of the old plantation house and the dark past Blanche is trying to hide, all while we witness Stanley's mistreatment of the household and Blanche's attempt at love with Stanley's friend, Mitch (Karl Malden). The plot isn't real thick in basic elements, but golden in substance. The execution of the plot is excellent up until the end scene. The events in the film line up almost exactly with the events in the play and how they're carried on. I appreciated how the censors didn't completely butcher the themes of the play at the time and how Williams carried on filming his work.

ACTING: The performances in this film are excellent. The best performance had to be from Marlon Brando as the roughneck Stanley Kowalski. Brando, in his first film, played the memorable character with great style and emphasis, putting more personality into the character than seen before. Vivien Leigh played an excellent part also as Blanche DuBois, the neurotic heartbreak. I don't think the role could have been personified as well by any other actress than Mrs. Gone-With-the-Wind herself. From her perception of reality to the scary fantasy she lives in her head, Blanche is played excellently by Leigh. The other performances were very well done as well, specifically Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch.

SCORE: The score was fairly well done for the time with a jazzy overtone and heavy dramatic themes implied, sometimes overly done. The intense, jazzy themes added a tone to the film, but the overdone dramatic score just seemed to bring it down a fair amount.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This iconic film adaptation of the famous, critically-acclaimed play by Tennessee Williams sets the tone for films of its kind in the future, studying the more taboo aspects of people and society through intense character studies, as seen also in Lolita and Repulsion in future years. The fact that the film was made almost in line with the original play is excellent. However, the end of the film is changed for the screen in such a way that it feels rushed and cheesily done. The film would've been darker and more accurate had Stella came back and embraced Stanley, but she left again as if in limbo to earlier scenes in the film. Aside from this fatal flaw in accuracy, the film is greatly iconic with dialogue and scenes executed in great style.

   The play deserved a film adaptation to shake its time, and it got one. The excellent cast, stylish execution, and hard-hitting accuracy of most of the film makes this work a masterpiece of classic filmmaking. However, the abrupt change of the ending to suit the screen gave way for a big mistake of ruining the true mood and tone for the film, fatally but also just barely.

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